National Hairball Awareness Day
Three common domesticated animals are most affected by hairballs. You may be aware of cats getting hairballs, but did you know that rabbits, cows, and other cud-chewing animals can also get hairballs. For cud chewers, this can be quite dangerous because they do not vomit. In cats, hairballs are not shaped like balls at all but look more like the shape of the intestines. In cows and other ruminating animals, hairballs can grow as large as a basketball with the density of a bowling ball. In 1994 a slaughterhouse worker found a 55lb hairball inside of a cow. The hairball is now in a museum in Kansas.
For rabbits, hairballs can be dangerous obstructing their digestive tract and can lead to death if not caught in time. Rabbits get hairballs in much the same way cats do. Grooming is a common cause of hairballs that usually pass through the rabbit’s system without trouble. But a rabbit that is bored or stressed can begin over-grooming and also engage in a practice called barbering. Rabbits will start chewing on their own fur.
The signs of a hairball in rabbits are the same as some other illnesses, lack of stool production, loss of appetite, lethargy, and weight loss. If caught early surgery can be avoided. If you notice excessive amounts of fur in your rabbit’s stool, there are some home remedies you can try, most important is to make sure your rabbit is eating their hay. Fiber is important for regulating the flow of waste out of your rabbit’s system. Pineapple juice contains an enzyme that helps break down the fur, and papaya contains an enzyme that dissolves the mucus that binds the fur together in the gut. If you are concerned about your rabbit please call your vet. Do not try to use cat remedies on your rabbit. They will not work.
Before your rabbit can get a hairball there are simple things you can do to prevent one from forming. Make sure your rabbit has a well-balanced high-fiber diet and maintains a healthy weight. Offer your rabbit toys that promote healthy chewing, and stimulation to prevent boredom. Finally, groom your rabbit on a regular basis. It will help reduce the amount of loose fur they ingest and promote the bond that you have with your rabbit.
Cats will sometimes vomit food along with a hairball especially if they have just eaten and the hairball becomes lodged in the stomach. Cats who are not groomed regularly and especially long-haired cats are naturally prone to hairballs. Cat usually pass hairballs in their stool if not then they will vomit them out. Vomiting hairballs is not a concern for your cat’s health however if your cat is vomiting food, or yellowish or brownish liquid with just a little bit of fur, your cat may have a more serious health issue. Cats do not generally throw up unless they are sick.
If your cat is vomiting up hairballs on a daily basis there may also be another issue involved. Cats who overgroom tend to do it out of stress, because of allergy, or some kind of parasite they are trying to get rid of. Cats may also overgroom out of boredom. Grooming your cat daily may help alleviate some of the hairballs and give you a chance to explore your cat’s body for parasites, any new lumps, and bumps or to locate areas on your cat’s body where they may be over-grooming and developing bald spots or sores. Mineral oil in their food or over-the-counter hairball remedy can be administered as directed but not all cats like the remedies and placing it on their paw will not ensure they will lick it off. I have had a few cats that fling the remedy off and rub the rest on the floor or another object leaving only a small amount for them to clean up on their own. If your cat does not eat the remedy formula they will not get enough in their system to help lubricate their digestive system.
If you are the least bit concerned about the health of your fur kid, the best place to start is with your vet. For all animals with fur/hair, hairballs are just a fact of life.
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