Flatulence in Dogs

Shiba Inu in grassy field
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Does your dog's gas have you gasping for air? Can one fart from your dog clear a room? A gassy dog might be kind of funny, it's also something even dog lovers can live without. If your dog has particularly bad flatulence it may be a sign of a health problem. Find out why some dogs fart so much and learn how to handle flatulence in your dog.

Why Do Dogs Pass Gas

Dogs pass gas for basically the same reasons people do. Flatulence is a normal bodily function that cannot be completely stopped. Excessive gas can certainly be reduced. Finding out the reason for the gas is the first step.

Flatulence occurs as a result of gasses that have accumulated in the digestive tract. There are a few ways these gasses typically get into the GI tract.

Swallowing excessive amounts of air can cause excessive amounts of gas. This often happens when dogs "gulp down" their food and eat too quickly. Remember: what goes in must come out. If your dog does not burp out the swallowed air, it will come out the other end. You may be able to distinguish this from other gas since flatulence from the swallowed air does not usually have a strong odor.

The normal process of digestion produces gasses in the intestinal tract. Foul-smelling gas is often caused by bacteria in the colon that aids in the digestion of foods that were not completely digested in the stomach and small intestines. This is common with dietary indiscretion (like getting into the trash or eating something found outdoors).

Infections, diseases, and disorders of the GI tract can cause excess gas production.

If your dog has excessive flatulence with a foul odor, there is a good chance that diet is the culprit. It may be the result of an infection or illness. If the foul odor persists, consult your vet.

illustration of reasons why dogs fart
 Illustration: Kelly Leigh Miller. © The Spruce, 2018

Treatment

Is your dog showing any signs of illness? If so, you should visit your vet before you attempt to address the flatulence. Signs like diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite along with flatulence could mean there is a GI tract problem. Even if your dog is showing other signs of illness seemingly unrelated to the flatulence, you should still see your vet before trying to change its diet or add medications.

If your dog seems perfectly fine other than the gas, then the next step is to make sure your dog is in overall good health. All dogs should have a thorough examination by a veterinarian once to twice a year. If your dog has seen the vet in the last six to 12 months and received a clean bill of health, great. If not, it is best to make a routine appointment before trying to address your dog's gas on your own. You can bring up your dog's excessive gas to the vet and see what is recommended.

How to Prevent Flatulence

Passing gas can never be completely eliminated. It's a part of life. If your dog appears to be in overall good health and is current on their vet exam schedule, there are a few things you can change to try and reduce the flatulence:

  • Exercise is one simple way you can manage your dog's gas problem. A simple walk within 30 minutes of eating can help move those gasses along more quickly, allowing your god to emit them outdoors where the odor is much less noticeable.
  • Change your dog's diet. The dog food you feed might be making your canine excessively gassy. If you are feeding a low-quality "economy" diet full of poor quality ingredients, try changing to a better quality diet made with whole food ingredients. Look into feeding a higher quality dog food. If you already feed a premium diet, consider changing to a diet with a different type of protein. You can even try a limited ingredient diet to eliminate multiple ingredients.
  • Be careful when feeding human food. Some human foods are toxic. Others can be safe for dogs but may create gas. Avoid ingredients that may cause excessive gas, such as soy, dairy, peas, beans, and fruit.
  • Slow down your dog's eating. You can feed several smaller meals throughout the day or try placing an obstacle inside your dog's food dish to slow down the eating pace. A tennis ball or a smaller bowl turned upside-down would both work well. Consider buying a bowl that is specially designed to slow down your dog's eating.
  • Try probiotics. While the benefits of probiotics are sometimes debated among professionals, most agree that they can be beneficial. There is certainly no harm in trying to add more of the good bacteria to your dog's GI tract. Be sure to use a high-quality probiotic that is suitable for dogs and proven effective. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
  • Consider dietary supplements. The use of Yucca schidigera and/or Zinc acetate has been known to decrease the odor of gas, but not the gas itself. Activated charcoal is also thought to reduce gas odor. Before beginning any supplements, be sure to choose a product that is labeled for use in dogs. Also, consult your vet for help with this.

When making any of the above changes, it is best to try one option at a time in order to determine which works best. If none work alone, you can try combining methods one at a time. Remember, if at any point your dog develops diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite or any other signs of illness, you should see your vet.