Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ask A Guinea Pig: Is Baking Soda Harmful to Guinea Pigs?

It's time for another installment of Ask A Guinea Pig! 

Today's question comes from GiannaPiggies, who asks: "I read that many people complained about baking soda in beddings like carefresh and said that is not good for piggies or bunnies ..What is your opinion on that?"

The FDA notes that while baking soda is generally safe for humans, "Studies of mice suggest that large intakes of calcium carbonate [a similar substance] may interfere with reproductive performance. Such effects could be indirectly attributable to certain trace nutrient deficiencies." In fact, we even found some websites recommend using baking soda as a rat poison because it becomes carbon dioxide gas in their stomachs, which they are unable to eliminate from their systems. 

We also found an article online claiming that baking soda could be dangerous for rabbits, potentially leading to respiratory damage and stomach rupture. A reputable source (from a Ph.D. in biology) said that rabbits who eat a very small amount of baking soda should be fine, although: "Sodium bicarbonate is used as an emetic (to induce vomiting) because it produces tremendous amounts of gas when it hits the acidic stomach.  Humans can vomit, but rabbits cannot.  So there is the very real risk of stomach rupture if the bunny ingests enough to generate too much for the volume of the stomach."

So what about guinea pigs specifically? One person on a guinea pig message board claimed: "Before I began using the baking soda, I asked the advice of my cavy savvy vet. They said that they've never heard of an instance that proved baking soda to be dangerous, but cautioned me to rinse well and let it sit out for a while before returning my pigs to their cage." In addition, like rabbits, guinea pigs are also unable to vomit, so it would make sense that there's also a risk of rupture from guinea pigs eating too much baking soda.

Another concern that has been raised about baking soda in litter is that guinea pigs might accidentally consume some while cleaning themselves, possibly leading to an electrolyte imbalance

So it sounds like too much baking soda could be harmful to piggies if they breathe it in or consume it. Therefore, definitely don't go pouring baking soda into your guinea pigs' cage to reduce odors! However, just because the loose powder could be bad, does this also mean that products like Sunseed Fresh World Bedding (which you asked about) are bad because they contain baking soda? Perhaps not; Carefresh introduced a bedding formula with baking soda, and when pet owners raised questions about it, they claimed: "our new odor control has baking soda in in it but it is not in a form that can cause any harm, so the bedding is perfectly safe."Hopefully, this is true since we've used some bedding products with baking soda in the past, but it would be nice to see studies confirming this.

Our conclusion is that there's probably no need to freak out if your guinea pig gets exposed to tiny amounts of baking soda, but it could be harmful in large amounts so it's probably best to avoid exposure altogether. Similarly, baking soda in beddings are supposedly in a form that is harmless, but why take a chance? Just stick with regular bedding without baking soda and you'll be fine. And if you're really concerned about cage odor, you can always try cleaning our cages more often.
That litter behind me is safe, right?
Keep those questions coming!


  1. I knew it was the best place to ask this question. Thank you so much for your time to research on it. I think that many owners will be pleased to find this article.. Best regards from Greece

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.