Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hairball Awareness Day

Anytime I see a coughing and/or vomiting cat (and really that is a lot!), I talk a bit about hairballs.

For cats the fastidious, obsessive, slightly compulsive act of grooming ca turn into a clog in the pipes. For all long haired cats i recommend two things. First, brush daily, and second, think about a shave down once or twice a year. Removing as much hair as possible as often as possible results in less hair that your cat ingests.

For indoor cats that have frequent hairball production (frequent in my experience is more than twice a week, or large amounts of hair produced with violent vomiting), I recommend an indoor grass garden, a fountain to encourage water intake, and perhaps either a specially formulated hairball diet, or oral daily lubricant.

As much as I know my clients aren't very fond of the banging hammer sound of  a cat about to hack up part of their last meal, or of picking up piles of vomited hair around the house, I remind them that a hairball on your carpet is better than a hairball stuck in the stomach. Hairballs can grow as hair continues to be ingested and stick to the mass stuck inside your cat. If the hairball is small enough to pass out of the stomach it can get stuck and cause an obstruction in the intestines.

A cat that is vomiting, producing hairballs, or vomiting and not able to keep food down, especially those cats who are looking unkempt, losing weight and acting lethargic or producing fecal material with hair in  it, should be seen by the veterinarian immediately.

In light of today being;

April 25 is Hairball Awareness Day!
April 25 is Hairball Awareness Day!
by Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie / Colorado State University

Posted on April 23, 2014 at 3:00 AM
Updated Tuesday, Apr 15 at 8:32 PM
Believe it or not, April 25 is Hairball Awareness Day, one of the pet-health awareness events recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

If you have a pet cat, you’re probably plenty aware of hairballs: We find them on the carpet and accidentally step on them when we wake up, an unpleasant experience that triggers memory of hearing hacking in the middle of the night. Ugh.

The medical term for hairball is “trichobezoar.”  These masses accumulate in the digestive systems of animals that groom themselves, including cats, rabbits, cattle, even llamas. And hairballs are often no laughing matter for some species, sometimes requiring surgical removal because they may cause cause obstructions and dangerous medical conditions.

In cats, hairballs are a natural consequence of good grooming and typically are expelled. The sound a cat makes when evacuating a hairball is scary, a cross between a cough and a gag; the cat’s facial expressions are equally startling.
Why does this happen?

The projections on a cat’s tongue, which cause it to feel rough, are designed to clean off dead hairs in order to keep a cat’s coat smooth and sleek, the mark of a feline predator.  As pet cats groom, hair moves to the gut, and in most cases on to the litter box.

Sometimes, however, hair hangs up in the stomach or upper intestine and collects fluids and bile. At this point, the trichobezoar becomes a round or tubular mass and must be expelled by vomiting.

Cats that are fastidious, long-haired and older are more prone to forming and ejecting hairballs. You can expect hairballs to appear once or twice per week.

If a pet cat expels hairballs more often than that – or if it has difficulty propelling hairballs – the animal should be seen by a veterinarian.

Prolonged gagging or vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea or constipation should also be of concern as underlying issues or hairball obstruction may be causing problems in your cat.
Here are some ways to help your cat with hairballs:
  • Groom your cat to aid with shedding. Many cats enjoy daily brushing. Pick a soft, bristled brush or a cat grooming mitt.
  • Consider a petroleum-based cat hairball treat. There are several available. These may be used once or twice weekly to help move hair through the digestive system.
  • Keep your cat entertained to avoid the excessive grooming that might result from boredom. The Indoor Pet Initiative offers excellent tips to help keep your cat active at home.

Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie is a veterinarian and clinical coordinator for the Community Practice service at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Community Practice provides general care, wellness services, and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses for pets.

If you have a question about hairballs, cats or any sort of pet question you can find me on Pawbly is free to use and all members can share photos, post pet information, or meet fellow pet lovers. 
Or you can find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice..Or come say hello in person at Jarrettsville Vet.
With love from my little hairball..

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