How to prevent and remove hairballs in rabbits

Rabbits are fun pets to care for. They don’t take up much space, they don’t need to be outdoors, they never invade the fridge, and they enjoy interacting with their human companions. However, they can get balls of hair, which can be a bit disgusting. Luckily, there are things we can do to prevent and get rid of hairballs in rabbits to keep them cute and adorable pets we love. But first, we need to know what causes hairballs, what are the symptoms of hairballs, and what are the dangers if there are hairballs ignored. Here’s everything you need to know.


Causes of Hairball


Rabbits must take care of themselves and each other using their tongues. During the grooming process, rabbits ingest hair that ends up in their digestive tract. Most of the hair passes through the system and is expelled. However, some rabbits have difficulty expelling the fur, and it builds up in the digestive system until it turns into a fur ball.

It is important to understand that rabbits cannot regurgitate their stomach contents. Therefore, any fur that is not expelled through the digestive system will remain in the rabbit’s body. Hair can mix with food and body fluids, turning into a mess that can be dangerous.

Rabbits that don’t eat enough fiber have a higher risk of developing hairballs because it’s harder for hair to pass through their system. Lack of fiber in the diet can also cause rabbits to chew on their hair, which puts unnecessary hair into the system to handle and increases the chances of developing hairballs.

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Boredom is another cause of hairballs. When rabbits have nothing to do and no toys to play with, they will chew on themselves and each other to create their own engagement and activity. Again, this creates more hair for the digestive system to handle. Any unnecessary hair that gets into the digestive system will add to the hairball problems your rabbit may have.


Hairball Symptoms


If hairballs develop in a rabbit’s stomach, they can clog the intestines and cause severe problems, including death. Therefore, it is important to understand what the symptoms of hairballs are so that the problem can be identified and treated before it is too late. The most common hairball symptoms in rabbits include:

  • Weight loss

  • Lack of appetite

  • Not interested in playing and chewing

  • Loose dirt or lack of it

  • Excessive hair in dirt

  • Weakness and lethargy

  • Distended stomach

  • Dry and scaly coat

If any signs of hairballs become apparent, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. The best case is that your rabbit has another problem that is easy to solve. But if your rabbit has developed a noxious hairball, your vet can determine what, if anything, can be done.


Prevent Hairball

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Prevention of hairballs is the best way to ensure that your rabbit doesn’t succumb to one in the future. The best way to prevent hairballs is to groom your rabbit regularly. The less hair your rabbit ingests while grooming itself, the less likely they are to develop hairballs at any given time.

It’s also important to make sure that your rabbit has plenty of wood blocks to chew on and toys to play with. This will keep them from over-grooming due to boredom. Another effective way to prevent hairballs is to feed your rabbit a high-fiber diet. Make sure their commercial feed is mostly grass and have leafy greens, broccoli and carrots as snacks.

Ensuring your rabbit has access to clean, unlimited water will help ensure that your rabbit stays hydrated so that his digestive system can work properly and remove any hair that gets into it. In addition, regular exercise is also important because it keeps the digestive system running as it should. You can encourage exercise through interactive play and by putting your rabbit in an exercise ball and letting them roam around your house.


Get Rid of Hairball

The vet gives the rabbit an injection

If the hairball does develop, several things can be done to remove it, but you should rely on your veterinarian. First, your vet may try giving your rabbit IV fluids if they are dehydrated to help improve their digestive system. If you’re lucky, your rabbit will be able to pass the hairball on its own.

If necessary, your vet will administer digestive stimulants and enzymes to promote the natural breakdown and processing of the hairball. If all else fails, your rabbit will need hairball removal surgery, which involves opening the rabbit’s digestive system and removing the hairball manually.

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Hairballs aren’t the end of the world, but they are a nuisance that most rabbit owners have to deal with at least once in a while. Now that you know all about hairballs in rabbits, you can take steps to reduce the chances of their development and help your rabbit enjoy a happier, healthier and higher quality of life over time. You also know what to do if your rabbit does have hairballs.

READ RELATED: How To Care For Rabbits (Care Sheet & Guide)

Featured Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay