Not many things can make a pet owner more panicky and frustrated than the sight of a cat persistently and uncomfortably attempting to hack out a large hairball -- ugh. It usually takes mere minutes for a cat to bring up one of the hairy lumps, although not always.
For the most part, hairballs are annoying yet harmless little things. When your pet grooms herself, she may accidentally swallow some fur. When the yucky and hairy masses of fur build up in your cat's stomach, she usually eventually retches them up -- not so lovely. Once a hairball rises and emerges as vomit onto your floor or furnishings, your home may look worse but your cat will feel a lot better -- phew!
Most hairballs aren't a source of trepidation, but some are. If your cat is simply unable to get rid of one, it could be due to dangerous gastrointestinal obstruction -- yikes. This blockage occurs simply due to hairball size. If a hairball is just too big to travel and make its way through your fluffball's digestive tract, it could become stuck within the stomach or intestines, which can be extremely harmful. In the event of this obstruction, your pet requires emergency veterinary attention and most likely surgery.
Keep alert for any emergency indications that your cutie may have a blockage problem -- and therefore may need surgical removal. If the hairy thing is stuck in her tummy, she may have severe stomach pains and start throwing up. In the case of obstruction within the intestines, your pet may become constipated. Monitor your cat's litter box. If she hasn't gone No. 2 in a while, take note. Other general symptoms include exhaustion, loss of appetite and excessive, fruitless hacking. If you have any reason at all to think that your cat needs surgery to get rid of a hairball, immediately seek veterinary help. In these scenarios, every second counts.
Hairball surgery is often conducted in one of two different ways. In some cases, a veterinarian may extract the mass by orally placing a scoping device and then moving into the gastrointestinal tract to retrieve the hairball. This is done while the cat is under anesthesia. In other cases, a veterinarian may have to cut into the intestines or lower stomach in order to extract the clump. The need for hairball removal surgery is indeed uncommon, but when it is necessary, it can save a feline's life. Worth it.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.