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Excess Gas Is A Digestive Problem


Flatulence (farting) is a product of normal digestion in dogs but excess gas caused by diet can precipitate bloat which can quickly become deadly gastric torsion, so re-think your dog's primary food.




by Roberta Lee, DD., PhD., ND. Science Editor


Flatulence is a normal part of digestion and a dog thinks not at all about passing gas, any time, anywhere.  A dog's digestive tract is not as sensitive as a human's and neither is his social behavior.  But excess gas caused by diet can precipitate bloat which can quickly become deadly gastric torsion.


Because he is a carnivore, the canine stomach is extremely efficient at processing meat and raw bones.  As you read this please note that cooked bones of any kind can splinter and puncture the gut.  "Do not try this at home" as they say.  But also note the type of food digested and the normal reaction.


It was Thanksgiving and my husband, my two children and I were spending the holiday with my husband's mother in Arkansas. They had had an early snow and it was what everyone sees on those beautiful cards that we all send at that time of the year. We had driven up from Florida and Spunky, our black Labrador, romped in the snow with the kids and it was a real treat for all of them.


The next afternoon we had a beautiful 30 pound turkey and we were all stuffed as much as that bird had been.  We didn't have room for the turkey in the refrigerator so, because it was way below freezing, we decided that a good place for the left over turkey was outside in the car port. You know, easy to get to, but out of the way.


The following morning, as we were leaving for our return trip home, Spunky came to let me know that he wanted to go outside so I asked one of the children to let him out. Knowing we would be in unknown territory, we had brought a long chain for him and my son took him out and hooked him up. That was that. When it was time for him to come in, he gave us his usual, "Woof, woof."  When we were just about ready to leave, I decided to make some turkey sandwiches for the road. I went out to the shed to get ol' Mr. Tom and he was gone! Knowing that he was too far gone to fly away, I asked, "Who put the turkey in the shed?" I got my answer, and I said, "Well he's gone!" "No, way mom." My son came running. So, we both went out for him to show me just where he had put Tom he was speechless (for once) because low and behold, the bird had flown the coop!


Where in the world was that turkey? Although we had put a huge dent into that old bird, we hadn't eaten it all. But, search as we would, we couldn't find any part of him. Nevermind, we had to get on the road and get home as I had clients scheduled the following day.  We kissed mom good bye, and off we started. About 2 hours into our trip, I heard this horrible howl from the back seat.


"Oh mom……….." "Oh yuck………….." "Mommmmmmm." Then from the other side of the back seat, "Gollllllyyyyy Mom."


I turned around to see what was going on and all I could see were Spunky's brown eyes looking at me from under the blanket.


"What in the world is wrong with the two of you?" "Mom, Spunky poooooed." My daughter said trying to hold her breath as she said it. "Well, it isn't the first time and it won't be the last, so don't make so much noise and go back to sleep." Was my firm reply, and then…., and then……Oh my, then the gas wafted to the front seat. It was a horrible smell!  My husband opened his window, and all of us in unison said, "Spunkkkkky." But Spunky just smiled at us, and kept that tail thumping with joy.  Then it hit me. THAT'S where the turkey had gone. Every last bit of it. No bone, no meat, not even tidbits of dressing. Spunky had eaten it when he had been let out on that long chain.  The remainder of that trip was made with four windows opened even though it was freezing, and the kids howling every time Spunky reminded us how much he had enjoyed his Thanksgiving dinner. Needles to say, it was a very long trip and our family remembers that trip as the "Spunky Trip."


How many times in your household have you noticed that odoriferous indication that someone had eaten too much, and everyone blames it on the dog? In fact, in most family groups, that is the standard joke.  Or you have company and the dog is lying at your feet, conversation is moving smoothly and then, whew!  Yep, our four legged family members are totally uninhibited. It seems that their motto is, "If it feels good, do it!" And they do, generally in the most inconvenient of circumstances.



Gas is generated from what your dog eats and how he eats it. Did he eat too much? Did he gulp his food and take in too much air? Could be. Did he get that dead rabbit in the woods? Maybe. Or, are you feeding him a food too rich in grains?  That can cause excessive gas, especially dog food that contains corn.  What about milk?  Is he lactose intolerant? Have you started giving him vitamins recently? These are all things that will cause flatulence (gas).


Gas is no laughing matter if it is chronic.  Check his stomach and if it seems overly full but he has defecated, his belly could be distended from too much gas trapped in there.  In extreme cases, excess gas can turn into gastric torsion which is an emergency situation caused by the gut actually twisting and thus not allowing the gas to escape.



Don't panic. Under normal circumstances you can find a cure for that excuse your husband always uses. "But honey it was the dog!"  First, you need to find something what will calm the digestive tract for your particular dog. Will he eat yogurt? That is great if he will. It adds the necessary bacteria to the stomach and digestive tract to eliminate the gas. Or there are other things that you can try if he refuses the yogurt.


There is a product called Gas X that break up the gas bubbles and help people pass gas.  My editor, who used to have Akitas, told me big breeds are more susceptible to bloat and that she once used that Gas X product, stood the dog upright with his legs on her husband's shoulders and "burped" the dog up and down the belly and rib cage until he belched really foul smelling air.  He burped several times and then was okay but she said he could have bloated if she had not used her husband's OTC product. 


I also found that even toy breeds can be affected.  Here is a tragically true article about a little Boston Terrier with gastric torsion.


My advice is to feed smaller portions. Cut that vitamin in half, and give it twice a day. If that doesn't do the trick, check to see if the dog food contains soy bean. If so, try switching to a more meat based food because that is what the canine digestive system is designed to process. If all the above fails, then try an anti-gas medication. And, if that doesn't work, well, just hold your breath, and love that dog anyway, for all of the hours of enjoyment that he brings to your home.


Editor's note: Dr. Roberta Lee passed away in 2014 but for over a decade, her knowledge served dog owners.  She remains a member of Science & Advisory Board.



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