Vet Blog

Hairballs, 3 Myths You Might Be Guilty of Believing

July 12, 2017

Hairballs, like everything else in medicine, actually have a fancy name: trichobezoars.

Tricho means "hair," and bezoar means, "a clumping of material held together in the gastrointestinal tract." In other words, hairballs are nothing more than clumps of hair that can't pass through the intestinal tract normally. As a cat owner, you probably will become quite familiar with their existence but will you fall guilty of believing these 3 myths? Let's see….

Myth #1: Hairballs Are Caused By Swallowing Hair

In an extremely limited sense, this is true but just swallowing hair is not what causes hairballs. All cats groom. Therefore all cats (if they have hair) swallow hair. Swallowed hair should pass through the intestines and into the litter box. Hairballs occur because the gastrointestinal tract isn't moving the hair through.

Most cats producing hairballs have an underlying gastrointestinal disorder, and some of them may develop more serious symptoms over time. Any cat regularly expelling a mixture of hair and food should see the vet to discuss possible medical problems.

Myth #2: Hairballs Are "Coughed Up"

Coughing involves the windpipe and lungs. Hairballs reside in the stomach and intestines and do not cause coughing. They cause vomiting. However, they can cause dry heaving that resembles coughing.

If your cat is coughing or yakking but never produces anything, it is possible he has feline asthma or another respiratory condition. Don't assume your cat has a hairball problem if he never produces hairballs. When dealing with cats, it is always better to tread on the safe side, visit your veterinarian to be sure.

Myth #3: All Vomiting In Cats Is Caused By Hairballs

Cats visit Taylor Crossing Animal Hospital regularly because of vomiting. Many clients assume that hairballs are the culprit. This often is untrue. If hairballs frequently come up with the vomit, then they may be playing a role. But remember there are many other medical conditions that can be the reason your cat is vomiting. Bottom line: If your cat vomits regularly, don't write it off as a hairball problem. Ask your veterinarian what else might be causing these symptoms.

If your cat has a hairball problem, there is no reason to believe it could be life-threatening as long as you take the needed precautions of getting your veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment regiment.

The problem can be treated with a combination of addressing the underlying gastrointestinal issue (this is the most important thing to do) along with administration of hairball preventatives. Most hairball preventatives are merely gastrointestinal lubricants that help grease things up and move the clumped hair into the litter box.

Don't delay treatment of a potentially serious problem believing hairballs are to blame. If your cat is coughing, vomiting, losing weight, frequently producing hairballs, or suffering from poor appetite, give Taylor Crossing Animal Hospital a call. We are a certified cat-friendly practice and focus on making your cat's visit as stress-free as possible.

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