It is widely known that cats get hairballs, but what about dogs? If your dog sounds like he has a hairball, you might feel alarmed and wonder if this is normal for a dog.

But can dogs actually get hairballs? Yes, a dog gets hairball in their throat, but it's scarce, and there's more to this.

Dog Hairball

This article will discuss whether dogs get hairballs, causes and most common reasons why that happens, what you can do to help your dog if he has a hairball, and how to prevent hairballs in your dog's future.

We will cover the following topics:

  • Do dogs get hairballs?
  • What causes hairballs?
  • Are some dogs more prone to hairballs than others?
  • Are hairballs dangerous?
  • What should you do if your dog has hairballs?
  • How to prevent hairballs

Do Dogs Get Hairballs?

You know that cats get hairballs after grooming themselves, but do you know why that happens?

It is because their tongues are serrated in such a way that it makes it impossible for them to spit certain things back out of their mouths, for example, string, hair, or fur.

Dogs do not have the same serrated tongues as cats, but this does not mean that dogs will not ingest any hair on occasion.

Because cats groom themselves by licking and do that often, they really have no option but to swallow some fur that comes loose.

This can then gather in the cat's stomach and form balls of hair, which the cat later can throw back up. This is very normal for cats. But are hairballs normal for your dog?

So, “my dog sounds like he has a hairball – what does that mean?” It is rare for a dog to get hairballs, but certainly not unheard of.

In fact, it's not only an issue with cats and dogs – many other furry creatures get hairballs, including rabbits, ferrets, cows, and others.

Even humans have been known to get hairballs (“trichobezoars”) from time to time. On one occasion, there was even a 9 lb hairball removed from one girl's stomach.

What Causes Hairballs in Dogs?

Whether it's in cats or your dog, you may wonder why any hair ingested by the animal is not simply digested along with the other contents of the stomach.

To answer that, let us first take a look at what exactly a hairball in a dog would be.

This is what a hairball looks like:

What does a hairball from a dog looks like

A hairball, also known as a trichobezoar, is a mass of hair in a dog's gastrointestinal tract that has not been digested.

As you see above, hairballs look like tight, elongated cylinders of compacted fur.

They often also contain bits of undigested food that has been caught up in it whilst the dog's stomach.

In most cases, a dog would get hairballs when they accidentally swallow some of their own furs during self-grooming, licking a skin spot with loose hair or other reasons, and that hair is then passed when the dog goes potty.

If you have ever experienced your dog freaking out because his feces is hanging from a thread of hair out of his rear end, he has probably been eating his own fur or has been chewing on your hairbrush.

This happens rarely, but it's not unheard of, and in most cases, dogs only swallow small amounts of hair, which will not cause any problems.

The main issue with hairballs in a dog's stomach is that they have a kind of snowballing effect.

This means that once your pet has already accumulated a small amount of excess fur in their stomach that has not been expelled in time through feces, it will attract more fur that will inevitably congeal around it, making the hairball increase size harder to pass through pooping.

Are Some Dogs More Prone To Hairballs Than Others?

You may think that more fur on a dog means a higher chance of hairball problems, but that's not actually the case.

As far as we know, the length of your dog’s fur isn’t necessarily a factor in determining whether or not they are more likely to develop hairballs.

For this reason, hairballs in dogs are not associated with any specific breeds.

The determining factor of whether a dog will have problems with hairballs lies in how that dog's stomach and digestive tract function and whether the dog can evacuate its bowels effectively before the hairballs have the opportunity to start forming and accumulating more hair.

For example, if your dog has a skin condition, has an issue with hair loss, suffers from mites, flea allergies, or other skin problems that encourage the dog to lick themselves more than normal, this may make them more susceptible to forming hairballs.

Are Hairballs Dangerous for Dogs?

While this is rare, in some cases, a formation of hairballs will be dangerous to a dog.

If hair or fur collects in your dog’s stomach, it will naturally trigger a gag reflex, causing your dog to vomit and, therefore, expel the mass of hair from the body.

Once this happens and the dog passes a hairball, they're going to be fine.

However, if the hairball growing (collecting more hair) in your dog’s stomach is becoming a big one, then it is likely to be depriving your dog of fluids that he needs, which can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration is dangerous for your dog, so look out for these warning signs of it, such as:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy and reduced energy levels
  • Dry nose
  • Panting
  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Dry-looking, sunken eyes.

Hairballs for dogs can also become dangerous if they cause a blockage in the digestive tract and become septic, disabling your dog’s normal digestion processes.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Gets Hairballs?

It is quite rare for a dog to develop hairballs. When you have found yourself in this situation, it is good to book an appointment with your vet to work out the underlying cause and why your dog sounds like he has a hairball.

