Hairballs, are they just a normal nuisance or a sign that something is wrong?
Most cat owners believe that hair balls aren’t worthy of veterinary attention. However, frequent elimination of hairballs can be an indication of an underlying chronic skin or gastrointestinal disease.
How many hairballs are normal?
In a recent study, 10 percent of healthy shorthair cats vomited two or more hair balls every year. The incidence of hairballs in longhair cats is twice as common as in shorthair cats. Cats spend about 25 percent of their waking hours grooming, which helps explain why they ingest so much hair every day. As any veterinarian in Markham will tell you, most of the time, this hair is passed in their stool without causing any problems.
Vomiting monthly of more – a sign of trouble.
Fleas, flea allergy dermatitis, itchy skin disease and over grooming due to pain or anxiety are the most common reasons that cause cats to have excessive hair ingestion. Cat owners in Markham often bring their cat to the vet because they noticed the hair loss. Older cats grooming excessively over the hind end most likely have arthritis. Hairballs occur with excessive hair ingestion because the hairball becomes too large to pass into the small intestines and must be eliminated by vomiting.
Frequent vomiting of hairballs in shorthaired cats may be due to chronic intestinal disease such as dietary intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, or delayed emptying of the stomach. Management of these problems typically leads to a significant reduction in hairballs.
What if your cat is trying to get rid of a hairball and nothing comes out?
Veterinarians in Markham know too well, that many cats “bring up” hairballs but never really expel it. They go through all the motions of retching and vomiting, which looks and sounds exactly like bringing up a hairball, but then they don’t bring up anything. Because it resembles hairballs, most owners aren’t overly concerned. But you should be. Non-productive vomiting can be a sign of something more serious. You’ll need to find out what it is.
Markham vets recommend some preventative strategies that may help reduce hairballs in your feline friend. Daily brushing or even shaving your cat’s hair coat can help reduce the incidence of hair balls. I have even seen short haired cats benefit from a lion clip every three or four months. Gastric emptying appears to be quicker when fed smaller meals compared to larger meals. Hairball control diets contain increased amounts of fiber and increase kibble size which helps improve stomach emptying. Twice weekly doses of gastric lubricants can help move hair from the stomach into the small intestines. In rare cases and after all other options have been explored, long term medications can be used to reduce the incidence of hair balls.
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Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham
Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.
Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).
Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.