Can dogs get hairballs?

April 13, 2012

Most cat owners would know about hairballs. These animals are fastidious groomers. A cat would continuously preen and lick the fur for hours. A cat’s tongue is not unlike sandpaper. When the fur is licked, fur is captured and swallowed. These furs get accumulated in the stomach and forms into clumps of tightly packed fur that are commonly known as hairballs. Hairballs pass through the digestive tract and are commonly excreted through normal means. However, when this disgusting wad of hair gets too big to pass through the intestinal tract, the cat would retch and heave to get rid of the offending gunk. These hairballs are usually “coughed” by the cat so that it would not be surprising for a cat owner to step on hairballs that resemble anything but hair.

You couldn’t be more wrong if you think that your carpet will not be “decorated” with these offending and yucky hairballs vomited by cats because your pet is a dog. Although hairballs are more common in cats they are not the only animals that can get hairballs. Other animals swallow hair and other non-digestible matters too. This means that a dog owner would one day see a hairball vomited by the pet.

Dogs, especially the long haired breeds are susceptible to hairballs too. Allergies, skin disease and skin irritations caused by flea and other external parasite infestation would cause the dog to gnaw, bite and lick the fur. In doing so, loose hair will be swallowed and form into a tightly packed round or elongated wad of hair that will settle in the stomach or in the bowels of the animal. Hairballs can also form from the hair of eaten prey. Hairballs are normally excreted with the stool or upchucked by the dog. A hairball becomes a problem when it gets too big to be excreted through normal means or to be vomited by the animal. The hairball acts as a cork that creates a blockage in the digestive system of the animal. The fermenting hair will release chemicals and toxins that will be absorb by the blood vessels causing discomfort for the dog. This situation will be aggravated if the dog runs a temperature as the fever will lower the intestinal system movements causing the fermentation of the hairball to speed up. Hairballs become a serious business if the dog that has been heaving for hours is unsuccessful in getting the offending wad of hairball out. Due to the intestinal blockage, the dog’s digestive system will be impaired. Moreover, the wad of hair can perforate the stomach as it becomes hard and wire-like. The pet will lose its appetite; will be lethargic and extremely uncomfortable as the elimination process is hampered. Hairball is oftentimes hard to diagnose as lethargy, loss of appetite, bloating, fever and weight loss can be a symptom of another health concern. A telltale symptom though is the dog’s repeated attempt to upchuck the hairball.

Laxatives and enemas may do the trick of evacuating the bowel but in more serious cases where these remedies prove to be ineffective, the next course of action is surgery. Normally, an x-ray has to be taken before proceeding with the surgery to remove the offending gunk. It would certainly be difficult to prevent the dog from swallowing hair. A dog owner though can lessen the occurrence. With regular grooming, the amount of lose hair will be decreased and lessen the chance that the dog will swallow hair. The presence of external parasites that causes the dog to constantly bite and lick the fur will be discovered and dealt with. Incorporating homeopathic ingredients to the dog’s diet will help the elimination process.

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