Flatulence, Passing Wind, Excessive Gas, Stinky farts – call them what you will but when your dog is able to clear a room with a small “toot” – its not exactly anyone’s favorite situation.
So what causes extreme flatulence in dogs?
It’s actually pretty hard to point to one cause of our dog’s passing gas – sometimes it can be related to things like microbiome of gut bacteria imbalances, other times it can be due to other underlying medical conditions like IBD, IBS, Pancreatitis, Gastritis, or even Food Allergies / Intolerances.
It’s important to note that if an underlying disease or condition is causing flatulence diet recommendations may vary based on that disease process – meaning that there is no “one size fits all solution” to flatulence in dogs.
So let’s talk a bit about the dietary management of flatulence in dogs.
- Dietary Recommendations
Consider a Novel Protein
When we think about proteins and flatulence the big consideration here are conditions like Food Allergies and Food Intolerances.
In these cases the GI tract may produce excessive gas due to inflammation of the gastrointestinal system, or the inability to completely break down protein sources. In these cases choosing a novel protein – or a protein that your dog has never been on before – can be particularly helpful.
For some dogs this may be choosing proteins like Alligator, Ostrich, Kangaroo, Lamb, Turkey or Venison. But for other dogs who have received a highly variable diet this might mean creating a vegetarian diet, or even going with a hydrolyzed protein diet.
Look For a Highly Digestible Diet
The other consideration we need to make when it comes to protein is choosing a potentially highly digestible protein source. This information is usually not found on the bag – but can be requested from the company itself – highly digestible proteins should have a dry matter digestibility of over 85%.
If protein molecules get to the large intestine without being broken down – either due to a poorly digestible diet, or an allergy/intolerance causing malabsorption due to an inflammatory process – it can actually cause microbiome imbalance that leads to flatulence in dogs!
For dogs suffering with excessive gas and flatulence – fat content can be both helpful in some cases, and harmful in others.
Consider a Low-Fat Diet
In certain cases where a dog is sensitive to fat – like with IBD, IBS Gastritis or Pancreatitis – too much fat within the diet might cause issues, and actually lead to more of those stinky farts. Thus a lower fat diet (one with below 15% on a dry matter basis) may be a good idea.
But in other situations where a dog is actually sensitive to carbohydrates, or fiber – increasing fat intake may be advised.
Fat is one of the most digestible energy sources we have for our dogs, and generally speaking, higher fat/protein diets tend to be more digestible regardless of processing method. Fat also works to slow down the digestive process, allowing for a slow and steady source of energy for the body.
Again this shows there truly isn’t a “one” solution for all dogs. Often when we deal with gastrointestinal conditions, we may need to try more than one diet before we see full resolution.
Carbohydrates & Fiber
When we have dogs that are suffering with excessive gas – fiber and carbohydrates can often be a double-edged sword.
This is because fiber within the diet supports a healthy microbiome. Fiber works as a prebiotic, or a food for those beneficial bacteria within the gut. However, the wrong types of fiber or too much fiber can actually cause flatulence in dogs.
Which is not good.
Consider Low Fermentable Foods
Generally speaking, what we want to consider for dogs that suffer with stinky gas on a regular basis is to choose a diet which contains carbohydrates and fiber sources that are low in fermentability.
Meaning that they will still provide some substrate for our dog’s microbiome, but not so much that it causes a ton of excessive gas from breaking down extra fermentable fiber.
Some examples of low fermentable carbohydrate sources are: brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa and tapioca.
Ideally we should even look for carbohydrates that are both low in fermentability, and high in solubility – these fiber sources will help support the digestive process the best by creating something called the “unstirred water layer” which protects the cells of the digestive tract, and assists in the absorption of nutrients.
Oats are actually an excellent low-fermentable, highly soluble fiber source.
Individual Ingredients to Avoid:
Some ingredients you may want to consider avoiding if your dog does suffer from flatulence are:
- Carbohydrates: wheat, barley, potatoes, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soy (tofu is okay!), peas. - Vegetables: asparagus, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms, cabbage, - Fruits: apple, cherries, figs, mango, nectarine, peach, pears, plums. - Dairy: milk, yogurt - Additives: Pectin, Cabbage Fiber, Guar gum.
But remember – every dog is different, and we don’t necessarily want “none” of these fermentable carbohydrates within the diet…. But… Limiting and/or providing them in combination with other types of carbohydrates/fiber sources may be a good idea.
High Fiber May Work for Some Dogs
With most dogs who are have excessive gas we want to focus on diets with low fiber content in order to provide a highly digestible diet that is low in fermentable carbohydrates. However, though rare, some dogs actually do best with a high fiber diet. The one caveat about using a high fiber diet for dogs, or one over 10% fiber on a dry matter basis is that as fiber increases the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals decreases.
This means we need to be very careful about nutrient deficiencies with these types of diets. If your dog does need a high fiber diet consider a diet that has undergone additional scientific research and testing looking at digestibility of certain nutrients – namely zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, and amino acids. And have done feeding trials that last at least a year with normal blood parameters.
Supplements for Dogs with Flatulence: Supporting the Microbiome
Prebiotics are a type of fiber (or carbohydrate) that is not ingested by the dog but instead fermented by the “good” bacteria within the large intestine.
This fermentation process produces a by-product called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which feed the cells that line the gut, and provide a barrier to keeping inflammatory particles from injuring the gut lining.
