How to control hay dust?

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TheFerg

Post   » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:10 pm


Hi there! I'm looking for tips on any "lower dust" hay you may have, or ways to reduce dust?

Background:
My guinea pig Alleria has had on and off noisy breathing over the past year or so. We've been to the vet multiple times, but so far we can't figure out reason for it. It's very bizarre, sometimes it's wheezy, sometimes it's more like a soft rattle, and sometimes she has tiny little adorable sneezes and other times (like this morning) she will sneeze/cough at the same time so loud it almost sounds human and it rocks her forward so hard her face hits the ground and my heart seizes for a moment! But it will be may 60 seconds then go away for hours or days. Or last for 2-3 minutes and then be gone for weeks. I have tried tracking it with no rhyme or reason I can see to the issue. We've had something like a dozen vet appointments this year over it?

So far there's no sign of infection, no enlarged heart, no crusty nose. As far as we can tell, nothing lodged in the nose (like a hay seed) but I'll have them check that again when we go in on Monday. There was an 'inconclusive' lump in her chest - could just be the image, could be a fatty cyst, or could be a lung issue. We had x-rays in mid-November and we go in for follow up on Monday to see if it's changing.

Anyway all of this to say, we've ruled out so many things, that I'm wondering if it's environmental. Here is our current setup/situation:
    • 4 girls in a large, 2-level cage with ramp (2x5 lower, 2x4 upper)
    • We use fleece bedding and we sweep 2x a day, with a full cage clean every 5 days
    • 1 flake of hay at a time is stored in a loosely closed box under their cage
    • We mostly use timothy hay, but also use orchard grass when the timothy isn't good quality/too stemmy
    • I generally avoid any seed pods in the hay, but from time to time a bit of it will sneak into timothy hay. I pull the pods out by hand when I see them, because they also make my husband's allergies worse
    • EDIT to add: We also use unscented, dye-free laundry detergent, and we dry with wool dryer balls, no fabric softener.
I am looking for ways to reduce the dust, and I read online a few places but couldn't find much trusty advice. I was looking to see if any one type of hay was any less dusty than another?

Also, I ordered an air purifier with true HEPA filters and asthma/allergy certified, which arrives this weekend and her vet and I are both hoping it will help.

Another thing I thought of was using a fabric hay bag and swapping that out every cage clean to wash it and use a new one. Does anyone have experience with this? My concern is 4 girls, are the openings large enough, can the hay drop down well enough, that they would have enough hay while I"m at work? Particularly if it's a day I work later and they are longer without someone home.

So, any and all advice/guidance on hay types, hay delivery systems, or other ways you've helped reduce allergens and environmental issues in your home to help your guinea pigs with any issues, particularly with respiratory issues?

Thanks so much!
Last edited by TheFerg on Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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TheFerg

Post   » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:18 pm


EDIT: We also use unscented, dye-free laundry detergent, and we dry with wool dryer balls, no fabric softener.

User avatar
Lynx
RESIST

Post   » Fri Jan 17, 2020 8:20 pm


Hi, The Ferg! You emailed me and I replied with some suggestions. I'll add them to your topic (some of which you have clarified in your post and don't have to respond but I'll add them anyway).

I wrote:

Since you are using fleece (washing in scent free detergent and rinsing thoroughly?), the bedding should not be the problem. The timothy you give, does it have lots of seed heads? If the tiny timothy seeds are inhaled, they might become lodged in the nasal passage.

I suggest trying to make sure she does not have access to any timothy with seed heads. As for dustiness, one excellent way to address this is to give hay that is soaked in water. It would mean any dust could not be airborne. Guinea pigs seem to love soaked hay but it would need to be removed in, say, a couple hours if uneaten to avoid the possibility of mold growing.

Read over www.guinealynx.info/hay.html It is important to note that sometimes what people think is dustiness is actually dry mold spores. So having a good source of hay that has been properly cured and stored is quite important. I do think mold is everywhere. Ask Dr. Nokamura if there are any tiny flexible cameras that could be used for examination. I know years back they had cameras that could be used to examine the throat. A nostril is quite small but if not now, some day there will be micro cameras on a flexible mini tube that will be able to do this.

So I think of embedded seeds, the presence of a mold irritant, or some sort of infection. The nasal cavity could be formed in such a way that could cause issues.

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Lynx
RESIST

Post   » Fri Jan 17, 2020 9:11 pm


I also encourage you to look closely to see if there are any other sources of tiny irritants. What I am thinking of is pellet dust. Pellets break down and sometimes you have very small pieces at the bottom of the bowl.

I have chickens and feed them pellets. I used to feed "crumbles" but switched to pellets because one chicken would end up eating too fast and inhaling small pellet bits. The chickens are unfortunately not fond of the pelleted form so to help the chicken who had trouble inhaling the pellets, I would soak them then place on a plate for eating and to allow them to dry in a less dusty, crumbly way. Since guinea pig pellets have different ingredients, I don't know if this would work. You could try a spoon full of moistened pellets, left out for, say, an hour or so. Some guinea pigs even like wetting their pellets to make them easier to eat.

