How to Help Your Cat or Dog Combat Hairballs

We love our cats and dogs. But there always comes that time when our four-legged friends start to hack and gag—and out comes a yucky mat of fur and saliva. Welcome to the world of hairballs. While they're gross, most of the time, they aren't dangerous. Even better news is that with proper care, you can help minimize them.

What is a hairball?

A hairball is a trichobezoar In English, that means a wad of undigested hair. Most of the fur that is swallowed passes through and is excreted in the feces but some remain in the abdomen and accumulate into a clump of hair. Your fur friend needs to get rid of that somehow. The hairball is the result. 

Here's a fun fact. Hairballs really aren't "balls," nor are they round. Rather, they're shaped more like a cigar.

Hairballs result from grooming 

Hairballs in cats result from grooming. Cats spend 30% to 50% percent of their waking hours grooming their fur. Grooming not only keeps the cat’s coat clean and parasite-free but it helps them strengthen their own personal scent. And, whether your cat is a wallflower or overly confident, grooming is also very important for their emotional health.  

Dogs also lick themselves (not as frequently as cats). Dogs with skin problems can lick themselves even more. While hairballs aren't as common among our canine buddies, they do occur.

As your dog or cat grooms and licks, they swallow loose hair. The main component of hair is a protein substance called keratin and is indigestible for our canine and feline friends. The good news is that hairballs are a common occurrence and typically don't need attention from pet owners.


But it's important to monitor the situation. Hairballs can create blockages, which leads to life-threatening intestinal problems. Certain cat breeds and older cats can be especially susceptible to hairball issues. If your cat or dog is bringing up more than one or two hairballs a week, schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

Prevention is key 

You can take proactive measures to reduce hairball problems in your pet. For example, brushing your pet can help reduce excess fur (and painful mats).  Pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling or raw pumpkin) can be helpful; it's high in fiber and can be a good natural hair deterrent. Sometimes mineral oil added to  your cat's diet can assist in hairball passage. But do NOT use laxatives or petroleum jelly; these could be harmful to your pet.

Pets on Broadway also offers hairball remedies such as the following:

While hairballs are part and parcel of being a pet parent, you can take steps to minimize their appearance. The right diet and plenty of brushing can help reduce the prevalence of hairballs.

For more information on hairball products, or any other products to improve the health of your pets, check us out at Pets on Broadway.