Ammonia Build up?


Post   » Mon Aug 06, 2018 3:26 pm

Not really a medical issue as such (at least i hope not) but experienced and issue over the weekend that I was hoping to get advice on

I noticed that our smallest girl, Siouxsie/Suzi had started sneezing more than usual during Saturday and Sunday. I had changed the Fleece liners (Guineadads) during Saturday so didn't think it could be bedding issue but when I was hand feeding her on Sunday evening I noticed that her breathing was noisy and that she coughed a couple of times and it cleared up but then the noise would come back.

I picked her up and had her sat on my lap and the noise would go away again. However once she was back in the pen and under the fleece pocket at the end of the liner it would start again. When I put my head down next to her to have a good listen I got a strong smell of ammonia. I dont know why it was already so strong as I had put fresh ones in the day before, although it may be that I didn't change the other liner that the main one over laps and that seemed to have a pretty strong ammonia smell as well. Either that or where they pee off of the liners it got underneath and that caused the issue but I have never had them get that strong of ammonia so quickly.

Anyway after changing the all the liners again (we have two sets) her breathing appeared to get better. She slept in the pocket last night but with the edge propped up so there was a decent gap and this morning I couldn't hear any noisy breathing sounds and she seemed her normal perky self out eating.

I am just concerned in case there may have been any permanent damage done or it may have left her susceptible to a URI. Should she be Ok now the ammonia source has been dealt with or is it possible that it may cause future issues?

The other two seem fine but they usually sleep down under the fleece at the other end of the cage.

Any tips for monitoring and reducing the chances for Ammonia build up? I am wondering if I shoudl remove the pockets or fold them back on themselves and just have regular hideys?
I have a new C&C cage on order and got some Fleece forests for it. We have 3 other hideys (one plastic, one Cardboard and one woven grass) which are the best ones to use?

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Post   » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:04 pm

I would think that if you corrected it and she has good air to breath and is otherwise healthy that she will be okay. Now that you know this could be an issue, I'd keep an eye (or nose) out so you can swap things if it gets strong ammonia smells again.

Plastic is not absorbent and should work best. Watch for the pee soaking through to other layers. I think open sided plastic stools make great hideys.


Post   » Mon Aug 06, 2018 5:25 pm

OK Thanks

I was curious as I had been advised to make sure there were holes in the top of any plastic hideys we had so they didn't trap it.

Still puzzled as to why the fleece got so stinky so quickly but suspect it may have been from the other one I didn't change. Wont make that mistake again.

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Mon Aug 06, 2018 6:12 pm

Also cut a second door in any plastic hidey. That will help with circulation, and also prevent one pig from trapping another. The trappee may well slash the the trapper's face in an effort to get out.


Post   » Tue Aug 07, 2018 12:18 pm

Ok the Cardboard hidey has two holes and Windows (It is the box one of the Guinedads came i which converts to a hidey) but the plastic one has steps up the back so that may be tricky and the other is a grass cones so again cutting another hole in that without it falling apart may be tricky.

Suzi's breathing was still a bit off last night. There is a noise but then she coughs and it clears up for a while. It seems to be mostly in the evening and in the morning when she is sleeping or just woken up

I made some recordings and sent them to the vet to see what she says. Suzi seems active and eating otherwise.

Here are the recordings I sent to the vet.

You may need to turn the volume up and there is no video as it was dark You will also need to ignore the noise of the motorcycle that chose that minute to roar past in the background

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:56 pm

Then I'd throw out any hideys that don't have two doors.


Post   » Tue Aug 07, 2018 7:20 pm

OK thanks. Would probably have ended up doing that anyway when the new cage turns up. They only have enough room for one piggy at a time anyway and I got some fleece forests that should be much better in terms of ventilation.

vet called and said just to monitor Suzi's breathing for now and call them if it looks like it is getting worse.

The wife says that she seemed fine around 1:30pm today. Will check more closely when I get home.

