Hairball Prevention, Not Just For Cats!


Pomeranians may develop hairballs, too. Image Copr. RickieB20/Flickr

Hairballs are the bane of cat owners but hairballs can also affect dogs. How many of y’all have discovered Fluffy’s “gift” by walking barefoot late at night? That cigar-shaped slick nasty “squish” disgusts pet owners, and though it’s quite common for cats to urk up the occasional hairball–it is NOT normal.

This Friday is National Hairball Awareness Day, and Dr. Jane Brunt of the Catalyst Council offers some good advice. “The cat has developed a digestive tract that, when it is healthy and working correctly, can handle normal amounts of fur without problem. Even long haired cats should not develop more than one or two hairballs a year,” says Dr. Brunt. “There have been a lot of recent scientific studies about vomiting in cats and that it may be an indication of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which can progress to cancer.”

Yikes! Hear more from Dr. Brunt on the subject in this podcast.

Persian Show Cat

Persians potentially have more coat to choke on…but even the shorthair beauties can develop hairballs. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Cats groom themselves, of course, by lick-lick-licking and subsequently swallowing some of the fur. This time of year when shedding takes place, there’s more fur to swallow. When it doesn’t make its way out the normal method and end up in the litter box, fur collects inside the cat and causes irritation and sometimes constipation and blockage. The lucky cats get rid of the mass (technically called a bezoar). It’s more than a nasty nuisance, so as Dr. Jane Brunt says, get your cat checked if your kitty’s “urking” more than normal.

This time of year, dogs also “blow coat” and end up shedding great wads of fuzz. Learn more about shedding here. With my black German Shepherd, Magic, we typically have drifts of dark fuzz left in hunks here and there. It must be itchy, too, because Magic does quite a lot more self-grooming through scratching and nibbling. While big dogs don’t typically hark up hairballs, smaller pooches with thick coats–like Pomeranians–can develop hairballs and either vomit them up or become constipated or even blocked.

So what can you do? With either dogs or cats, good grooming strips away the loose fur as it’s shed. That prevents it being swallowed, developing into painful mats, and helps keep your carpet (relatively) fur free. My fav grooming tool for both cats and dogs is the Furminator. Seren loves getting combed with this, and Magical-Dawg with his longer coat can lose half his body mass with one session! (Not really, but it does look like that…)

What are some of your grooming tips to prevent hairballs, mats and other “big hairy deals” in your pets? Do tell!

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Hairball Prevention, Not Just For Cats! — 8 Comments

  1. My BCs have very different coats. Ike is a thorough self-groomer. He is always removing vegetable matter from his coat and loves a good dust bath on a daily basis. We live near Portland, OR so that is not as easy as it sounds. We do have some VERY large fir trees that are always dry underneath. I get concerned about hairballs with him.
    Tina has more undercoat and her belly can be caked with mud without bothering her a bit. It is difficult to find her skin on her back due to her dense coat. Her bedding needs washing much more frequently, both because of shedding and carrying dirt. She doesn’t seem to care how dirty she gets because keeping her coat clean is MY job. RIGHT!

  2. A couple times a YEAR?? Every long haired cat I have ever known coughs up more hairballs than that. O.o I’m not so sure about that number. With long hair it’s more than just hair to contend with, it’s the fact that it tangles in on itself, which is something you just don’t get with short hair.

    We can’t use our furminator-knockoff with Anubis (I think it’s made for shorthairs, plus he gets fussy so there’s only certain brushes we can use – sensitive skin and temperamental kitty). So our main “grooming trick” is making sure he ALWAYS gets a treat afterward so he’s more likely to sit still.

    • There are a couple of different sizes of the Furminator. I have the (pink/purple) small cat size for the kitties, and the jumbo size one for Magic. The treat payment is a great idea!

  3. My cat “nicky” has been hacking up big hair balls,the Furminator
    looks like something worth checking out.
    Thanks for this great post.

  4. I brush my 3 cats to try and keep that shedding hair gone. I have in the past used something called Laxamalt to help also. I have been considering getting a Furminator and I’m gonna do it. Thanks for the article.

    • Hi Patricia, Yes some of those OTCs for hairballs can help. You just don’t want to over-do them, either. Depending on the ingredients, cats can get a bit dependent on them…their innards can, that is. 🙂 I love the Furminator!

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