National Hairball Awareness Day falls on the final Friday of April each year. Of course, hairballs are primarily a cat problem and have plagued the feline species for thousands of years, but that’s not to say that this isn’t a problem for dog owners to be aware of.
If you have a longer haired dog, the chances of them getting hairballs is highly likely. When they self-groom, there is a real probability that hair will be swallowed. The problem is that the hair can’t be digested by stomach acid so it can easily form itself into a ball and get stuck in the digestive system. This causes discomfort and nausea and can be rather dangerous. If the hairball is too big to be thrown up, it can lead to dehydration, as your dog will be unable to properly absorb fluids. In extreme cases, these blockages will need to be surgically removed.
The good news, though, is that dogs don’t lick themselves as often or as thoroughly as cats, so the chance of your long-haired fellow getting a potentially life-threatening hairball is relatively small. Still, you do need to be aware of the risk.
How to spot if your dog is suffering from a hairball
- Coughing, retching and vomiting
- Loss of appetite (if a blockage has occurred)
- Increased licking and chewing of fur
- Constipation, upset tummies, diarrhea - gastrointestinal distress
If your dog is coughing take special notice as the very specific symptoms of a serious hairball is when your dog is gagging and nothing is coming up. That is a real and urgent warning that something is very wrong. Sometimes this can present as coughing – which might be a respiratory illness or could be a hairball problem. Either way, get your furry friend to the vet without delay!
6 Ways to prevent hairballs
- Brush your dog regularly, get all their loose fur out. Three minutes a day makes all the difference!
- If your dog moults a lot it’s a wise idea to have your dog groomed at regular intervals.
- Make sure your dog has had their preventative tick and flea medicine. If they’re worried by these pests, they’ll be scratching, licking and biting themselves, all of which can get fur going down their throat.
- In the dry months, use a moisturising shampoo when you wash your dog.
- Keep their digestive system on top form. Talk to your vet about how much high-fibre food should be in your dog’s diet, and make sure that they’re drinking plenty of water.
- Give them lots of good exercise and plenty of enjoyable playtime - hairballs can be caused by seemingly unrelated behavioural issues such as stress, anxiety and boredom.
Be inspired by national hairball day and make sure you’ve got all your bases covered for a happy hairball-free dog.