I was standing in the pet supply store the other day, wondering which bedding to buy for my pair of lion head rabbits.
There is a range available, from pine shavings to newspaper shreds.
I had always used pine shavings, but lately, it had gotten a bad reputation.
Was it still safe to use pine shavings for rabbit cage bedding?
Are Pine Shavings Safe for Rabbit Bedding?
Yes, you can absolutely use pine shavings for rabbit bedding.
However, be sure to buy heat-dried shavings and only buy from a reputable dealer to ensure there are no contaminants that can cause your bunny or rabbit to sicken.
Pine Shavings and Their Bad Reputation as Bedding
Pine shavings have traditionally been used as bedding for many animals, from rabbits to chickens and horses.
Yet, there have been some instances of pine shavings causing liver failure and respiratory distress in rabbits.
As a result of these instances, pine shavings have unjustly been labeled as toxic to rabbits. However, it’s not the pine shavings themselves that are the culprits.
The Toxins in Pine Shavings
The reality is that pine shavings on their own are simply fresh and clean-smelling softwood flakes.
However, when pine shavings have been air-dried, it does open the door to toxin-causing mold and bacteria that thrive on damp wood.
Kiln-dried pine shavings are free of these toxins and perfectly safe for use as small animal bedding.
There are also options of pine shavings that are chemically treated to ensure these are free from mold and other spore-causing organisms.
Pine Dust Particles and Respiratory Health
Another great criticism of pine shavings for bunny bedding is that it causes respiratory obstructions with the fine dust it can contain.
This is why using a large flake size pine shaving is best. Some brands also promote dust-free pine shavings (such as this one).
Rabbits have weaker respiratory systems, and they easily get pneumonia. Dust particles can easily lead to respiratory irritation, excess mucus production, and infection of the airways.
Always get a pine flake bedding that is not chemically treated to avoid fumes and that has larger flake sizes to reduce the chances of fine dust.
Pine Shavings and Hepatic Microsomal Enzymes (HME)
Rabbits that have been exposed to toxins are noted to produce HME in their livers.
This enzyme seems to indicate liver failure, but the reality is that rabbits produce this enzyme whenever they come into contact with many substances.
If we are to believe that rabbits are allergic to pine shavings and that these are toxic, we should believe that rabbits are also allergic to many other elements and external factors, including being handled, age, sex, pregnancy, and a number of food types.
Those who claim pine shavings aren’t suitable for rabbits would then have to avoid ever picking up their rabbits, prevent their breeding, and stop feeding them too.
The fact is, HME is a natural process of the rabbit’s body in response to how their liver handles interaction with the world around them.
Pine shavings aren’t to blame. Soft-wood shavings aren’t to blame.
Pros/Cons of Using Pine Shavings for Rabbit Bedding
There are numerous benefits to using pine shavings to provide great bedding for your rabbits and bunnies.
These benefits far outweigh any potential cons to using pine shavings.
Most of the cons can also be negated by simple preparations.
Pros of Pine Shavings as Bedding
Pine shavings offer several benefits:
- Soft and puffy under rabbit foot
- Economical as a bag of pine shavings isn’t costly at all
- Can help rabbit owners change out their rabbit beds for fresh shavings more often
- Hygienic since rabbits will have fresh beds more often
- Highly absorbent, soaking up any urine or liquids that may cause disease in a rabbit hutch
- Not really palatable, helping rabbits to not chew on the shavings
- Coats any rabbit poop or urine, making clean up a breeze
- Warm in winter for better comfort and thermoregulation
- Cool in summer, helping rabbits remain cool
- Encourages burrowing since rabbit kits can tunnel through a thick bed of pine shavings
- Soft and supportive of elderly rabbits that may have arthritis
Cons of Pine Shavings as Bedding
There are a few cons that have been attributed to pine shavings for rabbits:
- Some rabbits may nibble on the flakes, causing intestinal blockages
- Sharp shards in the flakes can cause cuts and injuries to rabbits
- Toxins may be introduced to the rabbits via the flakes
- Pine dust can cause respiratory distress in rabbits (this can be avoided if you buy pine shaving that don’t release dust)
Making Pine Shavings a Good Bedding Option for Rabbits
Pine shavings are still used as bedding materials for animals used in studies, indicating the negligible effect that pine shavings have on animal health.
