Ask the Vet: Are Hairballs a Serious Problem

Aug 31, 2018 by

Siamese Cat
 
Cat hairballs are not only unpleasant to deal with — they can also be dangerous for your cat. Unfortunately, however, all cats are going to groom themselves, and that means hairballs.

So how can you reduce them? Before getting into the details, let’s first discuss what exactly hairballs are.
 

What Are Hairballs?

 
Your cat grooms himself to maintain a clean and healthy coat. But as he does so, his barbed tongue catches the dead and loose hairs, and subsequently, he swallows them. This is a natural process, so most of this hair will pass when your cat uses his litter box.

Unfortunately, some hairs will remain in the stomach, and these hairs will form a hairball which will eventually need to be vomited up. In fact, hairballs are actually more like tubes because of passing through the esophagus.

In addition to being in the stomach, these masses of hair can travel down into the intestines where they can slow or completely obstruct the transport of ingesta (food).
 

Should You Be Concerned About Hairballs?

 
When your cat is trying to eliminate a hairball, it can surely be an uncomfortable (and even disturbing) experience. Fortunately, it shouldn’t last long. But if it does (gagging, vomiting, hacking, etc. that lasts a long time), that’s one sign that something may be wrong.

Here are some other symptoms that hairballs could be causing health problems in your cat:

  • Lethargy
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite

 

How Can You Reduce Hairballs?

 
Several tips can help you help your cat reduce hairballs:

  • Consider a hairball product (mild laxative).
  • Consider “hairball reducing” cat food.
  • Groom your cat regularly. When you reduce excess hair from your cat, that means less cat hair in their stomach.

 

Hairball Issues?

 
Contact Sunset Veterinary Clinic if you have noticed any hairball-related issues with your cat. Our veterinarians can check for potential intestinal blockages or other problems that may be related to hairballs.

For more information, please feel free to call our office and schedule an appointment.

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