Primer on Flatulence

Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, Ph.D.
and Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS 

Flatulence in dogs (commonly referred to as dog farts or dog gas) refers to the formation of excessive gas in the digestive tract, as well as to the process of “breaking wind,” in which the excess gas is expelled through the anus (with or without odor).

Just like people, all dogs sometimes have gas.  

Sudden onset of excessive gas in dogs is most commonly caused by changing the diet, scavenging in the trash, or eating inappropriate food items (eg, spoiled food).

Intestinal parasites can also lead to digestive upset and bouts of flatulence in dogs.

Long-term cases of flatulence are often caused by diets containing items that are not easily digested.  Flatulence is also more common among dogs that swallow a lot of air during eating (eg, dogs that "wolf" their food).

Overweight and sedentary pets are also more likely to develop chronic flatulence.

Feeding your dog soybeans, peas, beans, milk products, or fatty or spicy foods commonly causes flatulence.  Dairy products are especially a problem because adult dogs and cats are lactose intolerant and often experience digestive upset and flatulence when given milk, cheeses, or similar foods.

Dogs with flatulence may have mild abdominal discomfort or intestinal "rumbling."  

Dogs with underlying digestive problems may have other signs of illness, including diarrhea, vomiting, and/or weight loss.

Severe abdominal pain or bloating can be a sign of a serious disorder that requires emergency treatment.

You can keep flatulence under control by following with some simple guidelines:
  • Feed only a name-brand, high-quality food.  Do not add table foods, especially soybeans (eg, tofu), peas, beans, dairy, or spicy foods.
  • Never make sudden changes in diet.  Dietary changes should usually occur gradually over a period of several weeks.
  • Keep mealtimes calm and peaceful to discourage fast or aggressive eating that can lead to swallowed air.
  • Do not plan meals just before or shortly after vigorous exercise.
  • Have your pet checked regularly for intestinal parasites by taking a fecal sample to your veterinarian at least once per year.

If you follow the steps above and flatulence is still a problem, your pet may need a diagnostic evaluation for digestive disorders.

Treatment is aimed at removing the underlying cause of gas production and improving digestion.  Your vet may suggest feeding your pet a highly digestible diet that is low in fat and fiber.  Feeding smaller amounts more frequently can help dogs that are excitable or that eat rapidly.