You’ve probably heard about a dog that can clear a room with his particular pong – in fact you might even own one! But what causes canine flatulence, and is it ever cause for alarm? Petplan vet Brian Faulkner has the answers on this embarrassing, and smelly, issue.
Q: Why do dogs fart?
A: Just as in humans, canine flatulence is caused by a build-up of gas in the intestinal tract and colon – and the occasional fart is perfectly normal. Gas can form in your dog’s digestive system for a number of reasons: he might simply eat too fast and swallow air, or he could be eating the wrong kinds of food. Bread, beans, lactose found in milk, and certain thickeners found in pet food (often made from soya) can all cause dogs to pass wind.
Q: What if a dog seems to fart especially often?
A: Excessive flatulence is usually linked to your dog’s diet. It isn’t necessarily caused by a problem with the quality of the ingredients he’s eating (although eating low-quality or rotten food could make it worse), but is most likely due to a food intolerance.
This happens when your dog’s body simply can’t cope with a certain ingredient, and so his intestinal tract can’t absorb and ‘package’ it quite as well as it should – creating large amounts of gas in the process. If this is the case, you’ll probably also notice that your dog has slightly sloppier poo. Speak to your vet as soon as possible if you suspect that your dog has a food intolerance. Often vets will recommend pinpointing the cause by a process of elimination, and you might have to remove, and then slowly reintroduce, some ingredients from your pet’s diet. There are also specially formulated foods that can help, and your vet will be able to advise on the benefits of these.
Q: Can excessive flatulence cause pain or discomfort?
A: If your dog has a lot of wind to pass he might feel a colicky sensation – including stomach cramps and discomfort. But as owners, it can be difficult to know for sure, and discomfort might show up in behavioural issues instead. For example, your dog might have a sudden tendency to eat strange things or to chew excessively on objects. Keep an eye on him for any unusual behaviours and, if his actions seem out of the ordinary and he also has some extra gassiness, contact your vet straight away.
Q: Could it point to anything more serious?
A: In most cases excessive wind is a sign of a dietary issue, but it can occasionally be a symptom of something more serious. If your dog is especially prone to flatulence, and food intolerances have been ruled out, there could be issues with his digestive system – such as an underlying gastrointestinal condition or an inflammatory bowel disease.
For this reason, it’s always worth consulting your vet if you’re worried. Be sure to report any other unusual behaviours or symptoms you’ve noticed, even if they don’t seem relevant. This really helps us to get a bigger picture and see how flatulence might be part of a larger medical issue.
Q: Do you have any tips for easing everyday flatulence?
A: Each dog is different, so you’ll need to determine what works best for your pet through trial and error. If eating too quickly is at the root of his gassiness there are some ways you can slow him down to prevent him from swallowing air. One is to place a small bowl upside down, inside a larger food bowl, and arrange the food around it. The narrower space will ensure your dog has to slow down and take smaller bites. Or, if time isn’t an issue, try feeding small meals throughout the day, so that large amounts can’t be consumed all at once.
If diet is to blame, I’d suggest using a commercial diet that’s based on ‘light and white’ ingredients. For example, lighter forms of protein such as chicken and white carbohydrates like rice. Dogs tend to find these ingredients easier to tolerate than red meat and wheat- and corn-based foods. And cut down on the treats! They can easily upset your dog’s dietary balance.
Q: Could hypoallergenic foods or supplements help?
A: Don’t automatically assume that a food labelled ‘hypoallergenic’ will work for all pets – your dog could still be intolerant to some of the ingredients. I also wouldn’t recommend buying dietary supplements. It’s far better to ask your vet for a thorough check-up to find, and then treat, the cause of the problem.