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Post   » Tue Aug 07, 2018 8:42 pm

Use plastic stools instead (see link I posted above).

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Post   » Wed Aug 08, 2018 12:04 am

Another option for hideys are the stackable bins at Dollar Tree. Flip them over and you have a hidey with two openings. Those are my Lacey’s favorites because they’re light enough that she can pull them around with her shoulders - her impersonation of a hermit crab. And she loves to line them up and run through them.

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Post   » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:57 am

Sounds interesting! Do you have a photo of one of them in use? I could add it to this topic.


Post   » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:15 pm

Siouxsie/Suzi seems to be making less noise when she is breathing now and is sneezing less but has lost a bit of weight each day since Sunday. Down to 619g Yesterday from 644g on Sunday. Going to keep an eye on her and have been making sure she gets plenty of Vitamin C. If her weight keeps dropping will get her to the vet.

Have changed the Guineadads a couple more times this week (Tuesday and Yesterday) due to the ammonia smell, usually we do it twice a week although they say to do it once a week. It seems they are either peeing on top of the fleece pocket or on the tarp next to it so it is seeping under them rather than getting soaked up. Have been cleaning up any pee puddles when I see them.

Hopefully the new cage, due to arrive Monday, will stop that happening as they will only be able to pee on the GDs.

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Post   » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:36 pm

You might write the designer and see if they have a tip for washing that would help. I think of baking soda helping but don't know. Oh, hey, borax added to your wash should help and not hurt the product. I used cotton/cloth diapers for my two kids and vaguely remember putting the rinsed diapers in a pail of borax and water (hope I remember correctly!).


Post   » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:01 pm

On their site they had said about thoroughly soaking them before putting them in the machine. I had been doing that in the sink and then doing a pre-soak wash with Arm and Hammer free and Clear detergent and then a rinse and spin with no detergent. Then dry them on low in the tumble dryer (no dryer sheets), usually a couple of times. Then take them out to air before use.

However recently rather than doing the sink soak i had put them through a pre-soak without detergent to get them good and wet and then doing another pre-soak wash with Arm and Hammer Free and Clear detergent and then a rinse and spin with no detergent and then drying. Maybe I need to go back to soaking them in the sink.

I had also tried adding white vinegar to the wash a month or too ago, which was another suggestion they had to reduce the smell, but that was right before when two of the girls started having breathing issues so I am reluctant to try that again.

They smell clean enough when they come out of the wash it just seems like either they are not wicking the pee away as well as they used to (we have only had them a couple of months so I hope that isn't the issue) or one (or more) of the girls has got in to the habit of peeing in the fleece pocket recently or as I mentioned the pee is getting under them and the smell permeating through.

Unless there is some reason why their pee smells more lately or has a higher urea content? The only change in diet I am aware of over the last week is the wife giving them the small seedless champagne grapes and also putting a bunch of watermelon in for them (most of which I removed as it was way too much) which I can see might cause them to pee more due to the high water content but cant think of a reason why it would make it smell more.

Unless the ammonia smell was a red herring and the cause is something else entirely. I did notice when my wife had been feeding them the grapes she has left the stalks on so I removed them all. I dont think they ate any but could that cause issues?

She was sneezing quite a bit originally and also coughing but now the sneezing is more of an occasional snuffle and I haven't heard her cough in the evenings. I am hoping, based on that improvement and the fact that she isn't exhibiting the noisy breathing anywhere near as much (she only did it for a little bit last night as she was settling down to sleep, that what ever was causing it was temporary like an allergy or dust or the ammonia smell and she is getting better. I probably wouldn't be worrying as much if I wasn't still weighing her everyday as her weight last night is up 2g from what it was on Friday last week so wouldn't have shown up if I was just weekly weighing.

As far as I can tell the other two girls are fine and all of them are out running around as usually and seem to be eating plenty of Pellets, Hay, veggies and Wheatgrass.

Will see how the are when i get home from work.

