1620 New Schuylkill Rd. | Pottstown, PA 19465 610.323.9454

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Coventry Animal Hospital

Veterinary care provider to northern Chester County and the surrounding tri-county area.

Hairball facts and prevention tips

Hairball facts and prevention tips This is for cat owners who want to know what a hairball is and how are they caused. We will also discuss ways to help prevent hairballs.

If dogs are man’s best friend what does that make cats? Some say cats are woman’s best friend. Male or female, people love cats more and more. While cat adoptions through rescues and shelters are always far fewer then dogs, many of us have beloved felines at home. As cat owners, most of us have had the experience where we are going about our day and we hear “hack hack hack.” You discover the source of the strange sound is your kitty throwing up something on your floor or wherever they were perched. If the present your cat left for you is not food, it is most likely a hairball.  So what exactly is a hairball?

A hairball is a collection of hair that is swallowed when your cat grooms itself. Most of the hairs pass through the digestive track but some stay behind within the stomach. The hairs that are left in the stomach accumulate, and the only way for them to exit the body is through the act of vomiting. Because the hairball passes through the esophagus they usually have a tubular shape. In short, hairballs are a result of your cat’s grooming routine.  Regular grooming is a sign of a healthy cat. When your cat is bathing, tiny hooks on their tongue catch loose and dead hairs which are then swallowed. Please see the Wikipedia for more details on what hairballs are.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hairball)

Long-haired breeds, such as Persians and Maine Coons, are more likely to have hairballs. Cats that compulsively groom or shed a lot tend to swallow more fur and thus tend to have more hairballs. Kittens and senior cats tend to have less hairballs because they are often more lax with their grooming.

Symptoms of hairballs include hacking, vomiting, retching, gagging, lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation and/or diarrhea. Not sure if your cat is sick or having hairball issues? Consult your veterinarian and schedule a visit. There can be other reasons for your cat to be lethargic or vomiting that are more serious then hairballs and having a veterinarian examine your furry friend is the best way to find out.

There are many things a pet owner can do to decrease the frequency of hairballs. Brushing your cat regularly or having them professionally groomed can decrease the amount of hair they consume. There are many food brands that offer a hairball formula or indoor formula to help with the digestion of hair. These specialized foods support healthy skin and coat to reduce shedding and fiber to aid in digestion. There are also hairball lubricants that help increase the passage of hair through the digestive system. You can read about Laxatone, the brand we carry, at the following link: http://www.drugs.com/vet/laxatone-for-cats.html.

With daily brushing and an indoor or hairball formulated food, many owners can get their cat’s hairballs under control. Contact your primary veterinarian if you have any questions regarding hairballs and how you should treat your cat for them.
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