As an owner of two dogs, I can tell they will eat anything! And my puppy will eat anything and everything. And I get that it is frustrating when your dog is sneaking a snack from the trash, the cat’s litter box, or worse, that leftover dog poop in the yard.
So, what about hay? I live on a farm and often wondered if it was okay if my dogs ate hay. Can dogs eat hay?
The short answer is no. Dogs should not be eating hay for several reasons. It’s not good for their bellies. It can cause blockages or could contain added preservatives.
In this article, I will go into a little more detail about why dogs should not be eating hay.
Why Do Dogs Eat Everything?
All dogs, especially puppies, learn with their mouths. Just like human babies, they use their mouths to explore things around them.
This curiosity won’t go away completely with age, and it often depends on the breed of dog too. Some adult dogs still decide to eat, chew, or explore everything they come in contact with. Picking up something and putting it in their mouths is relatively normal, but it can be downright dangerous if they aren’t supervised.
Can Dogs Eat Hay?
Hay may be necessary for a lot of animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, horses, goats, and other farm animals, but when it comes to dogs, it’s a big no.
Here are some of the reasons that dogs should not be eating hay.
- Not good for their teeth
- Not nutritious
- Hay can have mold
- Hay has preservatives
- Not a normal diet
- Can be very dangerous
Their Teeth Are Not Designed for It
Dogs are carnivores and omnivores, meaning they are meat eaters. Stemming from their wolf ancestors, dogs have long, pointed canines and sharp incisors. These pointed, knife-like teeth are specifically designed for eating meat.
If you have ever seen a horse or cow chew, they do so with their back teeth. In fact, the front teeth of cows are exceedingly small. Herbivores chew their food with their big molars, and these teeth are specially made to grind down hay.
It’s Not a Source of Nutrition for Dogs
Hay is a necessary part of the diet of several farm animals, but it’s not beneficial in any way for dogs. Hay simply does not contain the nutrients your dog needs.
It may satisfy a rabbit or guinea pig’s diet, but let’s leave the dogs out of it.
Hay is a Breeding Ground for Molds
Mold will often grow quickly in hay, especially if it gets wet. Mold can cause not only respiratory issues in dogs (as well as other animals), but parts of it can even be toxic.
Moldy hay does not need to be ingested to cause breathing problems or allergic reactions in dogs. Just inhaling it can lead to such things, as well as vomiting or loss of appetite.
Hay Contains Preservatives
Commercial hay often contains preservatives, which can cause allergies or even death in dogs.
Preservatives are usually applied to hay during harvest to prevent spoilage of hay bales with higher moisture content. Preservatives are also applied to hay to prevent hay damage.
Hay is Not Part of a Dog’s Normal Diet
Your dog’s normal diet consists of certain nutrients and proteins that are necessary, but hay can actually be detrimental to your dog’s health. Because dogs are carnivores, they can’t process the high cellulose levels that are consistent in hay.
Dogs also don’t have the right kind of bacteria in their gut to break hay down, as horses or cows do.
Hay Can Be Extremely Hazardous
For me, this is one of the biggest reasons that dogs should not be eating hay. Because they don’t have the right kind of teeth to chew and grind hay, it can be a major choking hazard for them.
It’s much like clumps of grass, only worse. I’ve often had to reach in and pull out a lump of freshly mowed grass clipping from my dog’s throat (another thing he loves to eat!).
If hay gets ingested, it can become obstructed in your dog’s throat, causing him to choke. It can also become lodged in the digestive tract, causing a blockage that may require surgical intervention.
Because their bellies aren’t made for it, on top of a blockage, your dog could suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, which can be scary for both you and your dog.
What Should I Do if My Dog Eats Hay?
If you caught your dog eating a few strands of hay, they will more than likely be okay. You should obviously monitor their condition for lethargy or vomiting and visit your vet if any of these things persist.
But if your dog devoured a large amount of hay, a trip to the vet is usually in order.
Your dog may be feeling sick or having difficulty breathing due to an allergic reaction or an internal blockage.
Some hay also contains the preservative Ethoxyquin, which can be pretty dangerous at elevated levels. It’s always better to reach out to your vet even if you think your dog is okay.
In any event, a phone call or trip to the vet is the best treatment if your dog ingests a large amount of hay just to make sure your dog doesn’t need medical treatment of some sort.
While hay may be a vital part of a rabbit or goat’s diet, it’s certainly not the case with dogs. Eating hay can cause many health problems for your dog, and in some cases, it can be life-threatening.