When Karen’s beloved cat, Fluffy, began coughing and hacking in the corner, she naturally assumed it was just another hairball. However, after countless hairball remedies failed to provide relief, Karen grew concerned that there might be more to Fluffy’s condition than meets the eye.
Cats can eat just about anything, including grass, dirt, leaves, sticks, toys, paper, string, and even plastic bags. But some things you might think are harmless, like fleas and ticks, could make your cat sick. And while it sounds gross, a trichobezoar is a type of hairball that occurs when a cat swallows hair.
What is a Cat Hairball?
A hairball is a mass of loose hair that accumulates in the digestive tract of animals such as cats and dogs. It is usually caused by overeating food in one sitting. The hairballs formed in this way are often difficult to remove from the animal’s stomach because they become stuck together. They can cause severe discomfort and even death if they enter the lungs.
Hairballs are common in long-haired breeds and occur when the pet eats too quickly, causing food particles to remain in the mouth longer than usual. This causes the saliva to thicken and coat the food particles, forming a sticky mucus. When swallowed, these substances stick together to form a ball of hair.
Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, lethargy, coughing, difficulty breathing, and sometimes blood in the stool. See your veterinarian immediately if you notice your cat or dog has a hairball problem. Left untreated, it can cause underlying intestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Dry cough and asthma are common in dogs and cats. They’re usually harmless and not serious. But sometimes, they can be mistaken for a hairball. Asthma affects between 1% to 5% of cats. There are several reasons why this happens.
- When your cat swallows food, it may become stuck in its throat. This causes irritation and inflammation of the tracheal and laryngeal membranes, which leads to coughing.
- Some cat foods cause vomiting, which makes them appear similar to a hairball.
- Certain types of medications can cause coughing. Fourth, some illnesses, such as heartworm disease, can cause coughing.
- Many cat owners believe that coughing is a sign of a hairball problem.
Grass ingestion is common among cats, especially when they’re eating grassy foods like hay, straw, and corn. It is usually harmless, but some pet owners mistakenly believe that their cat has ingested hairballs, and they take drastic measures to treat the problem and help their felines pass a hairball.
However, most grass ingestions are due to the pet chewing on grasses or other plant material. Grass ingestion occurs because the pet ingests grasses whole rather than breaking them down in its mouth. This causes the pet to swallow large amounts of grass, which eventually leads to stomach discomfort.
Grass ingestion can cause severe cases of diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy. A vet will want to check your cat’s stomach contents to see what he ate. You can use a flashlight to look inside your cat’s mouth to see if he swallowed something. Also, watch for signs of blood in his stool. If your cat eats grass, you can give him a dose of antihistamine to reduce inflammation and prevent further damage.
When foreign bodies enter the esophagus, they’re often mistaken for hairballs. This is especially true for young puppies and kittens who haven’t yet developed the ability to vomit. They swallow things whole and wind up getting stuck.
Heartworm Disease in Cats
Heartworms are parasites that live inside the blood vessels of many cats. They’re spread through mosquito bites, and once infected, they cause serious health problems, including organ damage, loss of appetite, weight loss, coughing, fever, and even death.
While most pet owners understand that heartworms are dangerous, many mistakenly believe that the symptoms of heartworm disease are signs of a hairball problem. Unfortunately, this misconception leads them to treat their dog or cat unnecessarily.
Vomiting is a common symptom of many medical conditions, including food poisoning, chronic kidney disease, liver failure, and cancer. But when it happens in cats, it’s usually due to a hairball problem.
Cats vomit because they’re trying to expel hairballs through their mouth and throat. They may also be experiencing pain, nausea, or discomfort. So when they throw up, they’re not growing up food; they’re just vomiting.
How Can You Prevent Hairballs?
If you have a dog or cat with a hairball problem, here are some tips to help keep your pet healthy:
- Feed a high-quality diet. Your pet needs a balanced diet rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Keep your pet active. Exercise helps stimulate digestion and promotes proper elimination.
- Give your pet plenty of water. Water keeps your pet hydrated and helps eliminate waste products from your pet’s system.
- Provide a safe environment. Make sure your home is free of clutter and debris. Clean your pet’s bedding regularly so it doesn’t become an obstacle to exercise.
- Use a vacuum cleaner. Vacuuming removes loose hair and fur from your carpet and flooring. It also prevents hairballs from forming on the surface of your furniture.
- Brush your cat’s fur regularly. Brushing stimulates the flow of saliva and encourages your pet to groom itself.
- Bathe your pet frequently. Bathing helps remove dirt and bacteria from your pet’s mucous membranes.
- Change your pet’s litter box at least once every three days. Litter boxes should always be cleaned thoroughly after each use.
- Monitor your pet’s activity levels. If your pet seems lethargic or has trouble moving around, take them to the vet immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
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