Dog Hairballs; Are Certain Dogs More Prone? What To Look For

The first time my dog ever threw up a hairball, I was so shocked and worried I called my veterinarian as I thought only cats got hairballs. Dog hairballs are more common than I ever imagined! It got me wondering if all dogs get hairballs, if some breeds are more prone than others (I grew up with long-haired Siberian huskies, which shed mountains of fur) and how hairballs affect them.

Long-haired dogs are more likely to develop hairballs when they bite, lick, and tear their fur frequently or as puppies when nursing if the mom is losing hair; however, all dogs can get them. Proper care of a dog’s coat will prevent hairballs by keeping the dog from needing to groom its fur overly.

This article can help you become more informed about dog hairballs, how they affect certain dogs with varying hair lengths, and some tips my veterinarian told me. Please keep reading to learn about dog hairballs, which dogs are more prone to them, what to look for and how to treat them. I even touch on what to do if your dog swallows a cat hairball!

Why do dogs get hairballs? Reasons and tips to prevent

Skin conditions

One way that hairballsOpens in a new tab. are often developed is when a dog has dry, itchy skin or has fleas and is itching at their fur and skin a lot.

While many dogs use their legs and paws to tend to an itch, some use their mouths and can bite and tear the hair from their skin, leading to them swallowing a lot of hair that way.

The hair they swallow and ingest can gather in their stomach and irritate their digestive system, which more often than not causes them to vomit the hair out of their system.

Too frequent trimming; overheated clippers

Another way that hairballs are often developed is when dogs get their hair trimmed too often (excessively). When the hair is trimmed, it can leave some loose hair behind and cause some irritation. As well as, if the clippers are too warm, they can irritate the skin, causing redness and inflammation, snagging hairs and even causing burns, making them want to itch and lick more.

It is normal for the dog to want to sniff around their lost hair, but if that happens too frequently, it is another way that they can ingest too much hair, which can lead to hairballs developing in their stomachs.

Dog sniffing pet hair on the ground

If you have other pets in your household besides the dog, their loss of fur or hair can collect around the home and can be ingested unintentionally as your dog moves and sniffs around the house periodically.

If this is the case, make sure to vacuum and furniture frequently. All pets have different personalities; some are a little more curious than others and like to smell and investigate everything!

Take precautions to prevent dog hairballs

While hairballs in dogs are difficult to be avoided entirely and are somewhat inevitable to happen at some point, there are some things you can do to take extra care to lessen the frequency and severity of your dog’s hairballs.

Be diligent in keeping your house free of loose dog hair that has been shed, itched off, or naturally fallen out. This can help decrease the amount of hair available for them to ingest. Vacuuming, lint rolling, frequent washing of pet beds/blankets, and pet grooming will help reduce the amount of pet hair hanging around.

Regular veterinary appointments are essential to have your pet frequently checked for fleas or other irritations that can cause them to itch or bite at their fur often. This is good practice in general but will help them stop scratching and biting fur out.

Also, if your dog gets wet frequently and is not thoroughly dried, it can lead to skin irritations and promote excess grooming. Also, dogs may seem like they shed even more after a bath.

I wrote an article about why dogs shed so much after a bath and how to prevent it! You can find it linked below!

Read Now: Why Dogs Shed So Much After Bath; Causes, When to Furminate

Are Long-Haired Dogs More Prone To Hairballs?

Long-haired dogs are more prone to hairballsOpens in a new tab. because they are more likely to be a breed that sheds, leaving hair around the home or living space that they then pick up afterward.

Short-haired dogs, while they can shed, are less likely to be a breed that sheds often, which can lessen the chances of your dogs ingesting a large amount of hair, leading to hairballs developing.

Dogs with long hair can also develop hairballs faster than dogs with short hair. This is because long hair can build up more quickly in the dog’s stomach when it takes longer for short hair to build up in the stomach.

It is also dependent on the size of the dog’s stomach. If you have a smaller dog with longer hair, they will surely be more prone to hairballs due to the smaller amount of room in their stomach, and long hair collects faster than short hair and is more likely to intertwine and develop into a mass or tangled hair.

If you have a larger dog with shorter hair, it will take longer for that hairball to develop in its stomach because of the larger and smaller size of hair that is collecting. While it varies between the size of the dog and the length of the hair on the dog, all dogs are prone to hairballs at some point, but again, those with longer hair and smaller stomachs are more prone.

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has A Hairball

You can observe several signs in your dog to determine whether or not they have a hairball, as well as actions that may cause a hairball that you can stop if necessary.

Licking excessively

One sign to know if your dog is more likely to develop a hairball is if they are licking itself excessively. While it is normal for some licking to occur, if they are doing it constantly, they are likely swallowing it, and there is bound to be a start of built-up hair in their stomach.

Constant licking is something that could be a symptom of another health issue that you should have your veterinarian take a look at. Still, it is a sign and action that can lead to hairballs very quickly, and if hairballs are a big concern for your dog at the moment, this is something to watch out for.

Gagging and coughing

Another sign your dog has a hairball is if they are gagging and coughing. Gagging is caused by stomach contractions, which is usually a sign that your dog’s stomach is trying to push out something foreign or irritating to the stomach, causing gagging and coughing.

Gagging and coughing are clear signs of something wrong with your dog’s stomach and may cause the dog to vomit up the hairball. Still, if the gagging and coughing continue with no hairball to show soon after, there may be a more complex situation at hand, and you may need to take them to visit the veterinarian.

