If you have a cat, chances are you are familiar with the hacking and gagging sound kitty makes just before they throw up a hairball.
WHAT DOES A HAIRBALL LOOK LIKE?
If you are wondering what exactly a hairball looks like, there is a good photo in this article from All About Cats
WHY DO CATS GET HAIRBALLS?
You cannot totally prevent hairballs but there are things you can do that will help.
As your cat grooms itself, it swallows a lot of the dead hair that has come loose. The tiny backward-slanted projections (papillae) on the surface of the cat’s rough tongue propel the indigestible hair down their throat and into the stomach. While most of this hair eventually passes through the digestive tract and is excreted intact in the feces, some of it remains in the stomach and gradually accumulates, producing the hairball.
- It is important to brush your cat on a regular basis.
- You can try a hairball type of kibble, e.g. Purina One Hairball Formula
- If hairballs are a big problem, talk to your vet about a hairball remedy (for example, a gel that the cat would lick)
WHEN HAIRBALLS ARE DANGEROUS
If your cat is lethargic and refuses to eat for more than a day or so, or has had repeated episodes of unproductive retching, you should consult your veterinarian without delay.
It’s possible that a hairball, instead of being regurgitated, has passed from her stomach into her intestine and is creating a potentially life-threatening blockage somewhere within the digestive tract. Or it’s possible that the frequent hacking has nothing at all to do with hairballs. It may instead be a sign that the animal is suffering from a serious respiratory ailment, such as asthma, in which case emergency treatment would be necessary.
Diagnosis of intestinal blockage, says Dr. Guglielmino, is based on physical examination, bloodwork, radiography and a history of the animal’s pattern of hairball regurgitation. If a blockage is detected, surgery may be the only way to remove the hairball. More often, therapy will center on protecting the intestine through several days of clinical care that includes intravenous rehydration and the use of a laxative to move the hairball through the digestive tract.