If you’ve ever had a dog, you know that excess gas is not an uncommon problem. Like humans, dogs also produce gas in their stomach. But then, you also know that too much gas in the stomach that leads to bloating is not something to ignore.
And while humans have many ways of asking for help and figuring out solutions, the same is not true for dogs. That is unless you have seen a dog pick up the phone and ask other dogs what to do or if your canine is so advanced that they managed to find this piece all by themselves.
Simply put, a dog’s stomach bloats when it can’t find a way to get rid of the gas in its system. And it is up to the pet parent to notice the discomfort or pain and figure out how to help them get out of the flatulence.
The most common way of doing this at home is to gently massage the dog’s body. We say body and not stomach because there are a few other things you need to do before you get to the belly.
You would think that’s the only part but no. But before we get to the specifics of that, you should also know what causes this excessive gas situation among dogs so that you can make sure that it doesn’t happen in the future.
What Causes It?
One of the first reasons for excess gas to be formed among dogs is bacterial fermentation. Typically, this is the case when you change their diet and the new routine includes ingredients like beans, milk, spices and soybeans.
These ingredients can cause inflammation in the intestinal tract. That disrupts the good bacteria that is responsible for maintaining digestive functions and the whole process of digestion goes for a toss.
The inflammation happens because there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the system and it messes with the intestine’s ability to process the nutrients that came along with the food.
Another reason for flatulence among dogs is giving them an excess of foods that are high in fibre content or low in quality. When you change their diet and these little nutrition details go up and down, your dog’s digestive system takes time getting used to the change.
More commonly, it happens if they swallow a lot of air. The amount of gas goes above normal levels and the dog struggles to let it out. This happens if they eat or drink water too quickly maybe because they got greedy with the food given to them.
This can happen if they were too hungry by the time they got their meals or if they are not properly trained. They also tend to eat with unhealthy speed if you have more than one dog and they feel like they have to fight them for the given food.
Excess gas is also formed if you give them a meal right after running or similar exercise routines. You need to space them out and teach your dog how to breathe before eating with the help of slow dog feeders.
You must also consider the possibility of over-feeding but without the necessary nutritional balance in the diet. That can also lead to too much gas in their colon or intestinal tract. That’s why you must do your research on what kind of food is good for your dog’s breed and age and how much of it is the required quantity.
How to Help Your Dog When They Are Dealing with Excess Gas
Massaging the Back: Think of dogs as babies. When you pat them on their back, even if there is no excess gas, there are other advantages. For example, it helps them calm down when they are restless or hyperactive. It is also generally good for the health of their stomach.
The Belly: This is fairly obvious. Patting on their stomach helps the muscles in the belly relax and gives them the space to relieve themselves.
The Ears: Anxiety and stress are not uncommon in dogs. And massaging their ears relieves them of general fatigue. This also shakes their body and relaxes the stomach muscles.
The Hind Legs: These are right above the pelvic area and not only does it relax those muscles but also generally improves their flexibility, tissue repair and digestion.
The Head: Scratching a dog on their head is actually helpful because there are pressure points near the eyes which soothe their stomach, bladder and gallbladder. This is one of the easiest ways to help them when they are struggling with gas.
How to Massage the Gas Out of a Dog
There are a few simple steps that get the job done. You can either take it slow and help them get rid of the discomfort by relieving themselves or go directly to the belly rub if they are in pain.
Many dogs are not used to massages. Meanwhile, the gas is making them anxious and stressed. So, make a choice depending on the gravity of the situation.
Start by scratching your canine friend on their head. As mentioned before, there are a lot of benefits to the nervous system too with this. But it starts by working on the muscles in the stomach, gallbladder and bladder. And starting it slowly also gets them prepared for the upcoming belly rub.
Then you want to rub their back so that they can feel relaxed. Remember that they are already feeling uneasy possibly because the gas is causing pain. You need to calm them down before you get to the belly.
Move your palm in a circular fashion. This is called effleurage and it helps warm up the muscles. Long and slow strokes are very comforting and also effective in getting rid of gas.
Now move your hand from their back to the neck region. Don’t put too much pressure but massage this area too in the same circular fashion.