The next sign to know if your dog has a hairball is if your dog is dealing with dry skin. Dry skin is a common cause of dogs scratching and itching at their hair, causing it to fall out and leaving it around the house for them to ingest later. Licking is another way dogs relieve their itching and dry skin; as we have already discussed, that is a considerable factor and way that hairballs can be developed.

Loss of appetite

One other sign is if your dog starts to have a loss of appetite. Because of all the hair that has gathered in the stomach, there isn’t any room for them to eat anything more. Losing room in the stomach can lead to a loss of appetite.

Usually, if your dog lacks appetite, it will resolve itself in a couple of days, but if it lasts a week or more, then that is a good indicator that a hairball is a thing that is preventing them from being able to eat anything.


One last sign that your dog has a hairball is if they become constipated. If the dog can’t reject the hairball through vomiting, they’re going to have obstructions within its digestive tract. A normal bowel movement for a dog happens at the very least once a day.

If the dog goes several days without a bowel movement, this could be cause for concern, and it would be a safe guess to assume the reason is the development of a hairball in its stomach that it can’t pass.

Please see a veterinarian to have your furry friend checked out!

What To Do If Your Dog Eats A Cat Hairball

If your dog eats a cat hairball, you should treat it just as any other hairball they could have ingested.

For the most part, you should be able to care for your dog at home and avoid having to take them to the vet for a hairball. If the symptoms don’t resolve within a few days, then it would be time to take them to have a professional look at them. When your dog has a hairball, the main goal is to help pass it. Here are a few suggestions to help them pass the hairball along.

Petroleum jelly products

The first method you can try to help your dog pass along the hairball is to use petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly helps create a barrier on the skin to stop the itching and tearing out of hair. Petroleum jelly is usually used as a preventative tactic for licking and biting. Because it is non-toxic, it is okay if they ingest a little bit but should not ingest a large amount, so please be aware of how much you are using.

You can also purchase a laxative product that has petroleum jelly in the product to help. This product on Amazon called Lax’Aire is vet approved and made by Pfizer, and it is safe for both dogs and cats!


The second method you can try to help your dog pass along the hairball is to have them eat a can of pumpkin. Usually, when a hairball has difficulty passing, it is because the dog is also experiencing symptoms of diarrhea, and things need help moving along so the hairball can pass.

Pumpkin is an easy-to-digest, fibre-rich food for them to eat that will help their digestive system get moving again. That being said, be aware that you should only get the canned pumpkin that is plain and without any added spices, sugar, or salt, as that can irritate their stomach more.

An organic pumpkin puree is a good option. And the best option I have found is the Fruitables Food Supplement with pumpkin, specifically made for the upset stomachs of dogs and cats. You can find the link on Amazon below!

Laxatives prescribed by a veterinarian

The following method you can try to help your dog pass along the hairball is to use a veterinarian-recommended animal-safe laxative. Laxatives can also help get things moving in your dog’s digestive system, but do not give them to your dog without the direction and allowance of a veterinarian.

They can harm dogs and make things worse if you’re not careful. The laxatives also are not the most comfortable process to use to pass the hairball, so this may be a last resort method you could keep on hand if any of the others don’t work.

Encourage water drinking

The last method you can try to help your dog pass along the hairball is to have them drink lots and lots of water. They may not want to drink water because of the pressure and discomfort they are already experiencing in their stomach, but this is required to prevent dehydration and the drying of the current contents of their stomach, which can cause a blockage or cause the hairball to grow larger.

Water can also help avoid constipation as well as treat constipation if the dog has already gotten to that point. Your dog should drink a lot of water, especially in this situation.

It can be hard to get your pet to drink more water, and as the famous saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

You can buy a water fountain for pets or offer them ice cubes and licks with bone broth to encourage consumption. You can add broth to the water, but make sure there are no onions, garlic, or salt in the broth. It is best to make your own at home to be sure of the ingredients!

You may even find that raising the water bowl off the ground will make it easier for your pet to drink and make a difference in how much they drink!

Large Dogs Vs. Small Dogs: How To React

Large dogs and small dogs both have the same riskOpens in a new tab. for hairballs. They both have hair that will shed or get pulled out by itching, and it is not dependent on the dog’s size on whether or not they will eventually encounter a hairball in their lifetime.

That being said, there is a difference in the severity of a hairball due to the dog’s size.

Large dogs will still be poorly affected by a hairball in their system, but smaller dogs have more of a risk of it building up faster and causing more severe damage if it’s missed and treated as soon as possible.

Between large dogs and small dogs having a hairball, there is no change in how you would treat them for it other than the necessary response time.

If you have a smaller dog, it would be an excellent practice to constantly watch for hairballs since they can develop faster and cause more severe symptoms than they would in a larger dog.

A smaller dog may have to be taken to the groomer more often to keep its hair shorter to avoid the ingestion of too much, which can cause the development of a hairball. The main difference is that smaller dogs need to be closely monitored for hairballs, especially long-haired ones!

I hope you find this resource helpful, and have a great day!

Holly 🙂


Hi! My name is Holly. I am currently the fur mom to my beautiful three ragdoll cats, and I have owned multiple dogs over the years, including Siberian Huskies! To say the least I am experienced with all aspects of pet hair!

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