What You Need to Know About Hairballs in Dogs

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If you thought cats were the only pets that got hairballs, think again! It turns out our dogs can get hairballs as well.  Unfortunately, these hairballs can also be potentially dangerous for our dogs. But why do dogs get hairballs?  And how can dog owners prevent them?  

Why Do Cats and Dogs 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. 

In dogs, the 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.1

For the dogs who do occasionally groom themselves, hairball formation can be dangerous: If the hairball is too big to throw up, it might cause a blockage in your dog’s digestive system. In extreme cases, surgery might be needed. Hairballs can also lead to dehydration as they make your dog unable to properly absorb fluids. 

Potential Hairball Symptoms In Dogs

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:2

  • Increased shedding in long-haired dogs
  • Increased licking
  • Increased chewing of the fur

An intestinal blockage due to a hairball might present with: 

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • No appetite

You might also notice your dog gagging, but nothing coming up. At that point, talk to your vet about what to do next

Preventing Hairballs in Dogs

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, he or she will be more likely to lick their fur — leading to greater potential for hairball formation. So don’t forget about those monthly preventive medications. 
  • In the cold months, help your dog’s dry skin 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 couldhelp hairballs keep moving. 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 has hairballs often, 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 hairball formation in your dog.

Will a Dog Insurance Policy Help?

A dog health 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. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC. 

Dog Sounds Like Has A Hairball & Gagging - Help!, PetCubes 

2 Hairballs in Dogs, PetCareRX