Can Dogs Get Hairballs

icon October 17, 2023

When it comes to our beloved four-legged companions, it's essential to be informed about their health and well-being. Many pet owners are familiar with the term "hairball" in the context of cats. But what about dogs? Can they get hairballs, too? In this article, we'll explore this intriguing question, examining the factors that influence the development of hairballs in dogs, the risks involved, and how to prevent them.

Can Dogs Get Hairballs

Dogs are not prone to developing hairballs like cats. Their grooming habits and digestive systems make it rare. While dogs may ingest some hair, it doesn't typically accumulate in their stomachs as it does in cats. However, dogs can develop hair-like masses due to various factors, including breed, diet, and grooming habits. These masses are not true hairballs but can lead to similar symptoms and require attention from a veterinarian.

Cat Hairball vs. Dog Hairball

To address the question of whether dogs can get hairballs, it's crucial to understand the key differences between the digestive systems of cats and dogs. Hairballs are common in cats because they are meticulous groomers and tend to ingest a significant amount of loose fur. This fur collects in their stomach and forms hairballs, which are eventually regurgitated.

Dogs, on the other hand, have different grooming habits and digestive processes. While they do lick themselves, dogs are not as compulsive groomers as cats, which means they ingest less hair. Additionally, a dog's digestive system is more efficient at processing foreign substances, and they have a wider and shorter esophagus, which reduces the chances of hairballs forming.

However, it is possible for dogs to develop hair-like masses in their stomachs, even though these are not true hairballs, as seen in cats. These masses are typically a result of a combination of factors and are not as common in dogs as in cats.

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Factors Influencing Hair-like Masses in Dogs

1. Grooming Habits: While dogs don't groom themselves as often or as thoroughly as cats, some breeds with long or fine fur may be more prone to ingest loose hairs while licking themselves. Dogs with anxiety or obsessive-compulsive grooming tendencies may also be at higher risk.

2. Shedding: The shedding season can lead to an increased intake of loose hair. Breeds that shed a lot, like Huskies and German Shepherds, may be more susceptible to hair-like masses in their stomachs.

3. Diet: Poor-quality dog food or diets lacking sufficient nutrients can affect your dog's digestive health. A diet with inadequate fiber may not facilitate the movement of hair through the digestive system, increasing the chances of hair-like masses forming.

4. Age: Older dogs may have weaker digestive systems, making it harder for them to pass ingested hair. This increases the risk of hair-like masses.

5. Hydration: Dehydrated dogs are more prone to constipation, which can exacerbate the problem of hair-like masses, as proper hydration is essential for maintaining healthy digestion.

Dog Hairball: Symptoms

If your dog has developed a hair-like mass in their stomach, they may display various symptoms, including:

1. Vomiting: Dogs may vomit to expel the hair-like mass. The vomit may contain hair, partially digested food, or foam.

2. Coughing and Gagging: Dogs with hair-like masses may cough or gag as they try to dislodge the irritant from their throat.

3. Loss of Appetite: An upset stomach due to hair-like masses can lead to a temporary loss of appetite.

4. Lethargy: Discomfort or digestive issues may make your dog appear lethargic or uninterested in their usual activities.

5. Diarrhea or Constipation: Digestive disturbances can cause changes in stool consistency. Dogs may experience either diarrhea or constipation.

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6. Abdominal Pain: Your dog may exhibit signs of discomfort such as whining, restlessness, or a hunched posture.

7. Increased Salivation: Excessive salivation can result from the irritation caused by the hair-like mass in the stomach.

Preventing Hair-like Masses in Dogs

1. Grooming: Regular grooming can significantly reduce the amount of loose hair your dog ingests. Brush your dog's coat to remove loose fur, especially during shedding seasons.

2. Proper Nutrition: Feed your dog a balanced and high-quality diet with sufficient fiber content. This can aid in proper digestion and reduce the likelihood of hair-like masses forming.

3. Hydration: Ensure your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Proper hydration is crucial for overall health and effective digestion.

4. Chew Toys and Dental Chews: Providing your dog with appropriate chew toys and dental chews can help them naturally remove excess hair and maintain good oral health.

5. Stress Management: Reducing stress and anxiety in your dog can prevent excessive grooming behaviors. Training and engaging your dog in physical and mental activities can be beneficial.

6. Visit Your Veterinarian: Regular check-ups with your veterinarian are essential. They can detect potential issues early and provide guidance on your dog's specific needs.

Dog Hairball: Treatment

If you suspect that your dog has a hair-like mass in their stomach, it's essential to consult your veterinarian. The treatment may involve:

1. Dietary Changes: Your vet may recommend a diet change to aid digestion and reduce the formation of hair-like masses.

2. Medications: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help your dog pass the mass or alleviate symptoms such as vomiting or discomfort.

3. Surgical Removal: Severe cases may require surgery to remove the hair-like mass. This is typically considered a last resort when other treatments are ineffective.

Related Questions:

Do Hairballs Look Like Vomit

Hairballs, which are more common in cats, do not look like typical vomit. They usually appear as elongated, cylindrical masses with a tubular or rope-like texture, often covered in mucus. In contrast, vomit can vary in appearance, depending on the contents, and may not have the same distinct shape as a hairball.

Is It Normal for Dogs to Throw Up Hairballs

No, it is not normal for dogs to throw up hairballs. Unlike cats, dogs do not frequently develop hairballs. While dogs can have hair-like masses due to various factors, they are not a common occurrence and should be addressed by a veterinarian if they occur.


While dogs are not as prone to developing hairballs as cats, they can still experience digestive issues related to ingested hair. Understanding the factors that contribute to the formation of hair-like masses in dogs, recognizing the symptoms, and taking preventive measures are essential for keeping your furry friend healthy and happy. Regular grooming, a proper diet, and hydration are key components of preventing hair-like masses in dogs. Always consult your veterinarian if you suspect any digestive issues or discomfort in your dog, as they can provide guidance and treatment tailored to your pet's specific needs.

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