Calcium is an important component in our diet that builds strong bones, teeth, muscles, and nerves. Like us guinea pigs need to get their bodies’ calcium from their diet to maintain these important systems. For most pigs a diet of quality pellets, timothy hay, and fresh leafy veggies provides an adequate amount of calcium per day but some are predisposed towards calcium buildup in their bladder and kidneys causing bladder sludge or stones if they don’t get enough water or are fed to many high calcium foods. This sludge comes out as powdery deposits on fleece and bedding ranging in texture from baby powder soft to salt-like coarseness. It is important to take a guinea pig to the vet if they are producing bladder sludge since it can cause an inflammation leading to UTIs or cystitis.
One of our two guinea pigs, Vincent, has struggled with bladder sludge and UTIs since November 2017. The problem began when he started making soft high pitched squeaks anytime he peed or pooped followed by the appearance of bladder sludge deposits on his fleece bedding. After a trip to the vet we switched him to a low calcium diet, Oxbow Garden Select, and filtered water. When available we also give Vincent a daily cranberry or Oxbow cranberry treat to raise the acidity of his urine and combat bacteria and an Oxbow Urinary Support supplement to reduce inflammation.
While the problem hasn’t completely gone away as long we stick to his special diet we notice fewer sludge deposits and more infrequent squeaking. If he does get something too high in calcium we can expect squeaking and a UTI soon after.
As with humans, moderation is key to providing a good diet for your piggy and it is important to collaborate with your veterinarian on a plan to improve your guinea pig’s health or diet. If your guinea pig shows signs of having bladder sludge your veterinarian may recommend putting them on a low calcium diet.
While white deposits after urination are not a huge concern, they can indicate an oncoming UTI and scheduling a vet visit might be in order. However, guinea pigs are great at hiding symptoms. If your guinea pig has pink or reddish urine, makes sound of distress during urination or defecation, or is hunching or squatting, please don't ignore these signs, as these are symptoms of a UTI.
A comprehensive list of calcium content in other fruits and veggies can be found here on GuineaLynx