Why Grass/Hay is good for Rabbit’s Teeth

Today I’m going to let loose my inner geek, want to see something cool?

Look at those pointy bits! What do you think, a cactus, saw blade, sharks teeth… ?

Nope, that’s a blade of grass magnified a few hundred times and those pointy bits are the reason grass (or hay) is an essential part of a rabbit’s diet.

Rabbit’s teeth grow continually throughout their life. To stop the teeth growing too long and causing problems they need to be worn down at the same rate they grow. That sounds fairly logical. But what seems to puzzle a lot of owners is: why does it have to be hay? Surely pellets are harder so would create more wear or even some nice crunchy carrots – wouldn’t they work?

Whilst other foods may contribute some degree of wear, as you can see from the picture, there is something very special about grass and this makes the number one thing for maintaining rabbit’s dental health.

Most people think of grass as soft, like me, you have probably enjoyed sitting on it at some point. But grass is actually very similar to sand paper. Sandpaper isn’t hard, it’s flexible  and you can tear it easily, but if you rub it against something it will wear away the surface. Like the sandpaper, the reason grass is good for wearing teeth is how rough the surface is, not how hard it is. Here is another close up of your rabbit’s dinner:

Hay (Dried Grass) Magnified 200x

The reason that grass is rough is it doesn’t really want to get eaten. So to protect itself, it sucks up silica from the soil and uses it to build rough spiky structures called phytoliths.

If you don’t have a microscope to hand, you can feel them with your fingers. Run your fingers down a piece of grass they will catch on the surface – you can see why from the picture above. This is the same reason hay is so great at catching on your clothing and spreading itself around the house. And why it is so good at wearing down rabbit’s teeth!

Pellets are hard and carrots are crunchy, but neither are rough enough to act like sandpaper on rabbits teeth. For the same reason, grass is just as good as hay for wear, even though hay seems harder because it’s dry and crunchy.

Hands up all those about to go fondle their hay to see how rough it is… 🙂

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11 Responses to “Why Grass/Hay is good for Rabbit’s Teeth”

  1. […] Teeth Sunday, October 9th, 2011 | Rabbit Care I just saw this cool post on The Rabbit House about why hay is good for bunny teeth. Like the sandpaper,? the reason grass is good for wearing teeth is how rough the surface is, not […]

  2. Kathryn says:

    Great post! Will be reposting on my site!

  3. Rachel says:

    A great explanation – I think you should release the inner geek more often!

  4. annette says:

    that’s very interesting Tamsin, to see the sandpaper edges!
    I am trying to get Wes to eat more grass and it’s a struggle indeed. Even with reduced wet foods it is daily battle. Maybe it tastes like sandpaper too until they get a taste of the vegetables??

    and I WON your book!!! THANK YOU!!! it is great!!
    and I shall blog about it 🙂
    and I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments as well!

  5. Lisa says:

    (Hand up). Truly fascinating! Luckily my buns have always been great hay eaters, Biff will sometimes leave his salad to go munch some hay!

  6. this is a very interesting post, I knew about the silica in grass but hadn’t seen that particular view of grass under the microscope. We used to struggle to get Anya to eat hay, though she did like fresh grass.

    Congratulations to Annette!

    • Tamsin says:

      It really surprised me seeing it, particularly who defined those jagged teeth on the edge were. That’s genuine grass from my garden – Scamp ate the rest of it 🙂

  7. Liz says:

    I started growing timothy grass when I was asked to take this rabbit five years ago . It’s been a long time since I kept rabbits but assumed they still ate the same things. Not this one! He’s always refused to eat grass or hay, I’ve tried every make of hay online, but he won’t touch any of it, not even the lovely fresh timothy grass that the G. pigs adore. He survives on garden herbs and veg. and a small amount of Burgess Mature pellets. Anyone who’s pulled a stubborn leaf of grass will now know why it cuts so easily. Thanks for the interesting words.

  8. […] chew on a similar texture in a chew toy, it would only target the incisors and not the molars. Find out why Grass/Hay is Essential for Rabbit Tooth Wear Reply w/ Quote + Reply to Thread « Costal Bermuda, Fescue, […]

  9. Nicole says:

    Great pictures, thank you for sharing them!

    Another reason grass hay is so great is because it’s a very fibrous material — this means it takes a lot of chewing and mashing before the bunny can swallow it (unlike pellets, which really just require a single bite, or even just a bit of saliva to dissolve them). As the bunny chews, his/her teeth rub against each other. So, it’s not just the high-grit surface of the hay; the grinding action of tooth-on-tooth helps keep teeth worn down as well! And you just can’t get this kind of action from pressed/extruded products (like pellets, biscuits, etc), because they don’t keep their hard/solid shape once they’re in the mouth.

  10. Ilana boon says:

    Goodday, my rabbit recently got very sick and the doctor suspected it might have been the Ribwort plantain , that he loves so much. Does anyone knows whether plantain( plantago lanceolata) is poisonous for rabbits .thank
    You !

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