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Northgate Queensland

Pet Health

Pet pop-offs!


Ever been suffocated by stinky dog or cat flatulence? Battled to breathe while you’ve imagined he gets a little grin on his face?

Flatulence occurs when there’s a build up of gas in the colon. This is a normal occurrence when bacteria in the colon break down undigested food – the gas being produced is a by-product. Whilst it can be unpleasant to experience, it’s rarely an indication of a serious health problem.

So, what causes flatulence?

The usual cause of gassy explosions is dietary. Pet foods that are high in cereal and low in good quality protein are more likely to produce gas problems. These ingredients cannot be digested and absorbed properly in the animal’s small intestine, so more is available in the colon for the bacteria to utilise, thus producing large volumes of stinky gas.

Feeding table scraps or pets getting hold of spoiled food in the bin, are other common causes of digestive upsets resulting in an imbalance of the intestinal bacteria.

Some pets have allergies and intolerances e.g. many cats and dogs are lactose intolerant. As puppies and kittens get older and they’re no longer suckling from their mums, their intestines stop producing lactase and so can no longer digest lactose in dairy products. The lactose then passes through the small intestine and into the colon where the normal bacteria utilise it and produce large amounts of gas – stinky gas! This type of scenario can occur with many different food types, so if you notice your pet has an upset tummy or has a lot of flatulence after something you’ve fed, stay away from it in future.

Another common cause is when pets eat so quickly that they swallow a lot of air in the process. This is often the case in breeds that are enthusiastic eaters e.g. Labrador and Golden Retrievers and sometimes in shelter pets with an uncertain past that are anxious about where their next meal is coming from.

Sometimes medications can cause an imbalance in the normal balance of bacteria in the intestine e.g. a pet may have had a skin wound that needed a long course of antibiotics.

Very occasionally persistent flatulence can be an indication of an underlying medical problem.

What are the signs of over-production of intestinal gas?

  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Grumbly sounds from your pet’s tummy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea.

How can flatulence be reduced or prevented?

Feeding a high quality diet consistently is the best way to reduce and prevent flatulence in pets.

Feed a highly digestible food with all the required nutrients in the correct ratios. Premium foods tend to have the correct amount of high quality protein and be low in gas-producing cereals. We are very happy to discuss a food suited to your pet according to her breed, age, activity level and other health requirements – visit us or give us a call (3266 9992).
Do not feed table scraps. A once off ‘treat’ may be enough to set-off a tummy upset that lasts for weeks.
If your pet guzzles down his food, try feeding smaller meals more frequently or use a special feeding bowl. There are some bowls with a raised centre that makes your pet take smaller mouthfuls more slowly thus reducing the amount of air they swallow.
Be aware of your pet’s intolerances and allergies, and keep them away from those foods.
Ensure your pet is not able to get hold of old or spoiled food in the garbage.
Make sure your pet gets regular exercise. This can sometimes be surprisingly important in keeping your pet’s digestive system healthy.

When is it time to see the vet?

  • If your pet has a bloated or painful abdomen. There are some life-threatening emergencies where the only sign is that your pet’s tummy is sore and bloated – they need to be seen AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
  • If your pet’s appetite seems to be decreasing, they’ve started vomiting or had a bout of diarrhoea.
  • If they’re becoming listless or lethargic.
  • If they’re scooting or scratching at their bottoms.
  • If there is blood in their stool.
  • If the flatulence persists and you haven’t changed their diet or fed them anything out of the ordinary.

Written by Dr Bronwen Thompson for Northgate Veterinary Surgery

​© Copyright 2016. Northgate Veterinary Surgery, Queensland. All rights reserved.

Posted in: Pet Health at 23 October 18