Piggies Choice high calcium pellet to prevent kidney stones?

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Lynx
RESIST

Post   » Mon Nov 04, 2019 8:29 pm


A guinea pig lover who uses this site for information about the care of her guinea pigs wanted some feedback on a video online that made the following claim:
"...Calcium does NOT cause kidney stones
"In fact it is the total opposite. To prevent kidney stones we need to feed MORE calcium"


A high calcium pellet (currently only available through this California rescue) is recommended supposedly to prevent the formation of kidney stones in guinea pigs:

Piggies Choice Guinea Pig Pellets

Ingredients:
Organic sun-dried alfalfa, organic oats, organic peas, organic wheat millrun, organic stabilized rice bran, organic sunflower seeds, organic flaxseed, organic coconut flour, organic kelp meal, diatomaceous earth, monocalcium, phosphate, Redmond salt, redmond conditioner (clay), limestone, Zeolite, hydrolized yeast & yeast extract, organic yucca schidigera, mineral & vitamin premix, organic garlic, organic thyme, organic anise oil, organic cinnnamon [sic], organic anise, organic rosemary oil
Image

There is no breakdown of crude protein, fat, fiber, moisture, calcium (max & min), phosphorus, vitamins etc. in percentages that might help us evaluate the product. Pet manufacturers routinely include a more complete list so one can determine the suitability of the product. I expect a mill may have been used to mix the product and information is available somewhere.

Note that the calcium in the pellets comes primarily from alfalfa and limestone.

The narrator appears to have gotten most of her information from human studies.

It is claimed:
"oxalate can become kidney stones".
"Now the calcium binds...with oxalate...and it goes out through the intestines...if there's not enough calcium, the oxalate is going to stick around and form stones..." [an off-camera participant asks: "so are you saying we should be feeding more calcium?"] "yes"

There are a number of ways this makes no sense.

Most guinea pig stones are bladder stones, not kidney stones, though stones will occasionally be found in the kidneys, ureter, and urethra.
Guinea pig stones are primarily calcium carbonate, not primarily calcium oxalate (see the stones page for reference).
How calcium carbonate stones would form is not explained since the claim is that calcium and oxalate bind and are excreted, leaving no calcium and excess oxalate to form oxalate stones.

No scientific study that I know of has thoroughly explored the reasons why guinea pigs develop stones. On the stones page here, I make no claims to have the answers. But the narrator offers nothing of substance to support her claims. Any scientific information on this particular product that would provide sound evidence it would be any better for the average adult guinea pig is missing.

Most importantly, if you read the ingredient list, one ingredient uniquely vital to guinea pig health is missing. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), an essential vitamin.

Keep in mind, people who try to cut back on the amount of calcium in the diet will never be able to eliminate it. Calcium is an essential mineral. While milky pee may be "normal", it is not likely that pasty urinary excretions are normal.

I find the claims made poorly supported.

User avatar
ItsaZoo

Post   » Mon Nov 04, 2019 11:55 pm


I don’t see any reference to research that supports this claim of increased calcium to prevent stones. There is info on Merck and many veterinary sites recommending lower calcium food and extra fluids for prevention of stones.

I did notice that Oxbow has an herbal urinary support supplement. Does anyone have any experience using that?

User avatar
Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 6:59 am


I haven't had a chance to watch the entire video, but it's interesting the LA Rescue is one of the rescues mentioned in an email from Sherwood Pet Health to me earlier this year:
Some of the groups have banned even mention of supporters [of Sherwood] and guinea pig experts who support it such as LA Guinea Pig Rescue..
Piggies Choice doesn't appear to have the exact same ingredients as Sherwood, but it's interesting that carrot head is banging the same "alfalfa is good" drum as Sherwood and quoting some of the exact same junk science. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a Sherwood product being manufactured under a generic label. Does the video say where to buy this stuff? (I will watch the rest of it this evening when I get home from work).

