Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pet Health Tip #22- Hairballs

One of the most common issues that cat owners face is the issue of hairballs.  Hairballs are caused by the cat swallowing hair when it grooms itself.  Most of the hair is digested and passed through the intestinal tract.  If the hair isn’t digested completely, it sits in the stomach and aggregates into a hairball.  Young kittens don’t typically have hairball issues for two reasons.  First, they don’t lose much hair when they groom.  Therefore, they don’t swallow much hair.  Second, their digestive tract is better able to break down the hair is swallowed and pass it through.  As cats age, they tend to shed more hair; thus causing them to swallow more hair.  Also, they are not able to break the hair down as efficiently.  As a consequence, the hair sits in the stomach and aggregates into a hairball.  The hairball irritates the stomach causing the cat to retch.  Typically, the cat is able to successfully rid itself of the hairball. 

Hairballs are a normal part of a cat’s life.  They don’t usually cause many problems other than to the owner who has to clean up the mess.  However, on rare occasions, a hairball will sit in a cat’s stomach and harden.  This can cause blockage and can become life-threatening.  Again, this is a rare occurrence, but one to be aware of if you have a geriatric cat that retches repeatedly, but does not bring up a hairball.

So, what can you do about hairballs?  There are some hairball remedy products available that will aid the cat in digesting the hairballs.  They work well and I recommend using them for geriatric cats who have reoccurring issues with hairballs.

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