According to PetCareRx, hairballs in dogs are typically treated with prescription laxatives if the dog is unable to cough them up or digest them on his own. In the most severe cases, surgery is required to remove hairball obstructions so that they don't cause other health problems.
PetCareRx states that dogs with medium-to-long coats are at the highest risk of ingesting hairballs during their normal grooming activities. Dogs with dry, itchy skin or pest infestations tend to bite and chew at their fur more, amplifying their risk. The only obvious symptoms a dog shows after ingesting a hairball is hard hacking or heaving as he attempts to vomit.
PetCareRx recommends that dog owners take preventative measures to stop hairballs before they start. Regularly brushing a dog removes the loose hair that he licks up during grooming. Keeping a dog free of ticks, fleas and other pests and treating underlying skin conditions lowers the frequency of biting and chewing on fur. Boredom is also associated with excessive grooming, so a pet owner needs to keep his dog busy with toys and activities to reduce down time. Pet stores and veterinary offices sell hairball remedies and lubricants that allow hairballs to pass easily through a dog's digestive tract. These products are specially formulated for dogs and are a good option if other preventative measures fail.