User avatar
Lynx
RESIST

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:57 am


Right now it can only be purchased directly through the rescue (walk-in, not mail order). It is possible they are thinking of moving toward marketing it.

Ditto ItsaZoo that the current best veterinary advice is lower calcium food and extra fluids for prevention.

I find it interesting she doesn't even seem to get the kind of stone right (calling the problem "kidney stones" instead of the far more common bladder stones).

I am sure pigjes would have something to say about this too.

User avatar
Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 8:54 am


There are a lot of factors when it comes to the formation of stones, and it is still not very well understood. You look at my own situation, feeding lower calcium veggies and being careful about pellets, and they still get these damned things. So I think calcium is only part of the story.

That said...all veterinary literature that I have read over the years point to avoiding a high calcium diet. This is true for rabbits as well. I find these sources to be a lot more credible than someone who is trying to push a product. As you pointed out, this person doesn't even have the right information when it comes to type of stones being manufactured by guinea pigs (calcium carbonate vs. oxalate). I could point her to the study done by Hawkins a few years ago, which clearly spells out the composition of guinea pig uroliths as calcium carbonate in over 95% of the cases cited.

Again, LA Rescue has an association with Sherwood, which has tried to convince owners that high calcium is not linked to bladder stone formation in any way. This is junk science, same as Sherwood's claim that their "bladder" formula supplement can dissolve bladder stones. Or the claim that Sherwood's soy-free formula eliminates bloat. It's false advertising at best and potentially dangerous for those owners who think/hope that this stuff is some sort of miracle cure.

Nobody is advocating *eliminating* calcium from the diet. That is not possible or even desirable. However, all studies and evidence for the past decade or more point to the fact that a higher calcium diet can exacerbate bladder problems in those guinea pigs who are prone to sludge and stone formation.

I wonder if LA Rescue will offer to pay vet bills for their clients whose pigs form bladder stones on this great new diet.

User avatar
Lynx
RESIST

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:06 am


Big ditto, sef.

I was not aware they were also claiming bloat is primarily due to soy in pellets. That is crazy.

Sounds like a flat-earther.

User avatar
pigjes
Cavy Comic

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:50 pm


As a chemist, I have to say this is complete and utter nonsense. The university of Utrecht did mayor research on calcium in piggies. You can contact them and ask. The professor who used to work there even explained to us that the opposite is true: less calcium is required. From a chemical point of view, that's even logic: the less you offer, the less is absorbed anyway.
https://www.diergeneeskunde.nl/

User avatar
Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 12:57 pm


I'll read it; thanks for posting the link.

User avatar
lisam

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 6:42 pm


I almost feel like these companies are trying to make us think alfalfa is better, because it's a lot cheaper than timothy or orchard grass. So it cost them less to make.

User avatar
Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:25 pm


Looking at those pellets a little more closely...Zeolite? Kelp? Garlic? Coconut flour? Cinnamon? Why can't the rescue simply sign up with either Small Pet Select or Oxbow as a reseller and get a kick-back on a proven, quality pellet? Alfalfa aside, this stuff looks questionable.

User avatar
Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Sun Nov 10, 2019 4:00 pm


Pigjes, that link just goes to the home page of the University. Do you have a link to the specific study? I wanted to read it this weekend. Thanks!

JJGiebz
Make Good Choices

Post   » Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:31 pm


What possible nutritional value could pigs get from cinnamon?? I thought garlic and onions were toxic to them... also isn’t diatomaceous earth used in pool filters??

I took one of my pigs to the vet (a new vet) today for something unrelated and the dr and I got on the topic of the I/C issues both of my pigs have. She did recommend trying Sherwood, totally caveated with the fact that there is no real research/scientific evidence here and admitting that she had her interest piqued by the Sherwood booth at the exotics conference over the summer.

She said she has a few rabbit patients who are currently on Sherwood pellets and it seems to be helping them, but that it’s only been a few months.