Then move to the back of the neck and massage their shoulder using squeezing and kneading techniques. This is called the petrissage technique and is used to help sportspersons to relieve muscle spasm or knots and improve blood circulation and the function of muscles.
Now it’s time to move to the stomach area. Run your hands gently to relax the stomach muscles. Once again, don’t put too much pressure and continue moving towards the hind legs till you see them feel better.
How to Recognise It
Flatulence is pretty common among dogs. But you need to know which one is a massage situation and when you need to rush to the vet. For starters, if this has been going on for days, you might want to let a professional take a look because that could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
Loose stools, puking and diarrhoea are also signs of underlying health issues. They are signs that your dog is not able to digest the food you are giving. This may also lead to weight loss. Keep an eye on that.
And before you do, make sure you know if the gas is foul smelling or odourless. That makes a difference. Listen to their stomach and see if there are rumblings or other strange noises. See if their stomach is visibly bloated or if your dog is not as energetic as it normally is.
How to Prevent It
If you’ve made changes to their diet, that will directly affect their digestion. Excess gas is to be expected when the fibre content changes. The best way to make diet changes when it comes to commercial food brands is to introduce just a portion of the new brand along with the old one (unless that is causing serious problems like allergic reactions).
Slowly increase the new brand while decreasing the old one over a period of two weeks. Unless your dog is lacking fibre, don’t increase the content because dogs have trouble processing it. If you’re dealing with canned foods, check if they have resistant starches or guar gum. These are famously known to cause flatulence.
Some vets also suggest that giving your dog protein in new forms can treat hypersensitivity and food allergies. But it is important to monitor the portions because some of these protein-rich foods add to gas.
You can also introduce your dog to a canine probiotic. Ideally, talk to a vet before starting a course. Beet pulp is also a recommended food ingredient for the same reason.
Probiotics are very helpful in balancing the good bacteria in the stomach that helps with digestion. Plain yoghurt that does not have any sweeteners can also do the trick.
Greek yoghurt (for dogs) with a lot of live cultures is quite popular not just for humans but canines too. Do not even think about yoghurt meant for humans because that will 100 percent make things worse.
Digestive enzymes or activated charcoal are two great options. Once again, consult a vet before adding anything to your furry friend’s routine. But typically, three activated charcoal tablets a day for about three days is not unheard of.
These are good for breaking down the carbohydrates in the meal. That also keeps the gas away. If your dog is not a fan of tablets, you can crush them and mix them in the food.
You can also change their water and food bowls to slow feeders. This helps them pace themselves and not swallow so much air while eating. It’s also a part of food training.
And finally, there’s the obvious one. Maybe all your little buddy needs is a short walk after the meal. This kind of mild exercise moves the bowels and helps the gas out of their body.
But get the timing and the amount of exercise right. Otherwise, you might end up making them more hungry leading to quick eating and more gas.
If You Need Medical Help
This is going to be a slightly bad situation. So, it is best to know what to expect. Your dog is going to need medical attention if the excessive gas situation has been going on for a few days.
Once you realise something is wrong, you must start monitoring the situation. Make note of when you noticed it, how often your dog is ripping one and exterior signs of pain or uneasiness.
You start with a standard vet exam which means they will check for a bulged stomach and intestinal issues. Take the necessary documents related to your canine’s complete medical history in case the vet is not aware.
X-rays and ultrasounds are fairly common. These help the vet get a peek into the intestines. They will also take a look at the size of the abdomen and see if something like a tumour is blocking the stomach.
Your dog’s stool might also be tested if the vet thinks it might be an infection due to a virus or a parasite in the body. Don’t worry. They usually tell you how to get a fresh sample.
The vet might want to do a blood test to check for conditions like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or pancreatitis. They may also want to check the bacteria levels in the intestine. If it is IBS, there will be more testing.
The Bottom Line
There are many reasons that can lead to excessive gas in a dog’s stomach even if you are a caring pet parent. So, don’t blame yourself. Instead, figure out what is causing the discomfort and fix that situation immediately.
Whether it is balancing their diet or training them on how to eat so that they don’t swallow too much air, there is a lot you can do.
And if you have more than one dog in the house, you are certainly going to have to work on meal timings, bowl placements or quantity of food.
Whatever your approach, it is best to keep your vet in the loop just to be sure that you’re not missing a bigger medical condition.