What You Need to Know About Hairballs in Dogs | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

What You Need to Know About Hairballs in Dogs

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
12 months ago

National Hairball Awareness Day is observed every year on the last Friday in April. It’s a great time for pet owners to learn more about the dangers of hairballs and how you can prevent them in your pet. But if you thought this holiday was only relevant to cat owners, think again! Dogs can actually get hairballs, too.  

Why Do Cats and Dogs Get Hairballs?

Cats get hairballs from grooming themselves. Most cats lick their fur to groom themselves, and this incessant licking often leads to hair being swallowed. Sometimes the hair will form into a ball and the cat will throw it back up. Long-haired cats are especially prone to hairballs. 

In dogs, the hairball formation process works the same way — if too much fur is swallowed, it can form into a ball and get stuck in the digestive system.

However, hairballs are less common in dogs because most dogs don’t lick themselves every day like cats do. For the dogs who do occasionally groom themselves, hairball formation can be dangerous: If the hairball is too big to throw up, it might cause a blockage in your dog’s digestive system. In extreme cases, surgery might be needed. Hairballs can also lead to dehydration as they make your dog unable to properly absorb fluids.  

Potential Hairball Symptoms In Dogs

Keep an eye on your dog for hairball warning signs (especially during the winter, when your dog’s skin is dry).

Some indications that your dog may have a hairball can include:

  • Increased shedding in long-haired dogs
  • Increased licking
  • Increased chewing of the fur

An intestinal blockage due to a hairball might present with constipation, diarrhea, and no appetite. You might also notice your dog gagging, but nothing coming up. At that point, talk to your vet about what to do next.

Preventing Hairballs in Dogs

Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent hairball formation in your pup.

  • The most important thing to do is brush your dog! Regular grooming is essential to prevent hairballs in both dogs and cats. Brushing your dog gets out all of its loose fur so the dog won’t swallow much of it. Get your dog groomed by a professional on a regular basis, and then spend time at home brushing your dog every day, too.
  • Focus on preventive treatment for fleas and ticks. If your dog has fleas, ticks, or itchy skin, he or she will be more likely to lick their fur — leading to greater potential for hairball formation. So don’t forget about those monthly preventive medications. 
  • In the cold months, help your dog’s dry skin by using a special kind of moisturizing shampoo. This can help decrease their licking and chewing. Oatmeal baths might also help moisturize the skin. 
  • A temporary or long-term high-fiber diet can help hairballs keep moving. Talk to your vet about whether your dog’s diet should include fiber supplements, high-fiber dog food, or vegetables like green beans. It’s also important to ensure your dog is drinking plenty of water — this can also help keep everything moving through the digestive tract.
  • Finally, if your dog has hairballs often, they might be bored, stressed, or feel anxious. Make an effort to keep them busy with new toys or extra walks so they have less time to lick their fur. This can help prevent hairball formation in your dog.
Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

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