You've probably noticed that your pet rabbit grooms itself constantly, and all of this grooming means that it ends up swallowing some hair. If this hair accumulates in your pet's stomach, the hair balls can lead to serious health problems. Here are four things you need to know about hair balls.
Why are hair balls a concern?
Normally, your rabbit's digestive system will break down the small amounts of hair that it swallows. If your rabbit's digestive system slows down for any reason, the hair may be able to accumulate inside the intestines and form a solid mass. This is very painful for your rabbit, as it prevents food from passing through. The stomach may even rupture as a result of this blockage, a situation which can be fatal.
What are the signs of hair balls?
If your rabbit develops hair balls, you will notice that it is losing weight. It's hard to notice weight changes through visual cues alone, so make sure to weigh your rabbit regularly. If you notice that your pet is losing weight, take them to the vet right away, even if they seem fine.
Rabbits with hair balls will also stop producing fecal pellets or produce fewer pellets than normal. This occurs because their food isn't able to pass through their digestive system.
How do vets treat hair balls?
If your rabbit has hair balls, the blockage will need to be surgically removed. Your rabbit will be anesthetized before the procedure. The vet will then make an incision in your pet's abdomen. The food that has accumulated in the stomach will be removed as well as the blockage in the intestines. Afterward, your pet will be sewn up and kept at the vet's office to recover. Painkillers and intravenous fluids will be given to help keep your rabbit comfortable as it heals.
How can you prevent hair balls?
There are many things that you can do to prevent hair balls. Feeding your rabbit a diet that is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates is essential, as it keeps food (and hair) moving through your pet's digestive tract. Exercise can also help keep your pet's digestive tract, so make sure to let your pet out of the cage regularly and let them run around in a safe area of your home or backyard.
You can also help your rabbit groom their fur. Use a brush to remove excess hair from their coat, especially during heavy shedding periods. This leaves less loose hair behind for them to accidentally ingest. The frequency of brushing will vary depending on the breed of rabbit you have, so ask your vet to recommend an appropriate grooming schedule.
For more information, contact Bramalea Animal Hospital or a similar location.