Flatulence

Very funny, eh? Not laughing matter if it’s your dog. Here is how to get it under control.

 

Question:

We have a seven-year-old male Cocker Spaniel who has developed quite a problem with burping and very stinky flatulence.  We’ve tried changing his food to no avail. When he’s got gas, his poor little body blows up like a sausage until he burps or farts. Any ideas?

 

Dr. Nichol:

He sounds miserable. In fact you sound pretty miserable yourself. Here’s what’s going on. All of us produce gas in our intestines as a result of the breakdown of our food by normal gut bacteria. The result is mostly methane-the same “natural gas” that’s piped into our homes for cooking and heating. A few reasons for excessive intestinal gas are the breakdown of certain foods like beans or milk or an overgrowth of some of the normal organisms in his gut. Or his diet may be too rich in protein.

 

Start by never allowing this boy around an open flame. Next have your veterinarian listen to his abdomen for gut sounds (belly growls). Have a fresh stool sample taken. If your dog has parasites the appropriate medications should make treatment simple. On the other hand if his gut flora (intestinal bacteria) has an overgrowth of one or more organisms we can use the antibacterials Amoxicillin and Metronidazole. After killing off excessive bacteria his intestines should “repopulate” with the normal balance. Lastly metoclopramide can be tried. This “prokinetic” agent will speed up the movement of food from the stomach and may cut down the bloating and belching.

 

What about diet changes or Beano? Be my guest (not my houseguest until this flatulence problem is solved, thank you). Just make the diet changes gradually over a few days. Now I have a question for you: Is this really one of those “ I have this friend…” questions? Is this about you? It’s OK. I won’t tell. But whoever it is, we may have a great entry for the Special Shapes Rodeo at the Balloon Fiesta this year.

 

 

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Question:

We have a 9 week old Boston Terrier puppy who has the most foul smelling gas problem we have ever encountered.  He eats dry Nutro’s Natural Choice Lamb Meal and Rice Formula Puppy food.  This is different from what the breeder feed him, they feed him Purina.  He has been with us almost 1 week.  His stools are firm and his coat seems healthy, so I do think the food agrees with him other than the gas problem.  What do you suggest?

 

Dr. Nichol:

Whoa! How embarrassing. I’m sure all of our readers share your pain. I recommend a support group. On the other hand, if you really want to change the problem, I would suggest a different diet.

 

There are many good diets available. But just like people dogs are individuals. A diet that agrees with some dogs may not work well for others. Try another high quality diet from a different manufacturer but be sure to read the label-which is really simple. In all my years in practice I have found only one useful indicator printed on bags of pet food-price. Buy the good stuff. You will not get what you don’t pay for.

 

But wait. If the protein levels are the same and the list of ingredients are as good or better from one brand to the next shouldn’t that mean something? Sorry. The laws governing truth in labeling allow for lots of slight of hand. Punctuation and disguising cheap ingredients can have poorly digestible junk masquerading as decent food quite easily. I know there are rip offs in our society but I haven’t seen it yet with pet food. And, by the way, better food has a lot more useful nutrition in each mouthful and it lacks fillers. The difference is less stool to clean up and a bag of food that lasts much longer. So in the end better food doesn’t really cost more.

 

Last point: make that change gradually over a few days. If you make a sudden switch you will learn what a gas problem is really like.

 

 

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Question:

I was wondering if there is anything I could give my dog to counteract his bad gas? He burps and passes gas.

 

Dr. Nichol:

I’m glad you wrote in with this question. It has always amazed me that so many dog owners just accept this.

There are lots of folk remedies for gas in dogs. You’ll hear ideas like adding yogurt to the food or giving lactobacillus milk. But most often it’s not a deficiency of normal gut bacteria but the diet itself that’s responsible.  So change his diet.

 

What to feed? First I’ll tell you the types of food that often cause gas in the first place: canned food, cheap (low priced) food, and frequent diet changes. But there are several brands that are highly digestible, low residue diets (little or no filler). A few of the best brands are Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba, and Nature’s Recipe. But if one of them causes your boy to break wind assume that diet to be the wrong one and try another good one.

 

A word about diet changes: Pick a high quality (higher priced) food that works and stick to it. The stomach and intestinal tract of dogs is a creature of habit. Dog guts are conservative and dislike change. So if it’s necessary to change food do it gradually. Over a 3-5 day period progressively mix in increasing amounts of the new diet as you reduce the old. And in choosing a new diet DO NOT pander to your dog’s taste preferences. He may like it but it may not like you.

 

 

 

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Many Causes, some Dogs respond to a Low Fat & Zantac

Question:

My beloved three year old female Doberman is driving me out of the house with her “AWFUL GAS”. She truly would gag a maggot. Is there a “Beano” for dogs?

 

Dr. Nichol:

Do you feel strongly about this? Is your dog’s name Blossom? A quick fix for this often silent but deadly problem would be welcome but the treatment will have to depend on the cause.

 

There are a few possible sources of your dog’s gas: swallowed air, methane from the fermentation of food, and intestinal carbon dioxide. If your girl has a chronic stomach or intestinal inflammatory disease or infection, a tumor, kidney disease, a hormonal imbalance like Addison’s disease or diabetes, or a neurologic dysfunction she will need treatment specifically directed at the cause. Diagnosing these disorders would require a lab profile, abdominal x-rays, and possibly an endoscopic evaluation with biopsies.

 

For medium to large breed dogs accumulation of gas can turn dangerous: gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) occurs when a stomach with trapped gas suddenly bloats and twists. Affected dogs can have a swollen appearance midway between the shoulders and hips. They may act weak and attempt to belch. These dogs can collapse and die. GDV cases are emergencies that need surgery ASAP.

 

But many gassy dogs are physically normal; they’re just not socially acceptable. These cases are often manageable with a carbohydrate and fat restricted diet like Hills w/d. Zantac can also help by moving the contents of the stomach and colon along so that less gas is produced. Diet changes should be made slowly to avoid even greater flatulence. Adding yogurt, lactobacillus milk, cottage cheese, or enzyme supplements is unlikely to make a difference.

 

We can joke about your dog’s gas but please don’t take her symptoms lightly. Overlooking serious internal disease could spell disaster. If she checks out fine on exam let your veterinarian advise you on diet or medication. Don’t play doctor; even Zantac could cause more problems than it would solve.