Best Hairball Treatment—
Ferrets can get hairballs, unfortunately they lack the natural reflux ability of coughing it up like cats do.
Why do ferrets get hairballs?
Ferrets shed twice a year. They shed their coats to prepare for seasonal weather changes. The thick winter coat is shed in Spring to be replaced by a thinner, summer coat. The summer coat is then shed in Fall to again be replaced by a thicker, winter coat.
During this shedding time, the fluffy undercoat hairs may be seen floating around in the air. The longer guard hairs may be found covering your ferret’s bedding. The finer undercoat hairs, especially, can get mixed in with your ferret’s food. Then, as your ferret eats, these hairs may be swallowed. The same is true when your ferret grooms himself. If enough of these hairs are ingested, they can clump up in the stomach forming a hairball.
The best hairball treatment to use when a hairball just starts to form is a hairball laxative appropriate for ferrets. It is important to treat a hairball right away before it causes a major medical problem.
Hairballs can become intestinal blockages.
If a hairball forms, a life-threatening intestinal blockage can develop. Even a few hairs tangled together in the stomach that are not passed into the intestine can cause problems. Each new piece of fur that your ferret swallows will add to the size of the hairball.
The hairball will eventually become too big to be passed through. The hairball can then block up the stomach. If this happens, your ferret can’t digest food very well and may vomit up any food that can’t continue through his system. This problem quickly leads to malnutrition and dehydration.
Another outcome of a hairball is when the hairball leaves the stomach but blocks the intestines. This blockage cuts off the blood supply to that part of the intestine, which can then lead to shock and death.
Signs of hairballs or other blockages in your ferret (or other pet):
- eating less or not eating at all
- different looking stool
- weakness in his hind legs
If you notice any of these symptoms in your ferret, you should take him to the vet immediately. These symptoms (especially if more than one) often signifies a blockage either in the ferret’s stomach or intestines. If a hairball accumulation or a blockage is left untreated, it could result in serious complications including death.
Your ferret can also exhibit these signs due to other types of blockages caused by swallowing pieces of his toys, styrofoam peanuts, rubber objects (such as erasers), foam, string, fabric, towels, gum, etc. Depending on the size of the blockage surgical removal may be necessary.
What is the Best Hairball Treatment for Ferrets?
The first, and most important, step to hairball prevention is keeping your ferret and his cage, bedding and food dishes as free of shedding hair as possible.
Removing hair from your ferret and his environment during shedding season may seem like a never ending, impossible task–especially with multiple ferrets! But it doesn’t have to be as difficult and time consuming as it sounds. It often can be done in just a few minutes a day.
Below are the steps I follow to keep my ferrets and their environment as fur-free as I can.
- Brush your ferret with a soft brush for a few minutes.
- Clean the litter box.
- Sweep the cage and shelves with a small broom.
- Vacuum the cage with a hand-held vac with a narrow attachment.
- Vacuum any plush toys that can accumulate fur.
- Discard any uneaten food in the food bowl and wash the dish.
- Wipe down the cage.
- Wash off washable, non-plush toys.
- Wash all bedding and plush toys and dry in dryer (or replace with new ones).
The second step to hairball prevention, and the best hairball treatment for mild cases, is to give your ferret a bit of Ferret Lax hairball laxative paste.
Most hairball treatments have a sweet, malt flavor that ferrets love. These pastes help the hair glide through the ferret’s entire digestive system. During shedding season, give your ferret a ½-inch ribbon of the hairball treatment, or about ¼-teaspoon every other day.
During the non-shedding season, you can do a little preventive maintenance with a dose every week or two.
A few notes of caution
First, this is a laxative. You can expect to see looser stools, but, if your ferret develops diarrhea, cut back on the dosing. Second, these hairball treatments often contain a lot of sugars. If your ferret has health problems, be sure to check with your vet before giving him any hairball treatment. The sugar can also cause dental problems. It’s a good idea to brush your ferret’s teeth daily during the shedding season to help prevent and tooth decay.
To sum it up, the best hairball treatment for ferrets is prevention! But if your ferret does develop a small hairball and you catch it right away, Ferret Lax can help the fur glide through and out of your ferret’s system.