Saturday, August 30, 2014

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Canary Melon?

Canary melons, also known as Juan canary melons, is actually a food we've tried to review once before unsuccessfully. You see, the humans brought home one for us to try, but it turned out to be a bad one. According to WiseGeek: "When choosing a good quality canary melon, consumers should make sure the body of the melon is firm. The presence of any soft spots along the body is an indication that the melon has passed its prime, but it should be slightly soft around the stem area. If the stem area is still firm, then the melon is not yet ripe enough to be eaten." The first canary melon the humans brought home was a gooey, disgusting mess inside. This time, they brought home a good one, and we actually can do the review.

As far as we can tell, canary melons are roughly nutritionally equivalent to other types of melon. Sugar is the biggest concern when it comes to melon, and canary melon has 5 grams per 1/2 cup. For comparison, cantaloupe has about 6-7 (depending on how it's sliced), and honeydew has about 7 grams per 1/2 cup. Therefore, we're going to recommend treating canary melons the same as other melons, and only feeding them 1-2 times per week.

It's so yellow on the outside!
It tastes a lot like cantaloupe and honeydew!
That's all we get? Okay, time to lick the plate, then!
We're definitely fans of this sweet and delicious melon! 5/5 stars!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Hubbard Squash?

Fall does not officially start until September 22nd, but based on what our humans have been bringing back from the grocery store and farmer's market, it's already beginning to feel a little like fall. Our most recent acquisition is a hubbard squash.

That thing is huge!
Hubbard squash is way too big for piggies to eat by themselves, so your humans will have plenty of leftovers from what you can't eat. We've read that hubbard squash can be substitute for pumpkin in pumpkin pie; as always, keep in mind that stuff is only for humans (and even humans shouldn't eat too much pie).

We guinea pigs only eat it raw. Hubbard squash is a winter squash, which means we can have it 2-4 times per week. Make sure you remove the seeds and stringy stuff before feeding it to us. From what we've read, you can feed us the skin on a winter squash, although the humans just fed us the flesh.

My food!
Okay, I guess I'll share a little.
Bored now. All yours!
Hubbard squash was okay at first, and I didn't want to share. After eating it a while, I got a little bored and decided to share, and then I left the plate entirely to Lola and Buffy, who proceeded to finish it over. We'll give hubbard squash 4/5 stars!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What Kind of Water Should Guinea Pigs Drink?

What kind of water am I drinking? Read on to find out!
In addition to figuring out what kind of water bottle to get (which we struggle with to this day), guinea pigs should also talk to their humans about what kind of water to put in the bottle. There are a few options available when it comes to water:

1. Tap water - One of the big concerns with tap water is hard water. Hard water is "water that has high mineral content... Hard water is formed when water percolates through deposits of calcium and magnesium-containing minerals such as limestone, chalk and dolomite." We've heard it claimed that hard water can cause sludge in guinea pigs; bladder sludge is a collection of "gritty calcium-based particles that collect in the bladder." Microorganisms are another concern, which can be reduced or eliminated by boiling water, although this wouldn't eliminate the hard water deposits, and may even concentrate them in the remaining water. Certain areas have better water quality than others, however. We've heard it claimed that Iceland has some of the best tap water, while many other countries like Afghanistan have poor-quality tap water. Even within the United States, there are plenty of examples of bad tap water. For example, Pensacola, Florida is said to have the worst water quality in the country: "Of the 101 chemicals tested for over five years, 45 were discovered. Of them, 21 were discovered in unhealthy amounts. The worst of these were radium-228 and -228, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, alpha particles, benzine and lead. Pensacola's water was also found to contain cyanide and chloroform." You don't want that in your water bottle! If you're not absolutely certain that your tap water is safe, you're better off looking into other options.

2. Bottled waterAccording to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), "No one should assume that just because he or she purchases water in a bottle that it is necessarily any better regulated, purer, or safer than most tap water." As part of a four-year study they did, the NRDC sent 1,000 bottles of bottled water for lab testing, and found: "that most bottled water tested was of good quality, but some brands' quality was spotty. About one third of the bottled waters we tested contained significant contamination (i.e., levels of chemical or bacterial contaminants exceeding those allowed under a state or industry standard or guideline) in at least one test." There are some organizations that certify the quality of bottled water, such as NSF International. But even if you're reasonably confident of getting quality bottled water, you should keep in mind that bottled water can get expensive, so your human might start complaining about money. In addition, we've read that bottled water isn't environmentally-friendly, even if you recycle the bottle.

3. Filtered water - There are two main types of filters you can use at home: (1.) activated charcoal filters, and (2.) distillation or reverse osmosis filters. Activated charcoal filters remove some of the stuff present from tap water using carbon, while distillation and reverse osmosis filters remove pretty much all the minerals from water. Your first thought is probably to go with the second type since it removes more stuff, but the issue is more complicated than that. Reputable guinea pig sites caution to avoid distilled water because it can actually leech nutrients from your body.  We did a little more research ourselves, and found a paper from the World Health Organization outlining several concerns with drinking demineralized water. We won't go into all the details, but their basic conclusion is: "Drinking water should contain minimum levels of certain essential minerals (and other components such as carbonates)." (We should note that there are some websites that dispute this, but the WHO is a pretty reputable organization, so we're inclined to believe what they say.)

