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C2007-05

Dear Christopher Cat

Cali, my 4-year-old cat, coughs like she’s trying to bring up a hairball, but nothing comes up. Giving her Laxatone lubricant and brushing her hair daily haven’t helped.

I’m worried that if she doesn’t get the hairball out, she’ll have problems. What else can I try?

Christopher Responds

I have the two most important risk factors for hairballs: long hair and advancing age. Even so, I don’t have a problem with hairballs, because my gastrointestinal motility is good.

In a cat with hairballs, though, the muscular contractions of the stomach and intestines are not effective in moving the hair through the digestive tract -– so hair accumulates in the stomach.

Most of these cats can vomit the hairballs easily. But if hairballs get too big –- or Cali is coughing for some other reason –- you won’t see a thing.

My advice is to have your veterinarian examine Cali to make sure her cough isn’t due to something more serious than a hairball. Your vet may recommend x-rays as well.

If Cali’s stomach contains a hairball, your veterinarian may be able to remove it with an endoscope, a lighted tube with a grasping tool that is passed into her stomach to snare the hairball.

To help prevent hairballs in the future, brush Cali daily and feed a high-fiber hairball diet.

If that’s not effective, ask your veterinarian about a medication to improve gastrointestinal motility.

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