Hay or straw for dog bedding?

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Should I use hay or straw for dog bedding?

Most dogs don’t need much in life. As long as they have plenty of exercise, a full belly, lots of praise, and a nice cosy place to snooze, you’re sure to have a happy dog.

However, snoozing can be a bit tricky when you have a dog that enjoys sleeping alfresco.

It’s commonly believed that the safest outdoor dog bedding should be something natural, and the obvious candidates are hay and straw. But is it true, and which one is best?

This article will guide you through the pros and cons of hay or straw for dog bedding, so you’ll have all the information you need to provide your furry best friend with the very best in open-air sleeping.

Hay or Straw - What's the Difference?

Hay is a type of grass that is often dried and used for feeding livestock or as bedding.

Straw is the leftover stalk of a cereal plant, such as wheat, oats, or barley, after the seed has been removed. It is commonly used for animal bedding, insulation, or packing.

While both materials are natural and biodegradable, they have different properties that make them better or worse for use as bedding.

Let’s take a closer look at each one:

hay or straw for dog bedding

Pros of Using Hay for Bedding

It’s softer – Hay is way softer than straw, making it a lot more comfortable for your dog to lie on.

It’s less dusty – Hay is less likely to create dust than straw. This is much healthier for dogs with allergies or respiratory problems.

It’s more absorbent – Hay is super absorbent compared to straw, so it’s better equipped to soak up urine and other wetness. 

However, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you intend to change the bedding regularly.

Cons of Using Hay for Bedding

It’s expensive – Hay tends to be more expensive than straw, so it may not be the best option if you’re on a budget.

It breaks down quickly – Hay isn’t as strong as straw, so it’ll weaken and decompose faster under a dog, so you’ll have to change it more often.

Can get mouldy – Mould can be very problematic if the hay gets wet, which can lead to health problems for your dog if they regularly sleep on it.

Pros of Using Straw for Bedding

It’s cheaper – As straw is so inexpensive compared to hay, it’s a great option for those on a tight budget.

It lasts longer – Straw is much tougher than hay, and it lasts longer, so you won’t have to change it nearly as often.

It keeps the cold out – Straw’s tough, hollow stalks are an excellent natural insulator. They easily trap warm air inside and help keep your dog cosy and warm in cold weather.

Cons of Using Straw for Bedding

It’s not very comfy – Your poor dog will probably feel more comfortable lying on just about anything else, as straw is quite hard and sharp.

It’s dustier – Straw is more likely to create dust than hay, so it’s not an ideal choice for dogs with allergies or respiratory problems.

It breaks down into pieces – Straw will break down into smaller fragments over time, which can be a health issue if your dog ingests it.

Do Hay and Straw Contain Allergens?

It’s likely that dogs who suffer from allergies may have a reaction to using hay or straw for dog bedding.

Unfortunately, these natural materials contain proteins that can cause an allergic reaction, which can result in itchiness, redness, and swelling.

If your dog has never been exposed to hay or straw, it’s best to introduce it slowly to see if they have any reaction.

If your dog comes in contact with either straw or hay and then develops symptoms such as:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Developing a rash

If your dog displays these symptoms, they may well be allergic, and you should remove the bedding immediately.

Is Hay or Straw Safe for Dogs?

Generally speaking, both hay and straw are widely considered safe for dogs. However, there is a risk of contamination.

While both hay and straw are natural materials, they can contain harmful bacteria and other impurities.

It’s always best to inspect the bedding before giving it to your dog to ensure no visible mould or bacteria is lurking that could make your pup ill.  

If you are using a material cover to cover the straw or hay, make sure it is also well cleaned.

If you’re considering using either of these materials for your dog’s bedding, make sure you’re getting it from a reputable source.

If you’re unsure whether the bedding is safe, it’s best to err on the side of caution and throw it out.


While it’s okay to use either hay or straw for dog bedding, there are some important pros and cons.

While hay is softer and more absorbent than straw, it’s also more expensive and breaks down very quickly.

On the other hand, straw is cheaper, warmer, and lasts longer, but it’s less comfortable and can be dustier. Something to consider if your dog has allergies.

There is also a risk of the materials containing impurities, so it’s essential to get them from somewhere reliable.

Ultimately, the best bedding material for your dog depends on their needs and what’s available to you.

If you are considering letting your furry best friend sleep outside, you may want to consider looking here first for a fantastic bedding alternative.