Even other concerns about pine shavings can be negated too.
Fix Rabbit Diet so It Doesn’t Nibble on Pine Shavings
If your pet rabbit is prone to nibbling on pine shavings, you need to consider whether there is enough rabbit feed, fresh hay, and leafy green vegetables.
A rabbit that is stressed by other factors may also begin nibbling on its pine sawdust flakes.
In these cases, it is not the pine flakes that are to blame, but rather the other factors that cause the rabbits to eat their pine shavings.
Should you notice your rabbit is nibbling on their pine shavings, be sure to first eliminate other factors such as diet, social needs, and stress.
Often, fixing issues with your rabbit’s diet, providing them with suitable stimulation, and socializing them will solve the chewing issue.
Be sure to rule out whether there are perhaps other elements present in the pine shavings such as some chemical treatment to “improve” the smell that may attract a curious rabbit.
If you suspect this to be the cause of flake chewing, change to a different brand of wood flake.
Inspect Pine Shavings and Remove any Sharp Wood Shards
Another criticism of pine shavings is that there may be sharp shards of wood or even wood splinters that can cause injuries to soft rabbit feet.
This is usually found in cheaper or lower-grade wood shavings.
Always buy a reputable brand of pine shavings that are specifically suited to animal bedding.
Never use sawdust from any other suppliers that don’t specifically cater to animal bedding companies.
To prevent injuries due to sharp flakes or shards, be sure to inspect the bed when you’ve added it to your rabbit’s enclosure.
Run your fingers through it to check that there are no sharp bits.
Raking the flakes with your hands or a small hand-held rake can help you find any sharp bits that could potentially hurt your rabbit.
If you find any, be sure to take them out. Avoid buying from suppliers or brands that have sharp flakes or shards in the future.
Smell the Pine Shavings Flakes Before Using it
Pine sawdust may have been known to introduce toxins to rabbits in the past.
This was most notably due to contaminants, not the actual pine shavings. Today, kiln-dried sawdust is safe for rabbits.
To ensure safe sawdust, always smell the bag of sawdust when you open it.
If it has a moldy or “bread” scent, it is not safe for your rabbits to use. Pine shavings should smell like pine, not dust or mold.
Should your new bag of sawdust have a dusty or moldy or wet scent, you should not use it at all.
Instead, return it to the shop where you purchased it. Only use dry, fresh-smelling pine shavings.
When you have made your bunny’s bed, be sure to flip over some flakes to check for black spots or other discolorations as these indicate the wood may have been moldy and then dried.
This is also not suited to use. Replace the bed immediately.
Avoid Pine Dust
If your pine sawdust supplier has supplied you with dusty sawdust, it will likely trigger your allergies.
Sniff your sawdust. If you feel like sneezing, it’s a fair indication your bunny will sneeze too.
Only choose large flake dust-free sawdust for your rabbit beds.
To double-check, take a handful of the sawdust, flip it over a few times, noting any fine dust settling on the surrounding area.
If you are unsure of the dust content, rake your fingers through the sawdust, and check if there’s any fine dust on your hands afterward.
Pine Shavings for Rabbits FAQs
Below are some common questions bunny owners have about using pine shaving as a bedding option.
What wood shavings are safe for rabbits?
Rabbits should use dust-free large flake sawdust shavings.
Aspen is a great choice, but kiln-dried pine sawdust is also a suitable option.
Are pine shavings toxic to animals?
Pine shavings are safe for animals if the wood is kiln-dried to eliminate any toxic mold or other organisms infecting the wood.
Can rabbits eat pine?
In small amounts, pine-wood is not harmful to rabbits. However, if the pine is chemically treated, it is not safe for consumption.
So choose natural, kiln-dried pine sawdust for your rabbit bedding.
The Final Bed
Your rabbit will love pine sawdust beds as it’s really soft, fluffy, warm, and nice smelling too.
Your wallet will agree as pine sawdust is also cheap. Whichever bed you choose for your rabbits, be sure to keep their health and safety in mind.
Pine sawdust has been shown to be safe as bedding material, but always ensure you choose a kiln-dried option and avoid any unnecessary chemicals or dust.
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