Anyone with a cat will know that hairballs are no fun. National Hairball Awareness Day—founded by the National Museum of Health and Medicine—is a great day to hear the hairy details about hairballs and get to the root of the problem.
Cats with long hair or a tendency to groom themselves excessively are especially prone to hairballs but they can happen to any pet. Short-haired cats and even dogs can get hairballs too.
While hairballs are a part of the natural process, frequent hairballs or vomiting can indicate a serious problem, and sometimes, hairballs need veterinary intervention.
According to Trupanion, a company that offers medical insurance for cats and dogs, the average cost for to treat hairballs in cats is $230, and 14% of claims exceed $500. These costly claims are usually related to obstruction complications, when a large clump of ingested hair blocks a cat’s intestinal tract. These obstructions often require surgery to remove the hairball. Hairballs are the unpleasant by-product of a normal habit. Sometimes, excessive hairballs are caused by underlying problems like anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder in cats and may require additional care.
Talk to your veterinarian for tailored advice to keep hairballs at bay. There are many things you can do for your pet to prevent hairballs. Dr. Denise Petryk, our on-site veterinarian, suggests the following:
-Groom your pet regularly—A daily or weekly brushing can be a great way to bond with your pet and reduce the amount of loose hair that can accumulate into a hairball. If your cat has especially long hair and trouble maintaining it, you may want to give them a lion cut, removing much of the excess hair on their body.
-Adjust your pet’s diet—Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a special fibrous diet to help manage hairballs. The diets generally have more fiber and a shape that improves gastric motility and helps clear the digestive tract of hair.
-Use recommended lubricants and remedies like metoclopramide, cisapride, ranitidine, and miralax. These work to lubricate the hair to allow it to pass naturally through the digestive tract but are not effective for every cat. Talk to your veterinarian before giving your cat a hairball remedy.