Clinic Stories

Trichobezoars

Trichobezoar is a very cool and very underused word. It means hairball, which is an accumulation of hair usually in the stomach but occasionally passing into the intestines. When you hear about hairballs you likely think of cats. Cats, because of their fastidious grooming habits are hairball factories. But trichobezoars are found in many mammals, especially rabbits, cattle, dogs and ferrets. While in vet school I saw an anteater that died from a hairball.

People can get hairballs too, usually in young girls who chew on their hair. Afflicted with what is known as Rapunzel Syndrome, an 18 year old girl from Chicago had a 9.9 lb, hairball surgically removed from her stomach in 2006.

Cats, the hairball champions, usually do not have serious health consequences from hairballs because they are mostly able to throw them up. Cattle do not vomit but because of their size hairballs do not present a health problem and are only found when they are slaughtered. In rabbits hairballs can be life threatening as they cannot vomit and the hairball can completely block the stomach. Treatment for trichobezoars in rabbits is force feeding pineapple juice to help dissolve the hair and pumpkin to provide nutrition that can get past the hairball until it is dissolved.

In cat, trichobezoars are mostly a nuisance and can be reduced by frequent brushing, hairball food which contains Metamucil to help the hair pass, and hairball remedies, usually a flavored petroleum jelly given orally. Very infrequently a hairball causes a blockage in a cat requiring surgery.

To establish your street cred, use trichobezoar in a sentence ten times today.

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