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Can dogs get hair balls?

Updated on February 21, 2011

No pet owner would ever want to deal with hairballs. No one would want to step on a yucky wad of wet gunk that was spewed by the pet. Unfortunately many animals have the tendency to swallow loose hair. Cat owners would often see these tightly packed wet hairballs that resemble anything but hair given that cats tend to have hairballs more than any other animals because of their fastidious grooming habits. A cat would constantly lick the fur clean and in doing so, a lot of loose hair gets plastered on the rough tongue and gets swallowed.  Hairball though is not the sole concern of cat owners as other animals occasionally get hairballs. A dog can get hairballs too.

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What is a hairball?

As the name suggests, a hairball is a collection of fur or hair swallowed by an animal. The tightly packed hair can form into a ball or an elongated cylinder that takes the shape of the stomach. The hairball can also take any form. Surprisingly, hairball would resemble anything but hair.

Why do dogs get hairballs?

Dogs can get hairballs. Dogs may not have the fastidious grooming habits of cats but remember our canine friends also have the propensity to gnaw and to lick the fur. A dog’s tendency to bite and lick the fur will be aggravated by allergies and external parasite infestation. Since dogs cannot spew out the hair, it will be swallowed, stored in the stomach to form into hairballs. Dogs are predators too and when these animals eat their prey, the fur or the hair will be ingest as well. Since the hair will not be ingested, it will accumulate in the stomach and form into a tightly packed hair ball.

Are hairballs dangerous to the health of the dog?

Hairballs are oftentimes excreted normally. The accumulated hair will be passed with the stool. Cats normally vomit the wet and yucky gunk. It is when the hairball gets too big to be passed together with the stool or too big to be coughed by the dog that hairballs will pose a danger to the health of the dog. Hairballs will act as a cork that will create blockage and impair the functions of the digestive system. Hair that accumulates in the stomach or in the bowels of the dog will no longer resemble the soft and pliable hair. Tightly packed, the hair will be as hard as wires that can perforate the stomach. Hairballs are one of the most common causes of impaction cases.


Dangerous health concerns can develop if the hairball gets too big and blocks the intestinal tract. The dog will not be able to eliminate. The undigested hair will ferment and release toxins that will affect the dog once absorbed by the blood vessels. The dog will be extremely uncomfortable and will be lethargic. The dog will lose weight as it will have poor appetite. Because of the inability to defecate, the dog will have a bloated abdomen.


Laxatives are administered to coat the hairball and to make it easier for the hairball to pass through the digestive system. Enema is as well administered to evacuate the bowel. If these remedies are not effective, surgery may be needed to remove the offending hairball.

Dog & Cat Diseases : Cat Hairball Symptoms



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