Ewww… My dog passes gas all the time. What’s this called and what can I do about it?
The excessive formation of gas in the stomach or intestine is referred to as flatulence. Flatus is the medical term used to describe air or gas expelled through the anus. The term originates from the Latin flatulentus which means”a blowing.” Appropriate, right?
I was interviewed on this topic for an article, which you can read here, but here’s a bit more about this, ahem, stinky subject:
What causes flatulence in dogs?
The most common cause is a change in diet or from the dog eating something new or spoiled (dietary indiscretion). Most cases of chronic flatulence are caused by a diet that is poorly digested by the dog. These poorly digestible diets cause excessive fermentation in the colon and subsequent gas formation. Soybeans, peas, beans, milk products, high-fat diets and spicy foods are all commonly associated with flatulence in dogs. Dogs and cats are lactose intolerant and if they are fed milk or dairy products they will often experience flatulence and GI upset. A dog that is being fed a premium diet and is still experiencing flatulence should be tested for malassimilation (which means either poor digestion or poor absorption of nutrients from the diet).
Dogs that swallow air, especially those that eat rapidly, are more likely to experience flatulence. Overweight, obese and sedentary dogs are at higher risk for developing chronic flatulence, regardless of diet.
What are the clinical signs of flatulence?
The most common clinical signs include expulsion of gas from the anus, with or without odor, mild abdominal discomfort, mild stomach distention or bloating, and excessive gaseous sounds or rumbling from the abdomen (borborygmus). If the dog has an underlying malassimilation problem, clinical signs will also include loose stools or diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss.
How is flatulence diagnosed?
Diagnosis is based on medical history and clinical signs. Some of the common causes that must be ruled out include:
· Increased Swallowing of Air (Aerophagia)
· Gluttony or compulsive eating
· Respiratory disease
· Feeding shortly after exercise
· Brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds
· Diets high in soybeans, peas or beans
· Diets high in fermentable fibers such as lactulose, psyllium or oat bran
· Spoiled food
· Milk and dairy products
· Sudden change in diet
· Spicy foods and food additives
· Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
· Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
· Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
· Intestinal parasites
· Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
Other diagnostic tests include fecal examination and evaluation, rectal cytology, fecal cultures, blood and urine tests, trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI), serum cobalamin and folate tests, abdominal radiographs, abdominal ultrasound and intestinal biopsies.
How is flatulence treated?
Treatment is based on diagnosis and commonly involves a change in diet. Diet recommendations include a diet that is highly digestible with low fiber and fat. Medical therapy may include carminitives (medications to relieve flatulence) such as zinc acetate, Yucca schidigera, and dry activated charcoal. Small, frequent feedings are encouraged for dogs that eat rapidly or are hyperexcitable. Your veterinarian will outline a treatment plan specifically designed for your pet.
What is the prognosis for resolving flatulence?
Most patients with uncomplicated cases respond well to dietary and lifestyle changes. Once offending dietary substances and products are identified, it is important to avoid them.