Dealing with Gassy Pets

Wink

One of the endearing qualities of companion animals is a complete lack of awareness about social norms. If they’re hungry, they eat. If they have an itch, they scratch. And, if they have gas, they … well, they release it. No doubt, gassiness is a subject that can spark the giggles. A comic staple of popular films, whether you euphemistically refer to it as breaking wind, cutting the cheese, barking spiders, a case of the vapors, churchhouse creepers, low flying geese, smoofers, whootzies, silent but violents, talky shorts, paint peelers, caboose rumblers, intestinnabulation, drive by pootings, smurf killers, lighting the afterburners, under-thunder, one-gun salutes or disturbances in the force, excessive gassiness is just another issue pet parents have to tolerate … or do they?

Let’s look at the causes. Excess gas in canine and feline intestinal tracts can be a function of normal biological processes, but repeated episodes may signal that something is out of whack. While cats do experience episodes, this is a much more common complaint for pet parents of canines than felines (cat lovers, you may now feel appropriately smug). Dogs who eat too quickly can swallow a lot of air along with their food; if it isn’t burped out, gas will find an exit path on the other end. Large meals, especially those eaten rapidly, and a radical change in diet can both lead to poor digestion, resulting in excessive gas.

Although this may come as a surprise to many pet parents, some of whom I’m sure will dispute this fact, more than 99% of the gases that pass from the intestinal tract are odorless. The nose-hair-curling culprit is hydrogen sulfide, produced by bacteria in the large intestine when there is too much fiber in the diet, or not the right type of fiber. Also, inadequately cooked foods will produce the same result. Some pet food companies use clay as an ingredient, which traps the gas, while others use yucca. Your best bet for limiting production of hydrogen sulfide is to feed a premium diet featuring the best fibers in the appropriate amounts. A truly high quality food features nutrients which can be digested and absorbed before anything reaches the large intestine, which is where the gas-forming bacteria live. Less food for the bacteria equals less gas-producing bacteria and therefore, fewer gases are created.

If you are already feeding a premium food but still have an especially gassy companion, there are some simple steps you can take to help. For instance, try feeding several smaller meals, split between morning, afternoon and evening, rather than just one large meal. Avoid feeding foods that contain beans, any lactose products (including milk and cheese), and any canned foods containing carrageenan, a substance used to add texture to processed foods known to induce inflammatory responses.

Please keep in mind that dogs who gobble their meals tend not only to be gassy, they’re at an increased risk for choking, obesity and bloat, a condition which can prove lethal. To slow down the pace of consumption, try using a slow-feeder bowl, available at many pet stores. Another solution, although slightly messy, is to spread the food out on a cookie sheet with low edges, which should prevent your pup from taking huge mouthfuls of food all at once. You can also place a smaller inverted bowl inside your pet’s regular food bowl, effectively creating a ring of food around the edge of the bowl.

A sedentary lifestyle can increase the production of gases, even prolonging their presence in the large intestine. So, why not try increasing your dog’s activity? The natural expulsion of gas through activity is just one more reason to do what you already know you need to – go outside and take a walk with your dog, optimally on a daily basis.

Now, if your dog tears into the garbage and, as a consequence, starts churning out the noxious fumes, there are over-the-counter medications which can soothe the savage beast after a bout of wild gastrointestinal indiscretions. If you’re uncertain about what to provide, call your veterinarian or vet tech … they should be sympathetic to your cause. If none of these help the problem, it’s time to consult with your vet. This is especially true if the problem is accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting or weight loss. Causes of flatulence include conditions such as IBD, IBS, cancer, parasitic infection, food allergies or inadequate production of digestive enzymes, so rather than just lighting a match and ignoring the issuances, schedule an appointment and find out what’s at the root of the problem.