Anyway, my main point is to check to see if this is associated with eating some type of food (green peppers got eaten too quickly by one of my guinea pigs).

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Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Sat Jan 18, 2020 1:03 pm


In addition to hay and pellet dust, I posted something awhile back about other possible environmental irritants to try to rule out. Fleece bedding, mats/beds, etc., detergent and anything used in or around the cage are obvious things to consider, but other possibilities in the home might include:

- Dust mites in carpeting or rugs;
- Cockroaches;
- Mice or other rodents;
- Mold;
- Sprays, air fresheners or anything else used for cleaning or odor in the home;
- Candles;
- Ineffective air filters or air filters that produce ozone;
- Other pets in the house;
- Humidity that is too high or too low;
- Windows that are open and potentially allowing pollens to drift in;
- Indoor houseplants

User avatar
TheFerg

Post   » Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:09 pm


Thanks for all the tips/advice.

We don't use much perfume/cologne, scented body products, candles, etc. We do have two pug-mix dogs who do shed a lot but we vacuum regularly and clean those filters all the time, and we replaced the HVAC systems ~2 years ago so they are good quality and we also replace the filters regularly. The air purifier just arrived so I got that set up and will see if that helps at all.

Thanks to Alleria being a bit chunky they've been put on restricted pellets recently whereas we used to just have a bowl that we always kept filled with at least some in it, so there may have been more dust at the bottom. Now we dump any dust crumbs every morning and night before we refill with their allotted pellets.

I worry about the wet hay thing and me being able to give them constant access while still working full time. My husband and I both have flexibility to work from home some times, like if we have a vet appt, but not every day. If I did it only in evenings and mornings when we're home, she'd still have dry hay while we're gone....but maybe even some of that would make a difference?

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Lynx
RESIST

Post   » Sun Jan 19, 2020 6:10 pm


I am thinking not all hay would have to be wet. See if you can put some hay in a more distant, well-ventilated end of the cage and just test out the wet hay while you are around. As you know, having hay always available is important. I am hoping the hay is not the issue.

WICharlie

Post   » Fri Jan 24, 2020 10:22 am


One thing almost no one thinks about is their furnace filter. Your furnace filter should be changed out every 3 months if you have pets in the house. It may also be helpful to purchase the best filter you can buy that filters allergens out of the air.

User avatar
TheFerg

Post   » Fri Feb 07, 2020 2:11 pm


Sorry for such a delay! We've tried some changes and have some updates.

Thakns for the tips and the note on the furnace/HVAC. We have a new system and get it serviced annually, as well as changing filters each season.

We had tried so many things before with no change, so we invested in an air purifier certified for asthma and allergies. I don't know if it's just luck so far or if it's really working, but she hasn't had any more breathing episodes that we've seen since the day after we started using the air purifer! So either she's hiding it well and only acting up while we are out of the house, or it's really helping. If so, I can't believe what a change it made and I wish I'd gotten a better one sooner.

For reference we purchased Alen BreatheSmart FLEX Air Purifier True HEPA Filter for Home, Offices up to 700 Sqft. It's SO QUIET and works so well. And we can turn the lights off so they don't distract while we're trying to sleep. It was also packaged much more securely than the one below.

We first tried Honeywell because of the price difference while still having the same certification but it was incredibly loud and much larger. There was no way to sleep with it on, and we didn't want to forget to turn it on as we left for work each day and end up creating breathing issues for her again. So we exchanged it for the Alen and are very happy.

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TheFerg

Post   » Fri Feb 07, 2020 2:11 pm


Oh and Sef, this one also does mold - so if that was the issue hopefully this is resolving it. The hay always looks fresh and clean but I know they are so tiny and can be unseen!

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Lynx
RESIST

Post   » Fri Feb 07, 2020 4:06 pm


This is great news! I am so glad you seem to have found something that works for her. Do you have to regularly change filters? I'm glad it is quiet. Noisy machines are so annoying.

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Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:40 pm


Fantastic! That is great news. I'll keep my fingers crossed!

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TheFerg

Post   » Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:09 pm


There are two filters in the Honeywell - one carbon "pre-filter" that is more for odors, and then the HEPA filter inside the unit. The Alen has only the HEPA filter. You change it every 3-6 months. Recommendation is 3-4 but it depends on how dirty it gets, and there are indicator lights. I'm interested to see how long they last. Filters are ~$14/each on Amazon from what I saw.

And, apparently for birds and some bunnies, ionization is an issue. The Alen comes in both ionizing and non-ionizing configurations. We got non-ionizing just to be safe. Odor wasn't the issue, so we weren't worried about the carbon filter or the ionization aspects.

(Sorry for so long between replies - lots of work travel lately)

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