Dog flatulence! Oh dear! Is your old dog gassy?
As a dog parent, I bet this sounds pretty familiar:
You are enjoying your dinner, or your favorite TV show, and your beloved dog is sleeping peacefully by your side. (What a blissful picture!)
Then all of sudden, something sinister is invading the room. Something smelling so foul that you badly want a gas mask…
That’s right. Your dog has just dropped a “gas bomb”.
Granted, all dogs (and for that matter humans) can get gassy at times.
Older dogs tend to be a bit gassier than younger ones because their stomach and intestines are gradually losing their muscle tone. This could result in their stomach and/or intestines bloated with gas.
Also, some senior dogs may not have enough exercise. Regular exercise can stimulate metabolism and prevent constipation. It also helps to expel gas.
If your older dog is a coach potato, try to design a regular exercise regime that is suitable for his age and health condition. Seek advice from your vet if necessary.
Do not exercise your dog immediately before and after meals. All the panting, playing, and running with a full tummy can lead to gas and bloating.
But if your well-exercised older dog has developed chronic flatulence, don’t just accept the fact that you’re stuck with an old “gassy dog” – take action. Try to find out the cause.
What Can Cause Chronic Old Dog Flatulence?
There are several possible causes. Let’s take a look at the common ones that may cause an old dog to be gassy:
Poor Quality Diet Can Cause Dog Flatulence
The first thing to do if your old dog has chronic gas is to take a good look at his diet.
If you feed your senior dog a commercial dry food, what are the first few ingredients of his food? Are they mostly grain-based?
Some commercial dog food companies make “reduced calorie” dog food for older dogs by substituting meat-based proteins and fats with carbohydrates (don’t see the logic behind that…).
Understand that dogs are carnivores and they need high-quality meat proteins and fats to thrive – even in their golden years.
Poor quality grains (e.g. corn, soy, grain hulls, grain meals, etc.) and poor quality proteins (e.g. meat by-products, generic meat-meals) contribute to chronic indigestion and of course gas.
If you find some such poor quality ingredients in your dog food, switch to a natural dog food with high-quality animal species-specific protein sources (e.g. chicken meat, salmon meal, beef meal, etc.) as the first 2-3 ingredients.
Also make sure that the food doesn’t contain bulky starches, such as beans, grains, “pulp” (like beet pulp), etc.
Try to add fresh animal protein sources to the dry food for added nutrients. Some animal proteins to add can be yogurt, scrambled egg, cottage cheese, ground meat, etc.
Sometimes, too much fatty food can also cause flatulence in old dogs. If you home cook or feed a raw diet to your dog, try using lean meats such as turkey, skinless chicken breast, and lean ground beef, and feed less fatty meats like pork, ground beef with fat, and lamb.
If you are already feeding your older dog a high quality commercial diet (or home cooked diet), it is still a good idea to add digestive enzyme and probiotic supplements to each meal.
Digestive enzymes help the older dog digest various nutrients, which is a good idea because as dogs age, they may not be able to effectively produce enough enzymes for digestion.
Probiotics add beneficial gut flora to the GI tract and further help with digestion (especially starches) and reduce fermentation.
What if your oldie is on antibiotics because of some health issue?
In that case, give probiotic supplements in-between meals (as opposed to with meals), to prevent the antibiotics (which are usually taken with meals) from indiscriminately killing the “good” bacteria in the probiotics.
Free Feeding is a No-No
The second thing to look at is your dog’s feeding schedule.
Some older dogs have poorer appetite and sometimes well meaning dog parents may leave the food out all the time so the dogs can free feed.
Don’t do that!
Free feeding can cause chronic gas because you are not allowing the dog’s body to fully digest each meal. Undigested food in the intestines can most likely produce gas!
If your dog has a poor appetite, try different ways to entice him to eat – but stick to a strict feeding schedule.
Gulping Down Food Can Cause Dog Flatulence
While some older dogs may not have a good appetite, there are others who seem to be so hungry that they can gulp down food like there is no tomorrow.
If your older dog is one of them and is a chronic gasser, try to slow down his eating. If a dog eats too fast, indigestion, gas and bloating will occur.
Get your dog a “slow feeder” (see below). It is very effective in slowing down your dog’s eating.
If your dog still has chronic gas after you’ve improved some of the things mentioned above, it’s time to take him to the vet to rule out any serious underlying health issues.
Health problems that cause chronic flatulence include:
- Pancreatic disease
- Digestive issues (such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease)
- Infections of the intestines
- Cancer of the GI tract
Herbs for the Occasional Dog Flatulence
But what to do for the occasional gas?
If your older dog gets gassy sometimes, you may want to minimize the “output” by using some natural remedies such as herbs.
There are quite a few effective carminative (gas relieving) herbs, such as:
- Fennel seed
- Caraway seed
- Dill seed
According to Gregory Tilford (author of Herbs for Pets), fennel seed is safe to give to dogs of any size. He suggests grinding the seeds with a coffee grinder and serve 1 teaspoon with as little food or broth as possible.
You can also use a glycerine-based tincture of any of the above herbs. Just squirt half to one ml directly into the dog’s mouth, whenever needed.
A Homemade Dog Treat Recipe for Gassy Dogs
Also try using this recipe to make some dog treats with fennel seeds for your gassy dog.
How about Gas-X?
You may have come across information about giving Gas-X (simethicone) to dogs with gas.
Sure, it can quickly relieve gas, and can definitely be used for the occasional rumbling tummy and gas output, but it shouldn’t be used too often.
First, Gas-X (or other similar product) can only relieve the symptom (gas), it cannot treat the underlying cause (and there probably is one if the dog has gas all the time).
Also, products like Gas-X contain antacids, and some may change the pH levels in the dog’s guts. If Gas-X is used on regular basis to relieve your dog’s gassy condition, you may run the risk of lowering the acid levels in his GI tract.
Why is it important to maintain high acid levels in a dog’s guts?
We all know that dogs, by nature, like to eat anything and everything, and that sometimes includes something not as fresh and palatable as we would prefer. That’s why Mother Nature gives them a digestive system that is strong enough to digest not-so-fresh food and protect the body from possible pathogens that may be in that food.
If the acid levels are lowered by constant ingestion of antacids, your dog may get sick from food poisoning, especially if he is on a raw diet.