Thank you so much for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks   Dr. Jane Bicks

References:

Borthakur A, Bhattacharyya S, Anbazhagan AN, Kumar A, Dudeja PK, Tobacman JK. Prolongation of carrageenan-induced inflammation in human colonic epithelial cells by activation of an NFκB-BCL10 loop. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 May 8;1822(8):1300-1307. [Epub ahead of print]

Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Schellenberg DB, Simpson K, Lantz GC. Multiple risk factors for the gastric dilatation-volvulus syndrome in dogs: a practitioner/owner case-control study. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 1997 May-Jun;33(3):197-204.

Houpt K Ingestive behavior problems of dogs and cats. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 1982 Nov;12(4):683-92.

Of pets and pounds. Harv Health Lett. 2007 Mar;32(5):7.

Sunvold GD, Fahey GC Jr, Merchen NR, Titgemeyer EC, Bourquin LD, Bauer LL, Reinhart GA. Dietary fiber for dogs: IV. In vitro fermentation of selected fiber sources by dog fecal inoculum and in vivo digestion and metabolism of fiber-supplemented diets. J Anim Sci. 1995 Apr;73(4):1099-109.

Jones BR, Jones KS, Turner K, Rogatski B. Flatulence in pet dogs. N Z Vet J. 1998 Oct;46(5):191-3.

Comments (8) -

  • michael

    6/22/2012 1:01:15 PM |

    my dog has been eating life abundence for 18-24 months now he does get some extras too . boiled chicken white rice steak  alittle wet food blue chicken dinner for dogs , not all at once obviously but we mix it up, however the main portion of his meals is lifes abundence.. well it seems his stools are on the soft side quite a bit  and i was wondering is 26% protein , which lifes abundence is  . is this to much protein ?? i'd like to get him firmed up...any thoughts anyone  thanks

  • Linda Lee

    6/23/2012 7:52:54 PM |

    Dear Dr. Bicks,  My cat is a six year old, declawed, spayed Bengal cat female.  Lately I've been giving her moist food andshe is unsatisfied with just kibble.  What do you reccomend?  Thank you, Linda S. Lee

  • Kristina McLeskey

    6/25/2012 2:51:22 PM |

    I mostly feed my dogs and cats a raw food diet and they do well with this.  I also add enzymes and probiotics to their food--especially if they get a food that is processed.  Some people look at me funny when I tell them I rotate their food as this develops their digestive system and they get a variety of nutrition.  

  • Amelia Johnson

    6/25/2012 6:44:03 PM |

    Dr. Jane,
    Thankfully, we have experience few gassy episodes here...probably from the cheese my dog has successfully begged for and gotten with her soulful eyes.

    Amelia

  • Sarah

    7/3/2012 8:31:05 AM |


    Dear Michael:
    Thanks for your question!  The protein in Life's Abundance is carefully formulated to be complete and balanced and to work in conjunction with other Life's Abundance products in our nutritional system, including the treats and supplements.  Having said that, the level of protein does not affect digestion, the quality and amount of fermentable fiber does.  If your pets stools are soft, it may be because he has a sensitive gastrointestinal system, or it may be that the other diet that you are not feeding him is not compatible with his system.  Try sticking with just Life's Abundance products for a month.  If you are still noticing a problem, see your local veterinarian to rule out medical conditions, such as intestinal parasites, IBD, IBS, malabsorption, etc.

  • Sarah

    7/3/2012 8:33:04 AM |

    Dear Linda:

    It is a great idea to feed your cat both Instinctive Choice wet food and dry Life's Abundance kibble.  Feeding your cat a combination with provide that variety that he is looking for, give him additional moisture and protein, and help him be a less picky eater.  Just make sure to control your cats overall calorie count, especially if he is an indoor kitty - you can have too much of a good thing!

  • Sarah

    7/3/2012 8:34:06 AM |

    Dear Kristina:

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting.  

  • Lebold74

    12/6/2013 3:29:26 AM |

    Wow, this article is good! My younger sister is analyzing such things, therefore I am going to share with her!

Add comment

Loading