Veterinarian Column: Hairball - The necessity of brushing -

by Alice's Dog & Cat獣医師

Trimming your pet's nails, cleaning their ears, expressing their anal glands, and brushing them are all maintenance tasks that must be done on a regular basis. Brushing, in particular, is a care that owners must perform frequently. The effects of brushing include preventing hairballs and skin diseases, detecting diseases (you can notice skin diseases and tumors that form on the skin), and preventing physical contact. This time, we will explain in detail about hairball disease, a life-threatening disease.

What is hairball disease?

This disease is found in animals such as cats, rabbits, and ferrets. The hair that your pet swallows while grooming becomes a hairball in its stomach, causing symptoms.

Because cats have rough tongues, they swallow hair when grooming.

Ferret hairballs are more common in older ferrets.

Alice’s Dog&Cat Veterinarian Column Hairball

When rabbits groom, they swallow large amounts of hair, which becomes entangled with food particles in their stomachs and causes blockages.



Ingested hair is usually excreted in the stool or vomited periodically. When the hairball gets bigger, it cannot be spit out and becomes an even bigger hairball. Hairballs that become foreign bodies in the stomach cause chronic vomiting. If you have hairballs in your stomach, your appetite may be normal. If the hair bulb becomes obstructed in the small intestine, it can cause frequent vomiting, and there is a risk of necrosis of the small intestine and peritonitis.

Alice’s Dog&Cat Veterinarian Column Hairball


Symptoms of loss of appetite and diarrhea are common. Vomiting may also be observed. Symptoms such as rubbing the face, grinding the teeth, and drooling may be observed due to the discomfort.


Rabbits cannot vomit, so even if there is a foreign object in their stomach, they will not experience vomiting symptoms.

Symptoms include loss of appetite, decreased activity, changes in stool (size and amount), and abdominal pain (position with the stomach on the ground or hunched back).


X-ray examination : Hair bulbs cannot be seen on X-rays. Hair bulbs can be confirmed by performing a barium contrast test.

Ultrasound examination : Hair bulbs in the gastrointestinal tract can be seen. (Whether it is a foreign body or a hair bulb will be confirmed using an endoscope or, ultimately, an intestinal incision.)


If the hair bulb is small : Administer lubricants (such as Laxatone) and drugs to improve gastrointestinal motility to help expel it through the stool.

If the hair bulb is large and difficult to expel with medical treatment : It is necessary to remove the hair bulb through a gastric or intestinal incision.


Effective prevention is frequent brushing . Brushing can reduce the amount of hair your cat ingests during grooming.

For cats , prevent hairballs by feeding them food that prevents hairballs , and by giving them a lubricant (Laxatone) during the shedding period.

Ferrets also need to be lubricated during the shedding season to prevent it.

A rabbit 's diet rich in fiber prevents buildup in the stomach.

Alice’s Dog&Cat Veterinarian Column Hairball

Brushing is very important care for your pet to keep it healthy. Brushing should be done frequently, so ideally it should be stress-free for your pet. Some of you may say that my child hates brushing. In such cases, one option is to reconsider the brush you use. We recommend a brush that doesn't hurt your pet and makes it feel comfortable.

Alice’s Dog&Cat Veterinarian Column Hairball