Fur Balls in cats : a troubling disorder

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Fur balls, medically called ‘Trichobezoar’, are thick matted tubes of fur that build up in a cat’s stomach or intestines. They occur because a cat continually licks her fur to remove dead hair from her coat or over groom herself or have excessive irritant coat loss. Cats of all age, sex and breed can be affected, it is most commonly found in the older, indoor overweight cat. Fur ball obstruction is also seen in cats suffering from “Lazy bowel syndrome.”
Causes
Inflammatory skin disease : Excess hair loss and skin inflammation is the prime reason as it stimulates the cat to lick, groom and ingest hair.
Sedentary cats : Overweight cats tend to be sedentary. Because of their sedentary nature, their bowel motility is poor (‘lazy bowel’) and passage of faecal material and fur balls slow down, leading to blockages.
Clinical symptoms

  • Cats with fur balls are constipated and often dull and lethargic with reduced appetite. The cat will begin to loose weight and also interest in food.
  • The cat will show signs of abdominal discomfort associated with distention and will feel pain when palpated around the area of blockage.
  • In mild and early stages, the cat may cough or retch. In the next phase, the cat begins to vomit. The cat usually manages to vomit the fur ball, which is regurgitated as a small plug of matted moist fur. Occasionally they are passed in the faeces usually unobserved.

Preventive measures

  • Grooming: If the cat is kept well groomed, then it will reduce the amount of dead hair likely to be ingested.
  • Parasite control: It is essential to ensure that the cat is free of external parasites. Fleas are extremely common and many cats develop a condition known as FAD (flea allergic dermatitis).
  • Physical activities and diet:  Proper diet and exercise are also important as sensible feeding can help manage weight and maintain correct bowel function.

Treatment

  • Use of lubricating, bowel preparation by mouth. Bolifree, Freeballs are a few commercially available edibles for that, whereas ‘Malai’ is a good homemade substitute.
  • If the cat vomits several times during the day, dehydration may set in. Fluid therapy is essential. If vomiting is severe, a veterinarian’s assistance should be sought.

(Dr. Narendra Gandhi and Dr. Vivek Arora are professional vets and can be contacted at Ph:011-26235501,
011-26420358,09811057296,09811897903.)