As the pet parent of a small herbivore, you know that hay is important to your pet’s health, but have you ever wondered exactly how hay helps keep your pet healthy & happy? Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific functions that hay provides to your pet’s daily health.
- The fiber in hay facilitates the constant digestive movement that small herbivores need to maintain digestive health.
- Disrupting movement in the GI tract even for a short period of time can lead to a number of potentially lifethreatening issues.
- Providing grass hay most closely mimics the foraging activity small herbivores would perform in nature, making hay the ideal material to support digestive health.
- Small herbivores require constant chewing of fibrous foods to provide proper, necessary dental wear. Hay is the ideal material to serve this important function.
- The teeth of rabbits, guinea pigs, & chinchillas never stop growing, making it critical to provide a proper diet centered around hay.
- A diet with insufficient hay can lead to dental issues including disease, tooth elongation, & malocclusion.
- Hay encourages the natural foraging behaviors of small pets, providing an essential opportunity for mental stimulation.
- Access to a variety of high-quality hays provides different tastes & textures for your pet, keeping him active, engaged & healthy.
- Place hay in as many locations as possible throughout your pet’s living space to maximize mental enrichment.
Tips for Preventing GI Stasis
Gastrointestinal Stasis is a serious condition that occurs when the digestive system slows down or stops completely. As a pet parent, there are key steps you can take to minimize the likelihood that your pet experiences this condition:
- Feed a high fiber diet centered around unlimited grass hay (at least 70% of the diet)
- Schedule regular veterinary checkups for your pet (at least once a year for healthy pets)
- Keep a watchful eye out for signs of underlying issues (e.g. visible pain, dental health issues, infections, etc.)
- Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise & has access to two sources of fresh water
Feeding a variety of hays offers many benefits to pets. Learn more about the Top 5 Reasons to offer your pet a variety.
Hay: It’s Not Just for Herbivores
Hay is critical to the health & wellbeing of herbivores, but other pets benefit from this high fiber forage as well. Hay is a great source of physical enrichment for birds, hamsters, gerbils, rats, & other small pets. From bedding to burrowing to general exploring, these pets will benefit from access to hay in their daily routine. Hamsters & gerbils particularly enjoy oat hay, which often contains tasty, immature seed heads.
DIY Mental Enrichment
To make mealtime more mentally enriching for your pet, try stuffing hay into hideouts or other “safe to chew” containers, such as toilet paper or paper towel rolls. For added enticement, bury a few of your pet’s favorite treats toward the back of the hay & watch him eagerly hunt for them.
What Are “Open-Rooted” Teeth?
Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, & other small animals have “open-rooted” teeth. This means that these teeth grow continuously throughout the animal’s life. Without proper dental wear, serious issues can arise, including
malocclusion (improper alignment of top & bottom teeth), tooth elongation, & dental disease. Eating hay regularly provides your pet the necessary wear & helps ensure that teeth do not become overgrown.