If you thought cats were the only pets that got hairballs, think again! It turns out our dogs can get hairballs as well. Unfortunately, a dog hairball can be potentially dangerous, just like a cat hairball. But why do dogs get hairballs, and how can dog owners prevent them?
For pretty much the same reason that cats get hairballs.
Cats get hairballs from grooming themselves. Most cats lick their fur to clean, and this incessant licking often leads to hair being swallowed. Sometimes the hair will form into a ball and the cat will throw it back up. Long-haired cats are especially prone to hairballs.
The dog hairball formation process works the same way — if too much fur is swallowed, it can form into a ball and get stuck in the digestive system.3
For the dogs who do occasionally groom themselves, hairball formation can be dangerous. If the hairball is too big to throw up. In extreme cases, surgery might be needed. Hairballs can also lead to dehydration, as they make your dog unable to properly absorb fluids.
Keep an eye on your dog for hairball warning signs (especially during the winter, when your dog’s skin is dry).
Some indications that your dog may have a hairball can include:
● Increased shedding in long-haired dogs
● Increased licking
● Increased chewing of the fur
An intestinal blockage due to a hairball might present with:3
● No appetite
You might also notice your dog gagging, but nothing coming up. At that point, talk to your veterinarian about what to do next.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to prevent hairball formation in your pup:
● The most important thing to do is brush your dog! Regular grooming is essential to prevent hairballs in both dogs and cats. Brushing your dog gets out all their loose fur so your dog won’t swallow much of it. You can also consider getting your dog groomed by a professional on a regular basis, and then spend time at home brushing your dog every day, too.
● Focus on preventive treatment for fleas and ticks. If your dog has fleas, ticks, or itchy skin, they will be more likely to lick their fur — leading to greater potential for hairball formation. So don’t forget to give your pup those monthly preventive medications when prescribed.
● In the colder months, help your dry skin on dogs by using a special kind of moisturizing shampoo. This can help decrease their licking and chewing. Oatmeal baths might also help moisturize the skin.
● A temporary or long-term high-fiber diet could help hairballs keep moving.4 Talk to your vet about whether your dog’s diet should include fiber supplements, high-fiber dog food, or vegetables like green beans. It’s also important to ensure your dog is drinking plenty of water — this can also help keep everything moving through the digestive tract.
● Finally, if your dog frequently has hairballs, they might be bored, stressed, or feel anxious. Try to keep them busy with new toys or extra walks so they have less time to lick their fur. This can help prevent hairballs from forming in your dog.
If your dog does end up with an obstruction caused by a hairball, it will need to be removed. There are several ways a veterinarian might want to go about this. Surgery is the most common treatment, but your vet may instead opt for an endoscopy.3 Once the hairball is removed and your dog has recovered, the vet will likely prescribe a special diet and supplements. These procedures can quickly add up, so it’s important to make sure you’re prepared. One way to do that is by taking out a dog insurance policy.
A pet insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance1 may be able to help cover the costs of treatment related to chronic hairballs.2 In general, dog insurance policies will not cover any conditions, injuries, or illnesses deemed pre-existing, but they may be able to help cover approved expenses. As a pet parent, we know your pets are family. That’s why we work to provide you with the best coverage possible.