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Hairballs are a problem that usually happens with cats, though dogs are also susceptible to this. In this article, we take insights from Dr. Emma Bermingham of AgResearch and try to understand what causes hairballs to form and how to prevent them. 


Why hairballs happen 

Border Collie 

Hairballs happen when pets swallow fur when grooming themselves by licking.   

According to Dr. Bermingham, “this fur passes through the digestive tract of the cat and do not cause any issues. However, in some cats, especially those with long hair, hairballs (or trichobezoars in the scientific community) can form in the stomach.”   

This leads to symptoms like coughing, vomiting, and loss of appetite. In some cases, diarrhea can also occur. While this condition usually happens in cats, sometimes dogs can get this too.  

Pets at risk of hairballs  

Long-haired breeds are often at risk of having hairballs. For cats, Maine Coons are some of the most likely ones to have these problems. For dogs, breeds like Border Collies and Terriers have a lot of fur and can pose a risk of hairball formation.   

Pets on a whole prey diet can also pose a risk of them ingesting fur and feathers. Cats that hunt mice and small birds can also get fur lodged in their digestive tract.  

“Typically, the cat will vomit the hair balls out, however in rare occasions the hair ball can cause blockages. It is important to seek veterinary advice if you think your cat has hairballs,” says Dr. Bermingham.   

If your pet shows symptoms like vomiting or retching, these may be signs of hair blockage in the digestive tract. Other symptoms of hairball blockage can include increased shedding and licking in dogs. In these cases, consulting with your veterinarian for possible surgery will have to be done.  


How to prevent hairballs in pets  

Regular grooming  

Pet grooming

Grooming your pets is a must, especially if your cat or dog is prone to frequent shedding. Brushing and bathing are good ways to reduce the amount of fur and keep them hairball free. The more fur you brush off from them, the less they need to lick and swallow in the process.  

Preventive treatment  

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Sometimes, fleas or ticks are why dogs need to lick themselves. Bites from these insects can cause itchiness and lead to scratching and licking. This can further increase the risk of hairball formation in the digestive tract, so it’s important to do preventive treatment. Specialty shampoos or even powders can be used to keep ticks or fleas at bay.  

Improving their diet  

Salmon Bleu

Credits: @piko_cutiepie, @singpetclub

Given that itchy skin can cause excessive licking and scratching, it’s important to have something that can ease skin inflammations. EPA Omega-3 fatty acids can help since this reduces inflammation and itchiness. This makes your pets less likely to lick or bite their fur and possibly ingest it in the process.  

Salmon Bleu for cats and dogs is one such product that’s rich in Omega-3 since it’s made with New Zealand King Salmon as its star ingredient, one of the best sources of this fatty acid. Get Salmon Bleu at a store near you. For more information about pet care, follow us on Facebook and Instagram. 

Do you have other tips for helping prevent the formation of hairballs in pets? Let us know.  


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