And got the T-shirt

Post   » Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:54 pm

You said she pees on the tarp next to the pad? Is the whole bottom of the cage not covered in an absorbent material?

Whatever you put in the cage, there shouldn't be any place for puddles to form.


Post   » Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:07 pm

Not at present. It is the Guineadad liners (similar to the fleece liners made from U Haul Blankets) on top of a tarp and there are a couple of places where the Guineadads dont cover the tarp fully.

That will change next week with the new cage but I can put some of the small fleeces we have down in the meantime.

When we get the C&C cage set up will the Guineadad/Fleece liners be sufficient or do we need something else between them and the Coroplast?? Had been trying to get away from needing to use paper or wood bedding. They should be a perfect fit for the cage we are getting with no gaps.


Post   » Fri Aug 10, 2018 6:17 pm

Here is a picture of the current set up.


We went from a Katy Cage to a Midwest and then to the current set up to give them more space.

It uses Kaytee Hamster fences (which you can see some of in the back right of the picture below) that they can budge if the bump in to them. We can also open up to let them out to run.


In the picture there is more tarp showing as we have the fence opened up for the to get out for some floor time. It is usually just a 2-3 inch strip where the bowls are. I try to position the fence around the rest of the pen so there are no gaps but since it isn't fixed then can bump it out of the way if they are determined enough.

Any pee spots are mopped up as soon as they are spotted but most of the time they do pee on GD/Fleeces.

Oddly enough although it is meant for hamsters the fence is Guinea Pig proof, but is not hamster proof they can climb over it.

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Post   » Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:38 pm

Just a heads up that the "tarp" you are using is probably not completely waterproof. It is a woven material with a coating that can easily fail. I have had those brown tarps and they may be part of your problem.

In the past I have used some rubber pond liner on occasion to protect surfaces (I had large scraps around). They are completely waterproof and could be cleaned. Can you just put them directly on the coroplast?


Post   » Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:59 am

Shower curtains or plastic drop clothes (used to cover a floor when painting) can work also. It's possible that the pig just sat in the urine to have developed an ammonia smell. Or dragged through a puddle of it. It's important to have the entire surface of their area covered with something that will absorb underneath and then have a fleece top.


Post   » Sat Aug 11, 2018 2:35 pm

The Tarp will be going when we switch to the C&C cage with the Coroplast base which arrives Monday.

Then the Liners will go on to the Coroplast base of that with no gaps, so there should be nowhere for pee puddles to form.

What seems to be happening is that they like to pee with their butt up against the fence so the pee doesnt go on the liner but onto the tarp outside the fence and then seeps back under the liners.

I usually check the tarp when I do a full clean and I havent seen any leakage so far.

Basically what we have now was put together with what ever we had when it became clear that cages, even the MidWest, were way to small.

Once we have the new cage in place it shouldn't be a problem but thatnks for the tips I will bear them in mind in future.

Siouxsie isn't making the harsh noises anymore but still sneezes occasionally but not as loudly as before although her weight did go down again slightly yesterday (611g).

I am hoping she puts some weight on today as they usually seem to eat more when I am around at the weekend than they do during the week.


Post   » Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:46 pm

Checked on the Liners manufacturers site and they now have a message about soaking the liners in water for at least 2 hours once a month to loosen up any dried Pee so will be doing that.

The problem always seems to be in the same area which is where our biggest Girl Chunkta always settles down. It looks like she is peeing and pooping there more and the pee isnt being wicked away as well as it used to be so maybe the soaking will help otherwise I will have to see if there is a way to persuade here to pee elsewhere.

Usually the pee is soaked up pretty well and the poop can just be swept or picked up and it still does that elsewhere but where she settles the pee is making the poop mushy as it doesn't seem to be soaking up as well as it should. I had to clean poop shoes off of one of her paws this morning and also off of one of Siouxsies as well. I don't think it is that she has soft poop as others of hers elsewhere in the pen seem fine but that the pee is soaking in to them and making them soft.

Will see if the soaking helps.

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