Flatulence is the presence of excessive gas in the intestine or stomach. This is NOT only caused by fermentation of food but also by aerophagia, which is the term used when air is swallowed. There are two routes for this gas to move: through the mouth ( belching) or out the “back door”. Gas moves faster than food through the intestinal tract and may move right through in 30 minutes. Aerophagia occurs commonly in the flat faced dogs, in working / sporting /very active dogs, in dogs which are greedy eaters and also in some forms of intestinal disease. Fermentation of carbohydrate based foods produces an odourless gas.

99% of gas thus found in the intestine is therefore odourless. The bad smell is caused by fermentation of substances like bile and dietary sources such as onions (which should not be fed to dogs in any case) cruciferous vegetables (cabbages, broccholi) and dietary proteins.

This problem will usually respond well to management. If excessive flatulence is also accompanied by weight loss, vomiting and diarrhoea then it is recommended that you visit a vet to check for intestinal disease. Some intestinal conditions cause mal-digestion and absorption and this results in abnormal fermentation in the intestine.

With flat faced dogs like bulldogs, boxers and pugs, they cannot breathe through their noses effectively and take in air through the mouth as they eat. Surgical correction of some of the excessive folds inside the throat and nose may facilitate breathing and then also decrease the amount of air taken in when eating.

Dogs which are very active will also swallow air, especially when breathing very fast . Due to their activity though, this air will also be passed very quickly, also hopefully also outside. Moderate exercise increases the activity of the bowel and will facilitate passing of wind. Exercise within 30 minutes of eating will encourage defaecation and passing of gas.

Animals which are greedy eaters and gulp their food down too quickly will also take in a large amount of air. It is important to try and slow down feeding behaviour. This can be done by feeding twice a day and also placing objects inside the bowl so that the dog has to nibble around it to get at the pellets. Ideal objects are a large stone/brick or an upturned bowl. An immediate improvement should be noted. Be careful not to use smaller objects as these dogs aren’t fussy and will swallow anything which will fit. Special durable dishes have been marketed.

Diets to be avoided are those containing legumes, cruciferous vegetables, airy products, fruit, canned foods with carrageen , a thickening agent.