While it may be a hairball issue, it may also be some other respiratory problem.

Your vet will be able to distinguish any obvious issues such as fleas, mites, fungus infections, and other skin allergies.

Treating the underlying cause of your dog’s itching and licking will also resolve the hairball issue in the long term.

If it is, in fact, a hairball issue, then your vet may also want to take a look at your dog’s diet to find out whether something is causing your dog to have itchy and irritated skin, which causes the dog to self-groom too often.

Alternatively, your vet may recommend a laxative so that your dog can pass any hair from the stomach more comfortably.

You can try using a cat hairball remedy for your pooch, such as Greenies Smartbites. But in most cases, veterinarians will recommend using a stool softener or laxative so that the dog can more easily pass the hairball.

Some of the popular laxatives for dogs are below:

How to Prevent Hairballs in Dogs

Prevention is always the best cure, and luckily dog hairballs are not a common problem, so you're unlikely to need to worry about them.

Because dogs rarely self-groom as much as cats do, and if your pooch doesn't suffer from any underlying skin-related issues, then you probably won't have to deal with it.

That said, some of the ways to prevent your dog from getting hairballs are these below:

  1. Provide your dog with plenty of freshwater dailies. A hydrated dog will have more efficient bowel movements, and any hair that the dog ingests will pass naturally along with their feces, as it should do on normal occasions.
  2. Establish a regular grooming routine. This is especially important for dogs with long hair or often shed, particularly during the shedding season. Regular brushing will ensure that your dog has less hair to consume if he does lick himself.
  3. Entertain your pet dog. Boredom is one of the most common reasons a dog will start nibbling, chewing, biting, and licking itself. A bored dog picks up these bad habits to pass the time. You can distract your dog by providing plenty of playtime and exercise so that he is relaxed in your home. Offer healthy chews to encourage the dog to direct their licking onto something less hairy.


A dog with hairballs is a strange incident that doesn't often happen to dog owners, but one that still does occur on occasion from time to time.

If you found yourself asking, my dog sounds like he has a hairball. What do I do? Then the best option is to consult with your veterinarian.

Whether it's actually a hairball issue or something else, you may need to develop a treatment plan to cure the current issue and prevent this from happening again.

Common Questions about Dog Hairballs

Need a more concise version of some of the above information about your dog's digestive tract and hairballs? Or maybe you still want to learn more.

The following should help you better understand your dog's digestive system and potential hairballs.

Can Dogs Get Hairballs from Licking?

Yes, dogs can get hairballs from licking their own hair. This self-grooming is normal for dogs, but it typically means that your dog ingests at least some hair. Over time, this can lead to hairballs.

What to Do When Your Dog Is Choking on a Hairball?

Whether your dog is choking on a hairball after accidentally ingesting too much fur or on something else, you want to take the same steps. Start by restraining your dog, so he doesn't bite from panic.

Open your dog's mouth and take a look inside for loose fur or anything else that shouldn't be there. If you see something in your dog's mouth or throat, use large tweezers to remove it.

Try to pay attention to what your dogs chew, so they don't accidentally try to eat something that will cause them to choke.

How Do You Get Rid of Hairballs in Dogs?

There are several things you can do to get rid of hairballs in your pooch. When in doubt, get veterinary advice about which method(s) work best for your pooch.

A good starting point is to use moisturizing shampoos or oatmeal baths. By preventing dry skin, you can reduce your pup's hair loss. Less hair loss means that dogs ingest hairlessly.

A healthy dog with a moving digestive system is less likely to get hairballs. You can encourage this digestive health with a high-fiber diet.

Your vet can help you decide whether a short- or long-term dietary change is better for your dog's gut. Your vet may even suggest temporary fiber supplements.

You don't want to give your dog too much fiber, so talk to your vet before giving your dog extra fiber.

Why Does My Dog Sound Like He Has a Hairball?

If you think your dog has hairball warning signs, then he may have a hairball. He may also have canine infectious tracheobronchitis, known as kennel cough.

Ask his doctor to provide veterinary advice to see what the issue is. A vet can determine the source of the awful retching sound or cough.

Your vet can also check if your dog experiences physical discomfort. Whether your dog does have a hairball, veterinary assistance and diagnosis can help determine the ideal treatment.

READ NEXT: 6 Common and Serious Dog Skin Conditions (And What to Do About Them)

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Kelly works as a veterinary technician in Austin, TX as well as regular animal rescue volunteer. She's been an animal lover and dog owner since childhood, and has worked in different dog related fields over the last twenty years. Currently she lives with three dogs and a cat.