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Hairball Awareness: Causes, Prevention and Fun Facts

Posted April 29, 2016

It’s Hairball Awareness Day!  Ok, we know, it’s really not that exciting to get out of bed and step in the slimy surprise, or watch your pet hunched over as their body performs a worm-like motion to expel that lovely little gift.  But there are a few things you might not know about hairballs, so we thought we’d share.

 

We all know that hairballs are common in cats, but did you know that dogs can get hairballs too?

The cause of hairballs in cats is a bit more obvious than dogs.  Being natural groomers of lots and lots of wonderfully, soft fur, cats ingest the dead, loose hair.  Normally it passes through the gastrointestinal tract and comes out in the stool, however, some cats, even shorthairs, just seem to have tender tummies.  Also, over the years many cats have been bred to have much longer coats than nature would have intended.   This can cause excessive hair to collect in the stomach and when too much hair collects, it may not pass through the gut.  Instead, it irritates the stomach and ends up being forced out as a nice little present for their parents.

Hairballs in dogs are much rarer and can often be the result of an underlying cause.  Dog parents dealing with hairball issues should speak to their vet to see if your dog is suffering from a skin allergy or parasitic infestation, which might be causing an increase in licking or gnawing.  Treating the source of the affliction will most likely eliminate the resulting hairballs. If an underlying condition does not seem to be the cause, your vet may recommend a laxative or even a temporary dietary change to help your pup pass the excess hair collecting in their stomach.

 

There are many much more fun ways to bond with your pet than cleaning carpets and flooring.  Here are a few tips to prevent hairballs and save more time for actual fun:

    • Brush your pet often (increase the frequency in the spring to help them shed that winter coat more effectively). Hint: while a brush works for a dog, shorthaired cats will have better results using a fine toothed comb, and long haired cats may require a wider toothed comb.
    • Try using a damp cloth to wipe of extra loose hairs after brushing. This could even save on lint rollers and vacuuming time!
    • If your pet’s skin becomes dry or irritated (like it can in the winter months), consider less frequent bathing and using a moisturizing shampoo. This could help lessen the licking or gnawing that these symptoms can cause.
    • Try using a natural hairball remedy like our NHV Hairb-Ez (rated 5 paws out of 5). It will help eliminate hairballs and vomiting by dissolve ingested hairballs, reducing constipation caused by hair build up, relieving pain, bloating, and discomfort and even supports the liver!

 

5 Random Hairball Facts:

    1. The correct medical term for a hairball is “trichobezoar,” pronounced trike-oh-bee-zohr
    2. Animal hairballs were once thought to cure epilepsy, the plague, and poisoning.
    3. Hairballs are more common in the spring (when pets are shedding their winter coats)
    4. Cows, rabbits, ferrets, deer and even humans can get hairballs too, but their bodies aren’t designed to vomit them up like a cat or dog.
    5. The average cat swallows approximately 173 grams of hair in 1 year period. This is about the weight of 30 US quarters!

 

While an occasional hairball is no cause for alarm, pets that vomit up a hairball more than once or twice a month should probably see a veterinarian for a thorough exam to ensure that it is just hairballs and not due to something more serious.

For more information about hairballs, hairball prevention and recommendations for when to see your vet, check out our blog written by Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Hillary Cook.

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