Dealing With Canine Flatulence

Our relationship with our dogs' flatulence is a complicated one. We should be able to measure these opinions on a fartmeter.

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Nobody could clear a room more quickly than my obese coonhound, Bitsy.

I find farting funny. Not just funny. Hysterical, actually. My sense of humor has been in arrested development since grammar school when it comes to passing gas.

People farts. Dog farts. Gosh, I can even make my smartphone fart now!

Other people don’t share my sophomoric appreciation of flatulence, particularly many of my clients. I have learned to take clients’ complaints of their dogs’ farting seriously, even though I can’t help stifling a little private giggle.

Tell Me How You Feel About ‘Em

The relationship of owners to their dogs’ flatulence is a complicated one. We should be able to measure these opinions on a fartmeter.

People can have a sense of humor about it, like me, or they may be seriously annoyed, somewhat dismayed — or outright disgusted. Most people tend to bring up canine flatulence as an aside during the annual exam: “I just wish he wouldn’t fart so much.”

Well, both from a public relations point of view (clients like to be taken seriously) and a medical perspective, we should try to address dog farting as a problem to be reckoned with… and solved.

Bitsy, the Lady Macbeth of Farters

Nobody could clear a room more quickly than my obese coonhound, Bitsy.

I can still remember an evening long ago, when my husband arranged to have the first reading of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in our living room (he’s a director). The actors were just through the first act when I noticed a lot of shifty glancing and nervous embarrassment. They were not acting. They were uncomfortable.

In their midst lay Bitsy, stretched out in the middle of the room, snoring, and silently farting. Her flatulence did not so much as interrupt her snoring pattern.

As Bitsy produced a fog of putrification over the room, I guess they were wondering which actors had gone out for beans and burritos before the read-through, or were they happy they had not been invited?

I broke the icy stench with a rhymed couplet, apologizing for “the hound whose farting hath no bounds,” and removed the gassy wench before the sweetness of the Bard’s second act commenced. Then I lit some candles and exited stage left.

What Causes Your Dog to Toot?

Diet is by far the most common source of gas. Low-quality foods with fillers, table scraps and constant changes in the diet can add to gas.

Your dog may be particularly susceptible to lactose, corn or gluten, or may simply have a food sensitivity to certain meats, preservatives, etc. Many foods can cause gas. Here are some of the bigger offenders:

  1. Starchy foods, mostly those containing wheat. Corn and potatoes fall into this category as well. Try a grain-free diet, or change the carb to rice. The gluten-free craze has made a lot of people feel better after eating, and your dog may benefit too.
  2. Milk and dairy products. Certain dogs, like people, can be lactose-intolerant. Dogs don’t need dairy as treats anyway.
  3. “Beans, beans, magical fruit…” Your dog doesn’t need to eat beans. This means soybeans too.
  4. Oatmeal. Those steel-cut oats might have too much of a cleansing effect, if you get my meaning. Ever have that big bowl of Irish porridge in the morning and need a big ol’ Irish toilet on your way to work? Don’t share your oatmeal with your dog if she has a gas problem.
  5. Vegetables. Onions, as well as the obvious offenders like asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and many more, cause a lot of gas. If you want to serve your pet veggies, carrots and green beans are often very safe for Nellie — and for the nose!

Table Manners

Is your dog a pig? Dogs that eat too fast and suck in a lot of air can quickly pass that air out the other end.

Feed your piggy smaller, more frequent meals, or invest in a dog dish such as the “slow-feed” bowl recommended by Petful.

Fiber

Fiber is a tough one. Many dogs can maintain normal bowel movements and no gas only on-low fiber, easily digestible food. This is your basic low-fat, high-quality meat and rice diet.

But other pets need high fiber to maintain colon health. This is a trial-and-error situation.

What’s So Novel About Protein?

The protein is usually the meat (or fish) in your dog’s diet. Some dogs don’t easily digest common ingredients found in most dog foods, such as beef or poultry.

A “novel” protein simply means a protein source your dog has never eaten before. This is getting harder and harder to find because premium pet food companies are making foods with fish and lamb and duck, all the proteins that used to be “novel” to your pet.

Your veterinarian can help you with this search. If you’ve tried a lot of diets by trial and error and have not had success, you may want to try a “hydrolyzed protein” diet from your vet for a few weeks. If Fartface becomes Sweetpea on a new diet, it’s a win-win situation.

Drug Therapy

Several drugs, prescription and/or over the counter (OTC), may help dogs with gas. This is also a trial-and-error process, just as with diet trials. Talk about any digestive problems your pet may be having with your vet first. (With any luck, she won’t be the “butt” of a bad “fart” joke.)

Here is a list of the most common OTC meds you can try when coming nose to nose with an uncomplicated case of a gassy dog:

  • Simethicone, such as Gas-ex or Maalox with Simethicone. There is a veterinary product called FlatuEx for pets.
  • Beano! This product breaks down enzymes found in gassy vegetables and legumes. Beans, beans, may not be such a magical fruit after all. Although most pets don’t eat a lot of chili and asparagus quiche, Beano is still worth a try.
  • Zinc preparations. There is a veterinary product called Gastri-Soothe, which is used to promote GI health. A nice benefit of the drug in some animals is a decrease in flatulence. The manufacturer reports that if the dog still has gas, at least it will smell better.
  • Yucca, from the plant, is a naturopathic remedy usually used for arthritis, but a pleasant side-effect is gas reduction.
  • Probiotics. The makers of Fortiflora, a very good probiotic for dogs and cats, now claim it can reduce gas. It would make sense that if you are promoting a healthy intestinal environment with a probiotic; you reduce foul smelling gas.
  • Charcoal treats, in limited amounts, may reduce gas/lessen odor.

Prescription Drugs

The most common drugs prescribed by vets for gas-reduction are motility-enhancing drugs (metoclopramide, cisapride) or antibiotics (metronidazole). Talk with your vet about the flatulence and any other GI symptoms such as discomfort, anorexia or diarrhea. If the gas is accompanied by any other symptoms, this indicates a more serious problem.

Remember my Bitsy, the silent farting, sleeping coonhound? Gas never bothered her, only the people in her vicinity. If your dog is uncomfortable and showing other GI signs, get to the vet!

Exercise!

Have any of you felt that big bad bloat after three bowls of pasta and some ice cream? After stuffing yourself, have you then been disgusted with your pitiful gluttony and gone for a walk? And aren’t you happy you’re alone on that stroll because your neighborhood now smells like a chemical plant?

Exercise is important for GI health for your pet as well as for you. Remember not to let breeds prone to GDV (gastric bloat/torsion) exercise strenuously after eating. We are talking a nice walk here, not a marathon on a full stomach.

This week, my little ZeeZee was stinking out the house! I think his farting was the result of poopsicles he uncovered under the snow and devoured before I could reach his little poop-eating cocker face.

It’s 11 degrees out this morning, and I’m in a closed-up house with a farting dog! It’s time to put on another layer and take ZeeZee for a walk… away from the frozen turds in the tundra.

P.S.: Farting Felines! Most of the info here goes for cats as well, although kitties are not the gas bags that dogs are. An interesting fact? Brachycephalic breeds, like Persians and Himalayans, have a higher tendency to have flatulence, just like boxers and bulldogs. Those pushed-in faces cause the animal to suck in more air with their food. It’s mechanics, not genetics.

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This pet health content was written by a veterinarian.

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