Barney, our two-year-old Labrador is a great pet, but he passes gas a lot. This is a big problem because he is an inside dog. The situation has ceased being funny and now is quite embarrassing. Can you help?
The condition, known as flatulence, is no laughing matter for owners or pets. There are numerous possible reasons behind the problem. The first step is to determine if there is anything medically wrong with Barney. Diarrhea is one sign of a medical problem. It could be caused by internal parasites such as hookworms or whipworms. (Your veterinarian can check a stool sample for intestinal parasites.) Or if could stem from Barney's inability to absorb nutrients from his food, called malabsorption. A third medical problem could be a digestive upset, a situation that would cause vomiting and diarrhea. If Barney has any of these problems, he should be examined by a veterinarian. If Barney appears normal and shows no sign of diarrhea, he may be swallowing air while eating. If he is a voracious eater, he may consume his food very quickly. In this case, try feeding him smaller meals more often throughout the day.
The type of food he is eating may also be a problem. Diets high in soybean meal or fiber can lead to flatulence. When dogs eat these types of foods carbohydrates are not digested very well in the small intestine. Thus there is an increased amount of bacterial fermentation in the large intestine which leads to a build up of gas. This is a very common cause of flatulence. Check the label on Barney's dog food or consult with either your veterinarian or the store where you buy the food. Try to determine if it is high in fiber, which is common in foods for dogs trying to lose weight, or high in soybean meal.
If your veterinarian suspects that part of the problem relates to increased bacterial fermentation, he or she may prescribe short-term use of antibiotics. Vigorous exercise helps expel gas in the colon and prevent buildup. So proper exercise may be part of the prescription. The chances are good that Barney does not have a medical problem and that he is just swallowing too much air. In this case you can help by feeding smaller meals more frequently and switching brands of food. (Food changes must always be done gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset.) Don't forget proper exercise, and remember too that some amount of gas production is normal.