Can Dogs Eat Hay? 5 Reasons Why Not & Potential Dangers

An adult black Lab resting in the hay loft of a barn.

Every dog owner wants to take care of their dog, but it can be frustrating at times when your pup likes eating foods that he shouldn’t eat, such as garbage, rotting carcasses, or offerings in the cat’s litter box.

In cases like that, you know that you should put a stop to the behavior right away, but what about when you find your dog eating a natural food that many other animals eat routinely, like hay? 

Can dogs eat hay? Dogs should not eat hay for several reasons: hay does not provide adequate nutrition for a dog; it is not part of a dog’s natural diet; a dog’s teeth are not designed to chew hay; hay could cause blockages, choking, or other health issues; and hay may contain dangerous mold or harmful preservatives.

Let’s find out why letting dogs munch on hay may not be a good idea and why some dogs seem to like eating it. 

Why Dogs Should Not Eat Hay

Hay, which is typically made from stalks, leaves, and seeds of various plants, is used to feed many different animals, but here’s why you might want to exclude it from your dog’s diet. 

1. Hay Does Not Provide Adequate Nutrition

While hay is a common animal feed and contains a variety of nutrients beneficial to animals, that doesn’t necessarily include dogs.

Hay is not the kind of food that can give your dog the essential nutrients they need. 

Although some types of hay do have several nutrients good for dogs, it’s simply not enough. It’s smarter to feed dogs the kind of quality food that can promote their overall health. 

2. Dog Teeth Are Not Designed for Chewing Hay

Like most carnivores and omnivores, dogs have sharp incisors, long and pointed canines, and only a few molars at the back. Their sharp and pointed teeth function well for cutting meat.

Unlike many herbivores, like cows and horses, with wider, flatter molars designed for eating and grinding plants, dogs don’t have enough chewing molars or molars that are broad enough for eating hay. 

3. Hay Could Cause Blockages, Choking or Digestive Upset

Without the ideal set of teeth for chewing and grinding hay properly, eating it can pose a major choking hazard for dogs.

When ingested, hay can cause choking or obstruction in their intestinal tract, which can cause even more health problems. 

Eating hay can also cause an upset stomach in dogs, which can result in vomiting or diarrhea.

If your dog is eating hay and you notice those symptoms and others, like loss of appetite and lethargy, it’s best to take your pet to the veterinarian.  

4. Hay May Contain Mold or Preservatives

Another reason why it’s not a good idea to let dogs eat hay is that hay can contain mold, which may lead to respiratory problems and even toxicity.

Even if they don’t eat it, breathing moldy hay can cause allergic reactions in dogs. It can lead to coughing, breathing difficulties, decreased appetite, and vomiting. 

Hay can also contain preservatives, which can also trigger allergic symptoms in dogs, some of which may be fatal. 

5. Hay Is Not Part of a Dog’s Natural Diet

Hay, simply put, is not part of the natural diet for dogs. Although they are omnivores in some regards, dogs are natural carnivores, and they can’t digest plants with high cellulose content like hay.

They also don’t have the bacteria and other microscopic creatures in their intestines that can help break down cellulose in their diet, unlike other animals that eat hay, like goats, cows, and horses. 

What if My Dog Ate Hay?

If your dog ate hay once and they seem to be okay after some careful monitoring, then there’s nothing much to worry about.

However, if your dog eats plenty of hay or is eating hay regularly, it’s never a good sign. 

If you notice your dog feeling sick with symptoms such as decreased appetite, lethargy, breathing difficulty, and nosebleeds, it can be because your dog ate an excessive amount of hay.

Bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible. 

Two young boys sitting among hay bales with their Golden Retriever.

Why Some Dogs Like To Eat Hay

Some dogs may rush to munch on hay even after you fed them a healthy meal. It’s because hay has a smell that can be irresistible to some dogs. 

Other dogs will eat hay as a way to fulfill some unmet nutrient deficiency in their diet.

They might consider it a good source of natural fiber to help with an upset stomach or improve their bowel movements. 

Are Any Types of Hay Good for Dogs?

There are two types of hay that some believe dogs can eat without experiencing major issues: Timothy hay and alfalfa hay.

Both have several essential nutrients and are a good source of fiber, but it is not recommended to allow your dog to eat either one. 

Is Hay Good for Dog Bedding?

While hay is a great insulator, there are plenty of downsides to using hay for your dog’s bedding. For one, hay is prone to mold and dust, which can cause respiratory problems.

Hay also becomes damp easily and may become a home and breeding ground to a variety of insects.  

Related Questions:

Can Dogs Be Allergic To Hay?

Some dogs can be allergic to hay, which can be because of either pollen or mold.

Allergic reactions may occur when dogs eat hay or merely come in contact with it. Reactions may include sneezing, wheezing, and even nosebleeds.

Can Dogs Eat Alfalfa?

Alfalfa hay is considered by some people to be generally safe for dogs to eat – but strictly only in small amounts.

It has plenty of vitamins and minerals, but alfalfa is also high in calories, which increases the risk of obesity in dogs.

Additionally, dogs simply aren’t designed to consume hay, and there are many other healthy options that you can feed your dog.

What To Put in a Dog House for Bedding?

The primary goal for bedding in the doghouse is to provide cushioning. Some of the great options for that include a dog bed, blankets, kennel pad, or wood shavings.

In particular, wood shavings can provide comfort and keep the dog house warm, which is always a plus. 

Conclusion

Although Timothy and alfalfa hays have several nutrients beneficial to dogs, there are simply a lot of risks associated with dogs eating hay, like gastrointestinal problems.

Therefore, it’s best to not allow your dog to eat hay, no matter how much they seem to enjoy it.