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Even under the best of circumstances, it is unrealistic to think that dogs and cats will live free of flatulence. An occasional stinky toot here and there is normal. However, a constant, unrelentingly, gassy pet is not normal, and it usually indicative of an underlying gastrointestinal problem.
Excessive gas most commonly occurs as the result of a food allergy. Food allergy means that there is a dietary sensitivity to one or more ingested proteins in the diet that lead to inflammation of the lining of the gut, subsequent malabsorption, and fermentation of unabsorbed food in the hind gut. Gas is a byproduct of fermentation.
Food allergy is most commonly linked to animal meat protein, the most common of which are beef and chicken. Some pets may also react to large proteins that are present in grass grains, such as wheat, barley, and corn.
Thus, the first step in addressing an excessively gassy pet is to engage in a hypoallergenic food trial. Hypoallergenic diets must have the following qualities.
1.) They must present a novel animal protein source, that is, a protein source that the pet has never been fed before. The body gets sensitized to allergenic proteins over time from repeated ingestion of it, hence the need to present the pet with a completely new protein source. Good choices include venison, rabbit, and duck.
2.) They must be grain and preservative free.
3.) They must be species appropriate nutrient balanced.
The easiest method to accomplish this is to purchase a prescription hypoallergenic diet from your veterinarian that meets these criteria. Another way to accomplish this is home feed with fresh ingredients, if time and schedule permit the commitment. For both species you will want to use fresh meat sources for home prepared diets. Your pet may benefit from raw feeding, but if you go this route, be certain to use companies that specialize in providing raw meat for pets that have good reviews. This will minimize the potential for raw meat bacterial food poisoning. My favorite raw meat sources for pets are those that ship the meat frozen, the customer receives the product still frozen, to then be thawed out and fed on an as needed basis.
You should provide good complex carbohydrate, fiber, and antioxidant sources from fresh vegetables. Green beans, cooked spinach and sliced carrots are good options to feed. If your pet is not crazy about veggies, you can make them more palatable by pureeing them into paste. Under normal circumstances, I am a fan of feeding broccoli, but given its tendency to ferment in the hind gut, it would be best to avoid broccoli for the gassy pet. I advise feeding dogs 50% meat, 50% vegetables, whereas cats should be fed 100% meat, or 80% meat, 20% vegetables (some cats benefit from some fiber in the diet).
Whether you choose to feed prescription veterinary diet or home prepared, you should feed the hypoallergenic diet exclusively for 8 weeks. If the gas problem resolves, then you have your solution: continue to feed it exclusively for life. If the gas continues unabated or is still excessive to some degree, then try adding probiotics and digestive enzymes to the diet. Probiotics provide “good” bacteria essential for normal digestion, whereas digestive enzymes aid in the breaking down of nutrients into optimally absorbable forms to maximize digestive absorption. Both supplement types will help to increase digestion and reduce gas.
If none of the above helps, then the dog or cat may have a condition that is more severe than produced from simple food allergy and malabsorption. These difficult cases should be seen by a veterinarian, as something more serious like inflammatory bowel disease chronic parasites may be present.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.