Hairballs in cats

Cats "spit up" because of different reasons. It is important to make a correct diagnosis of the vomiting (or regurgitation). Vomiting of  "hairballs", which are a collection of swallowed hair and other debris, is fairly common. Cats groom constantly and often swallow hair during the process. In many cases, the ingested hair is passed in the feces uneventfully. When a large amount of hair is ingested or is otherwise accumulated in the stomach, it is often eliminated via vomiting. This occasional hairball vomiting is still considered to be normal.

Sometimes, because of secondary problems, such as dehydration, digestive slowdown, strings and other foreign materials, cats become ill. Excessive vomiting, gastritis, ulcers, constipation, diarrhea, intestinal blockage and not eating may develop.
 
In order to prevent and control the hairballs, it is important to ensure the cat is in good health. Daily brushing helps reducing the amount of hair ingested during grooming. A flavored cat laxative or lubricant containing petroleum jelly (i.e. Laxatone) can be given several times a week. This helps passing clumps of hair through the intestines. Special hairball diets are available on the market. They contain more fiber and enzymes that prevent the hair from forming a ball that causes vomiting. If the food is used on a regular basis, the hair will pass through the system. Offering grass, which is available in pet stores, also helps cat cleanse their stomach.

Owners should avoid mineral oil. It is tasteless and may be inhaled by the cats leading to serious aspiration pneumonia. Fleas and other skin problems should be controlled as itch and irritation often cause excessive grooming. Lethargy, frequent vomiting, constipation and anorexia should be promptly addressed by the veterinarian. Diagnosis of these complications is necessary to adequately treat the cat and may include blood, urine and fecal tests as well as x-rays. Treatment may include medications, fluid therapy, enemas and more.

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