Some examples of prebiotics you might see in either supplements or added to dog food are: Fructooligosaccharides, Mannanoligosaccharides, Galactooligosaccharides, Psyllium Seed Husk, Dried Citrus Pulp, Dried Beet Pulp, Flaxseeds, Cellulose, inulin.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits to the dog.
There are six different strains of bacteria that have been established as being beneficial for dogs: Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium animalis.
Consider Prebiotic and Probiotic Supplementation
Many supplements on the market will contain a combination of both probiotics and prebiotics – these supplements are called symbiotics – which work together to support the gut lining.
It is important to note that studies have shown that many probiotics on the market do not actually contain what they advertise on the label! So make sure your supplement has gone through third-party testing (such as the NASC seal), and ideally even clinical trials to prove effectiveness prior to using. You can find my recommended supplements for dogs here.
Another reason why many dogs have flatulence is because they gulp too much air with the ingestion of their food. This may happen because they eat too quickly, or because they exercise too close to mealtime.
Consider a Slow Feeder, Enrichment Item or Smaller Meals
Probably one of the easiest ways to limit the gulping of air while feeding is by offering small, frequent meals within something like a puzzle feeder or inside a enrichment toy. This will slow your dog down while eating drastically.
Feed at least 30 minutes after activity, and only feed a small meal prior to activity.
Exercise is a great way to get our dog’s gastrointestinal tract moving, however, feeding too close to exercise can cause the gulping of air while feeding or bloating while running. Ideally try to feed a small meal 30 minutes prior to activity, and regular meal 30 minutes after activity while at rest.
Dietary Recommendations for Dogs with Excessive Gas:
Please always discuss any diet changes you are looking to make with your veterinarian prior, as certain diets may be contraindicated due to other con-current conditions or your own dog’s medial needs.
1. Highly Digestible, Novel Protein Diet 2. Low to Moderate in Fat 3. Limit Fermentable Carbohydrates 4. Consider adding Probiotics & Prebiotics 5. Consider breaking up meals or using a slow-feeder 6. Feed at least 30 minutes prior, or post exercise.
Prescription Diet Options:
For dogs with multiple food allergies or intolerances hydrolyzed diets can be a great option to help stabilize dogs with excessive gas. These diets can be given long-term and do have additional research and feeding trials surrounding their use for different medical conditions. For the most part these diets come in three categories: hydrolyzed protein diets, novel protein diets, and highly digestible diets.
HYDROLYZED PROTEIN DIETS:
- Royal Canin HP
- Purina HA
- Hill’s z/d
HIGHLY DIGESTIBLE DIETS:
- Hill’s Biome
- Hill’s i/d
- Royal Canin Gastrointestinal
- Purina DCO
Fresh Food Diets Options:
I personally feel that fresh food can offer significant benefits for dogs that are having issues with gas, as generally speaking fresh food diets tend to be highly digestible. Depending on your own preferences, your dog’s nutritional needs and your time constraints, homemade dog food or premade may be a good option.
Below are some options of gently cooked diets for dogs with flatulence. All these diets are lower in fat, and contain a more novel protein source, but each diet does have a slightly different composition and ingredients.
JUST FOOD FOR DOGS: Venison & Squash (Grain-Free)
Dry Matter: Protein: 45%, Fat: 10%, Carbs: 22.5%
MY PERFECT PET: Hunter’s Turkey & Salmon (Grain-Free)
Dry Matter: Protein: 40%, Fat: 11%, Carbs: 36%
PET PLATE: Tail Waggin Turkey (Grain-Inclusive)
Dry Matter: Protein: 30%, Fat: 15%, Carbs: 47%
RAISED RIGHT: Adult Turkey (Grain-Free, Potato & Legume Free)
Dry Matter: Protein: 62%, Fat: 24%, Carbs: 4.1%
Below are a couple homemade recipe options that may be good options for dogs with excessive gas or flatulence. Both of these recipes are lower in fat, higher in protein and moderate in carbohydrates. And neither recipe includes those highly fermentable ingredients we talked about above.
However if your dog has additional dietary limitations such as intolerance, or if you are looking for a recipe that contains more whole-food ingredients rather than using a multivitamin supplement feel free to reach out for a custom diet formulation.
A homemade dog food recipe – using pork, oats, blueberries, bell peppers, broccoli, walnut oil, and supplements. Complete and balanced for adult dogs.
Complete and Balanced Turkey and Rice Dog Food Recipe: turkey breast, eggs, brown rice, blueberries, broccoli, walnut oil and supplements
I hope you find these diet and supplement options helpful – I know having a dog with gas that can clear a room can definitely be a bit embarrassing and probably uncomfortable for both of you. And of course working with someone to help guide you to trouble-shoot these situations can be particularly helpful, especially if you are at the beginning of your journey. So feel free to reach out if you need a bit of a helping hand knowing where to start.
About the Author: Nikki is a Registered Veterinary Technician (Veterinary Nurse) and Dog Mom with over a decade of experience with dogs and cats. Since graduation from college (BS Biology, AS Animal Health -2013) she has adopted two mixed breed dogs – Ranger and Ash, and has focused her time learning about pet food and nutrition.
Nikki shares information on a range of dog nutrition topics: from how to create a homemade complete and balanced dog food recipes, to how to choose a dog food. Nikki strives to give dog parents the information they need in order to make the best nutrition decisions for their pup!