Although embarrassing in social situations, flatulence can
Q “I have a female rescued Rottweiler. She has been spayed and is a little overweight. She is fed about one third of what our male Rottweiler eats, and she gets plenty of exercise, but she does get out of breath easily. Her head and her legs are normal, but her torso is very big and bloated. She always has flatulence and from time to time coughs and gags (as though she wants to vomit, but nothing comes out). She also always eats grass. We’ve tried several different diets but nothing helps. Do you think that there could be something wrong with her?”
Candice Stipp – Roodepoort, Johannesburg
A Yes I do think there might be something wrong. The gagging, eating grass, and trying to retch worries me and, of course, her being out of breath. I would strongly suggest that you visit your veterinarian and ask for a complete examination. He or she might recommend radiographs of the chest. As you have so carefully observed, it sounds as if she has a gastrointestinal problem. Just off the top of my head and without examining her – megaoesophagus should be ruled out. This is a condition where the pipe from her mouth to her stomach is dilated and does not push the food to her stomach properly. She would be very uncomfortable and suffer in human terms what must feel like gastric reflux or heartburn. Do the symptoms improve if you feed her small soft meals frequently? Please let us know what your vet says and let us know what the diagnosis is.
The guests arrive for dinner. They remove their jackets and settle down around the dining table, chit-chatting about the double dip recession while twirling glasses of my best Merlot. The aroma of roasting lamb in the oven filters through the smell of fresh cut flowers on the table and the first course is served. Carpaccio salad with fresh Parma ham, on a bed of fresh figs and basil. Just as we raise our glasses, a sulphurous aroma rises like warm steam from a
swamp. I prod Diesel, my Staffordshire Bullterrier, so that he will shift under someone else’s chair so I can avoid taking the blame.
Why blame Diesel? Flatulence is completely natural. However, where and how you belch or pass wind is what determines the level of your social graces. Although very embarrassing in social situations, flatulence can be aggravated by certain conditions and circumstances in domestic animals (and in humans!).
Eating too fast
Dogs eating too quickly tend to swallow too much air – a condition called aerophagia. The swallowed air passes to the intestines very quickly, cannot be absorbed fast enough and must escape somewhere. Some think that certain
breeds, because of the wide shape of the mouth and throat, tend to swallow more air while eating. If your dog gulps down his food, it is probably because he is very hungry. Try feeding him more frequently during the day in smaller quantities. It might work to separate animals that eat together to avoid competition at mealtimes. Another way to slow down a fast-eating dog is to use a special “slow feed” food bowl.
Poor quality diet
Probably the most important reason for flatulence is a poor quality diet with the wrong ingredients, like too much grain, which dogs simply cannot digest. These diets supply the majority of their protein from non-meat sources, such as wheat and corn. Dogs do not have the enzymes to digest these non-meat proteins. When food is not fully digested, it provides a rich source of nourishment for bacteria in the large intestine. The undigested portion of food will ferment, producing gas. So, giving the vegetables that your children won’t eat will also cause flatulence in your dog. If you suspect your dog has excess gas because of his food, try switching his diet to a high-quality natural diet that contains a higher percentage of meat based protein. (Look for foods in which proteins from meat sources are at least 2 of the first 3 ingredients.) Very often, the “gassy” problem can be solved by a diet change.
Some dogs love hunting for titbits in the garbage can. They can even develop what is known as garbage disease from constantly eating poor quality and sometimes rotten food.
Age and healt h-related problems
Of course, as our metabolism slows down, so does the ability to digest. So be sure to choose the correct diet for your pet’s life stage. Certain disease processes affect digestion and when the following symptoms appear, it’s time to visit the vet. Weight loss, a distended stomach (your dog may be suffering from bloat which is serious and needs immediate veterinary treatment), diarrhoea, chronic constipation, blood or mucus in the stool, all warrant a visit to your local veterinarian.
Certainly here size does matter. Apparently, the larger breeds and also the brachycephalics like Staffordshire terriers, Bullterriers, Bulldogs and Boxers, tend to be more flatulent.
Understand that it is totally natural to pass wind from either end. Pets don’t care for your social standards and are absolutely innocent, and are in fact quite offended at your lack of understanding. Feed your pet the best quality meat-based food you can afford. Keep Diesel or Mildred out from under the dining table at least until the guests have had a drink or two and won’t take such natural behaviour so seriously. Keep a lid on the garbage can and feed more frequently and separately to avoid competition. After your meal take the dogs for a walk – it will do you good as well to let go a bit.