That makes two vets that I’ve seen now that have suggested it. I think I’m going I try it. They both end up getting x-rays every three to six months anyway, and God only knows what is mixed in with that shilintong pill. (Hopefully not diatomaceous earth...) At least I know the devil in this formula. The thought still terrifies me, but I will be sure to report back.

User avatar
Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Tue Nov 12, 2019 8:51 pm


That will be very interesting to track. Will you be using the original Sherwood formula (alfalfa-based) or their new timothy-based stuff?

JJGiebz
Make Good Choices

Post   » Tue Nov 12, 2019 11:20 pm


Hopefully the new timothy formula. I don’t like their website (another strike) and I only saw the alfalfa formula in a 4.5 lb bag. I emailed them to make sure they know which one I want.

I have sample sizes of both and the ingredients are otherwise almost exactly the same, so I just don’t get the alfalfa base. If that’s the one that shows up though, I will try it. I notice increased grittiness in my boar’s urine if he just eats romaine instead of green leaf for a couple of days so I figure this will tell right away.

I’m not going I change anything else about their diet, so I can be reasonably sure of the cause of any changes, and give it a month to start. I already know they will be mad that their bowls are less full, I just hope I can handle all that side eye.

User avatar
Sef
Supporter in 2019

Post   » Wed Nov 13, 2019 6:20 am


It's a bit of a gamble, but I'd be curious to know if you notice increased deposits on their alfalfa pellets in particular, since they have staunchly maintained that there is no correlation between sludge/stones and excess calcium. I suppose, though, that their argument would be, "See? The excess calcium is passing harmlessly out of the body through the urine." That, or they would try to sell you their bladder supplement.

Do keep us regularly posted, okay? I'm going to be following this with great interest.

SSLee

Post   » Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:25 pm


Last year, my two piggies went through two 4.5 pound bags of the Sherwood alfalfa pellets and I didn't notice any increase in the deposits. Some piggies had problems switching to the Sherwood pellets but my girls did not. In fact, I've switched pellets numerous times and each time it was seamless. Right now I am using a combination of KMS and Oxbow Garden Select. The recommendation from Sherwood is to also decrease the amount of veggies thereby leading to increase of the hay consumption. Unfortunately that part did not work out for my girls. I caved in to their wheeking for more veggies. I'm thinking of trying out the Sherwood timothy hay pellets next and also looking forward to reading JJGiebz's feedback.

I have been giving my piggies Oxbow supplements for over two years now and the urinary one is part of the rotation. I give them a different (digestive, urinary, and joint) supplement daily. I used to also give the vitamin C daily but now just give more green peppers instead.

User avatar
pigjes
Cavy Comic

Post   » Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:57 pm


I don't have a link to the study itself, that's most likely something they keep "indoors". My hub works at a university clinic too, same politics apply there. But Lynx could ask and give a link to this site, they just might give it to her.

JJGiebz
Make Good Choices

Post   » Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:55 pm


I will definitely keep you all posted! I heard back from Sherwood and they confirmed they shipped the Timothy blend, so I at least feel better about that.

I’m with you, SSLee, there’s no way I can cut their veggies. They don’t get a lot of veggies anyway, and I think there would be a revolt. Same on the vitamin C cookie. They are both good hay eaters, even with the oxbow pellets, so I’m really curious to find out if the eat even MORE hay on less pellets, or if they are just going to yell at me.

I haven’t been able to get either of them to eat a urinary supplement. They will take the oxbow one, but I always find them in the cage later. Sef- I actually already bought the Sherwood magic-sludge-dissolving [sarcasm] urinary supplement last year, out of desperation. Neither of them would touch it, they ran away from it, in fact.

Like I said, I’m not going to change anything else, so we’ll see what happens!! Right now I feel like this is the only thing I haven’t tried. I started mixing in a bit of the sample I had with their regular pellets yesterday, hoping the new food arrives tomorrow or Saturday.

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