So, given all this, what kind of water should you give your piggy? The answer is you want mostly-pure, but not completely demineralized, water (such as from a Pur or Brita filter). Tap water run through an activated charcoal filter (e.g. a Brita or Pur filter) is probably your best bet to achieve this, unless you're sure the water supply in your area is really clean to begin with. Bottled water is probably not your best option, unless you happen to have really serious concerns about your tap water (e.g. you were affected by the 2014 Elk River chemical spill) or are going somewhere without ready access to water, such as taking your guinea pig on a long car trip. In this case, make sure you choose bottled water that has received certification from a reputable organization.

In the picture above, I'm drinking water from a Brita filter. It's refreshing!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Can Guinea Pigs Eat Purple Peppers?

Here's a tongue-twister for you: Can a pack of peckish piggies polish off a pile of purple pepper pieces?

We're going to answer that tongue-twister in today's food review! We've previously reviewed red, orange, yellow and green peppers, so I think this we may be running out of bell peppers to review. As we've mentioned in our previous reviews, most bell peppers start out as immature, green peppers, and eventually turn into sweeter, red peppers when they mature, with orange and yellow being intermediate stages. So how do purple peppers fit into this? Well, from what we've read, "They start off purple and then eventually turn red, but it takes a long time." And that would make sense, since these peppers aren't very sweet at all, just like green peppers. Therefore, in terms of feeding frequency, we've going to recommend you treat these like green peppers, which means you can feed us purple peppers almost daily.

Looks tasty!
Let me at them!
Whoever lets me at the plate first, I'll support as the dominant pig!
Hey, that actually worked! I'll have to remember that trick.
I think we've loved every type of bell pepper we've tried so far, and purple peppers are no different. 5/5 stars!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Product Review: CareFresh Advanced Odor Control Pet Bedding - Purple

Today we're reviewing CareFresh Advanced Odor Control Pet Bedding - Purple. As we've previously mentioned, we have reviewed several types of Carefresh bedding at this point, and the only real differences we've found between them is the color and the price. Carefresh has a line of bedding products called Carefresh Colors, which has a purple kind that looks almost exactly like this one. The only difference we could discern between the purple Carefresh Colors and Carefresh Advanced Odor Control was that this one advertises it has baking soda in it on the front of the packaging.

One issue we haven't previously discussed regarding litter is ammonia. Urea is substance found in the urine of mammals. Once outside the body, certain bacteria feed on urea, creating ammonia as a byproduct. Airborne ammonia can potentially be harmful to guinea pigs by causing upper respiratory tract infections. Factors that contribute to high airborne ammonia levels include:
  • High temperatures, 
  • Humidity, 
  • Number of guinea pigs per square foot of cage space
  • Poor air circulation.
In addition to controlling for all these factors, you will need to change your guinea pig's cage at least once a week. A good rule of thumb is that your guinea pig's cage should never smell; if it does, you're overdue for a cleaning!

According to a study on bedding in a scientific journal, "The mean ammonia concentrations in static cages housing mice on CareFRESH Ultra bedding were significantly higher than the means for all the other bedding treatments." You might then wonder what performed the best in terms of ammonia, then. The answer is litters made of corn cobs and hardwoods (maple, beech, poplar). So why not just switch to these beddings, you ask? Because these other litters have problems of their own. Corn cob has a tendency to mold, and guinea pigs have been known to eat it, causing health issues. When buying wood pellets, you have to make sure you're buying a safe type of wood (e.g. no cedar), make sure there are no accelerants added, watch out for sawdust breakdown when wet, and other issues.

In other words, there's no perfect litter, but we generally feel that Carefresh's advantages outweigh the disadvantages, as long as you keep the aforementioned issues in mind and have adequate cage space, ventilation, cleaning, etc. We should also point out that the study was from 2004, and Carefresh's website proclaims it has a "New natural odor control formula suppresses ammonia odors nearly 3x longer than original CareFRESH!" We don't know when this new formula was released, so it's possible that the study was done using the old formula. Also, this formula claims to have baking soda, which is supposed to help absorb ammonia odors.

Look at that color! That looks fun to play on.
Okay, I made a few messes just to test it out. Still no smell!
We never had a problem with other Carefresh bedding causing odors, so we couldn't tell if the baking soda made a difference or not. I think you would need another scientific study to determine that. Like the other special Carefresh litters, it costs a bit more than the regular Carefresh, so you might have to put up with your humans griping about money. We'll give CareFresh Advanced Odor Control Pet Bedding - Purple 4/5 stars!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Product Review: Kaytee Timothy Hay

Going to the vet means uncomfortable car rides, so the humans try their best to make us as comfortable as possible despite this. This means lining our carriers with towels we can snuggle up in, and leaving a nice handful of hay for us to munch on.

The last time we were at the vet, he noticed the hay in our carrier, and said, "That looks really fresh. Where did you get that?" It was from Small Pet Select, who is our favorite hay provider. Small Pet Select is a mail-order company, however, and the humans don't always reorder hay in time, forcing us to get some hay from the pet store as a stopgap measure. This time, we got Kaytee Timothy Hay as our stopgap hay.
Come on, humans! Is it really that hard to reorder hay on time?
Just from looking at the color of this hay, it's a safe bet we wouldn't be receiving any questions from the vet about where we got it if we brought it in our carriers. It definitely lacks that beautiful, fresh shade of green that Small Pet Select has.

It's a bit dried out compared to Small Pet Select, but it's okay.
Although it's not up the quality of Small Pet Select, it's still edible. There were a decent number of seed heads, which are our favorite part of the the hay. If your human also forgot to reorder, this will get the job done. We'll give Kaytee Timothy Hay 3.5/5 stars!