Goals of Treating Gas
When an owner notices that its dog is tender in the abdomen, is bloated or is passing excess gas (whether smelly or not), it probably is worth a call or a trip to the veterinarian. If the abdomen is extremely distended from gas accumulation, emergency treatment may be necessary to prevent or relieve a life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus, also known as GDV, torsion or bloat. The therapeutic goals for dogs with excess gas are to eliminate abdominal distension, relieve gastrointestinal discomfort, identify and eliminate the cause of abnormal gas production and, if appropriate, reduce or eliminate the unpleasant odor associated with some cases of flatulence.
If a dog presents with severe abdominal distension and pain, the first course of action usually is to decompress the gastrointestinal tract. The veterinarian may attempt to intubate the dog by passing an orogastric tube through the mouth, down the throat (espophagus) and into the stomach, to provide an escape route for the gas. Unfortunately, sometimes the tube cannot be passed into the stomach. In those cases, and particularly if radiographs (x-rays) confirm GDV, the veterinarian may attempt to decompress the abdomen by a method called percutaneous trocharization. This involves inserting a large-bore needle through the skin and the abdominal wall directly into the stomach. This should allow the accumulated gas to escape through the needle, producing a hissing sound. If the dog has gastric dilatation and volvulus, emergency surgery almost always will be necessary.
A number of other medical treatments can help dogs with gas. Medications that relieve flatulence are called “carminatives.” Some veterinarians recommend oral administration of activated charcoal, Yucca schidigera and zinc acetate – a combination which seems to dramatically decrease both flatulence and the unpleasant odor that often accompanies it. Other oral medications that may reduce gas and/or its foul aroma include bismuth subsalicylate and simethicone. It may be appropriate to administer pancreatic digestive enzyme supplements to dogs with excess bacterial metabolization and fermentation. Vitamin and mineral supplements can also change the acidity level and digestive activity within the gastrointestinal environment, which can help alleviate gas as well.
Alternative techniques that may benefit dogs with flatulence, in addition to medical treatment, might include: massage therapy to help alleviate gas accumulation and “move things along” through the gastrointestinal tract; possible application of acupressure techniques; use of herbal, botanical or other non-regulated supplements or homeopathic “remedies”; and other forms of supportive care that may help to ease discomfort and otherwise promote digestion, relaxation and comfort. Some of these adjunct approaches lack controlled studies of their proper dosage, safety and effectiveness and may not have established quality control methods or ways to assess their benefit to dogs with flatulence.
Once abdominal distension is relieved, flatulence in most dogs can be successfully controlled and managed with dietary modification and other preventative techniques. Some authorities suggest that owners of dogs with chronic flatulence make a point of keeping windows wide open and standing upwind of their dogs whenever possible.