If you are a parent of a small herbivore pet such as a rabbit or guinea pig, you know that hay keeps them going. A consistent supply of hay is essential for your pet’s digestive system and keeps it healthy. After all, all herbivores need to do is alternate between foraging, eating, chewing cud, and sleeping. That is what they do even when going about other businesses.
But have you ever wondered why hay is more important for your herbivore pet than anything else? Here is why.
It maintains their digestive health.
The primary benefit of hay is to maintain your pet’s digestive health. The digestive system of herbivores is designed to keep food passing through, and when it is not, they are busy chewing cud. Therefore the fiber contained in hay helps maintain the constant digestive movement required to maintain the digestive health of herbivores.
Note that disrupting the constant digestive movement of the gastrointestinal tract in herbivores can lead to potentially life-threatening health issues. Providing your herbivores with premium timothy hay mimics the foraging activity they would perform in nature, giving them the ideal food to support their digestive health.
It supports their dental health.
Herbivores, including rabbits and chinchillas, require continuous chewing to support their dental health. Hay is fibrous food that serves that purpose appropriately. Keep in mind that the teeth of bunnies, chinchillas, and guinea pigs never stop growing; therefore, you should give them a proper diet of different varieties of hay to maintain their dental health. That prevents dental diseases like malocclusion and tooth elongation.
It is suitable for their mental health.
Hay is also good for your pet’s mental health. When you provide them with hay, that encourages foraging behavior which is limited in domesticated herbivores. You can include tasty treats like fruits and vegetables in the hay to provide a rewarding foraging experience for your pets, stimulating their brains. It is also good to place the hay in different areas of your pet’s habitats to encourage more movement and an exciting foraging experience for mental stimulation.
It prevents GI stasis.
Herbivores are susceptible to gastrointestinal stasis, a health condition that occurs when their digestive system slows down or stops entirely. As a herbivore pet parent, you need to know the steps you can take to minimize the risks of GI stasis in your pet. That includes:
- Feeding your pet a fibrous diet centered around grass hay. At least 70% of its diet should be grass hay.
- Monitor signs of digestive issues, dental infections, and any other health issues. You can notice when your pet is in pain, discomfort, or not as happy as they usually are.
- Ensure your pet has continued access to hay and water. You should also provide opportunities for exercising for your pet to stay active.
- Try stuffing tasty hay into hideouts or other safe places to chew to encourage a rewarding foraging experience for your pet.
- Ensure regular veterinary checkups for your pet.
the bottom line
High-quality hay is vital for your herbivore’s health and wellbeing. As you can see, it maintains their digestive and dental health and encourages exciting mental stimulation.