One of the most common questions we receive at Kirkwood Animal Hospital regarding feline care is, “why does my cat throw up hairballs?” Interestingly your cat may be throwing up because of hairballs but you may never see a hairball. Hairballs are exactly what they sound like, a ball or wad of hair that is sitting in the stomach or first part of the intestinal tract that keeps the ingested food from passing into the intestinal tract correctly. The cat then throws up the food that is not moving through the GI tract. The most common symptom of a cat suffering from hairballs is the regurgitation of undigested food. The cat owner may never see the hairball. It is important for cat owners to carefully observe their cat when they are vomiting. A cat with hairballs will wretch and gag and eventually throw up food, or saliva or hair or a mix of all of the above. The cat with hairballs will then appear perfectly normal to the cat owner and may even want to go right back to eating. A sick cat may be lethargic, depressed and not move around much. If the cat throws up and does not seem perfectly normal afterwards the cat should be examined by a veterinarian immediately. Cats may vomit with almost any cat disease, so an examination by a veterinarian is very important.
The treatment of hairballs is aimed at removing the hairball from the GI tract by getting it to pass out in the stool. The traditional therapy is Laxatone, a flavored lubricating agent that is given orally to your cat. Some cats will take it voluntarily; other cats must be forced to take it. We recommend putting approximately one inch of Laxatone on your cat’s lip so that it will lick it off. Give 3-4 doses at a time. The other new treatment is a product named Capillex. Capillex is a meat flavored treat that is given once a day to your cat. Capillex removes the protein and fat from the hairball which then allows it to pass easily through the GI tract. At Kirkwood Animal Hospital we have had a lot of success with this product. We recommend that when you start this treat you should first give it to a hungry cat. If your cat has just finished eating it is not likely to take a treat that it is not familiar with.