Learn How Hairballs Can Affect Your Cat’s HealthPublished April 30, 2012
National Hairball Awareness Day was founded by the National Museum of Health and Medicine of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (NMHM). In 2012, the preventive feline healthcare day takes place on Friday, April 27 to educate cat owners that hairballs can affect their cats' health.
When cats groom themselves, they dislodge loose hairs from their coats with the barbs on their tongues. The hair is, then swallowed, and in most cases, passes through the gastrointestinal tract without causing a problem. However, in some cats, especially with long-haired cats, the hair does not always pass with ease and can accumulate either in the stomach or in the intestines. As more hair is ingested, there is a likelihood that the hair will not pass through the bowels. As a result, a furball will develop causing the cat to regurgitate it.
“Vomiting up a few furballs each year is considered normal, but if your cat is vomiting excessively, he could have another medical condition,” says Ernie Ward, DVM of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C.
Ward encourages cat owners to pay attention to potential symptoms. “Ask yourself: Is your cat retching (dry vomiting) as if he is trying to vomit up a furball? Or is he vomiting up fluids and/or undigested food with the furballs." he says. He also asks you to observe if your pet is lethargic and/or constipated.
Ward advises cat owners to discuss these symptoms with their veterinarian to determine if furballs are the problem or if their cats have inflammatory bowel disease, a food allergy or another medical condition that has caused him to regurgitate furballs.
According to Ohah Barnea, DMV of the Tenafly & Cliffside Veterinary Hospitals located in northern NJ, other contributing factors to furball regurgitation could involve diet,, fleas and even, stress.
“Nutrition is key,” says Barnea. While he prefers his clients feed their pets a raw diet for better nutrition, he also suggests that supplementing a feline diet with essential fatty acids like Omegas 6 & 9 to help reduce shedding, thus, limiting the amount of hair a cat ingests.
Dr. Barnea also encourages cat-owning clients to treat their indoor/outdoor with monthly flea and tick topicals. “If your cat has fleas, he could be over-grooming for relief and ingesting too much hair, causing furballs,” explains the doctor.
Additionally, the NJ vet cites stress as another cause of furballs. “Many indoor cats are bored and do not have enough stimulation. They excessively lick their skin, pulling out hair. As a result, they swallow large amounts of hair which can also cause furballs,” he says.
If this is the case, Barnea recommends enriching your kitty’s home environment with busy toys and more playtime. He also encourages cat owners to brush their cats not only to remove excess hair from their coats but as a way to bond with their cats.
“The more time you spend with your pet, not only will you enjoy each other company but the better handle you will have on his health too!"