Pets don't try to hold it, move to a more discrete area or blame it on their human family. It's usually no secret when a pet passes gas and commits a four-pawed faux pas. They don't giggle with embarrassment or blush.
Intestinal gas is just a natural part of digestion, after all, however funny we humans may find it.
While dogs seem to be the main offenders, cats are also prone to flatulence, although they produce less gas, and their tendency to keep their distance makes their gassiness less noticeable. Plus, there's a big auditory and olfactory difference between a flatulent 10-pound feline and a gassy 120-pound Great Dane.
But if you are like most people, you'd like to find ways to wind down the passing of wind. Here are a few tips:
A wind walker: Exercise helps move everything along the digestive tract and out the back door. Just remember to stay upwind and pick up after your pet.
Watch what you feed: Consider a change of diet. While gas is a normal byproduct of digestion, if your pet is gassy as a blimp, his diet may need some adjustments. Talk to your veterinarian not only about your pet's regular meals, but also about any between-meal snacks he is enjoying, whether you're handing them out or he's finding them himself. For cats, especially, realize that while they may enjoy milk, many don't digest it well. To see if your cat is among these, stop the dairy for a bit and see if it helps.
Say "know" to supplements: Supplements are a mixed bag: Some may increase gas, while others may aid digestion. Again, your veterinarian can help you sort out the choices and their pros and cons. One supplement that may well help is the introduction of beneficial bacteria -- probiotics -- that help with digestion.
Fast eaters and short faces mean more gas: Not only do wolfers swallow air when they inhale their food, but they often overeat as well, backing up the digestive system. Pets with short noses -- pugs and bulldogs, for example -- are also not designed for an optimal intake situation. The result of swallowed air and excess fermentation is belches, flatulence or both. Several companies make bowls designed to slow down gulpers. You can also toss the bowl and feed from food puzzles -- toys that make a pet work to get food a little bit at a time.
Some veterinarians and grateful pet owners also swear by a product called CurTail. The same as Beano for people, this anti-gas product contains an enzyme that helps break down food, so that it can be digested more fully with more internal combustion and less, shall we say, external combustion.
While we sometimes laugh when the dog passes gas, some top veterinarians caution that sometimes peculiar, persistent smells are more than meets the nose. In fact, sometimes underlying medical problems can generate those nasty gasses that are more like tear gas than laughing gas.
That means that if the situation is beyond the occasional toot session, the odors are especially noxious -- yes, I realize it's relative -- and the strategies I've shared seem not to help at all, you need to get your pet in for a veterinary checkup. There may be something more serious going on.
In other words: If you really want to clear the air, see your veterinarian.
Cat spraying is not
a litter-box problem
Q: Our cat has suddenly started spraying urine on the furniture. We've squirted him, spanked him and yelled at him, but it doesn't help. He's still using the litter box, just not all the time. My husband says if it doesn't stop, the cat goes out. Can you help?
A: The application of urine to mark territory is different from the release of urine to eliminate waste from the body. The strategies for addressing spraying are different from those that you use in getting a cat to use a litter box.
That said, the first step is exactly the same: Take your cat in to see his veterinarian to make sure there isn't a health issue triggering this change in behavior. Your veterinarian's office is the place to start with behavior problems of any kind, especially when they come on suddenly in previously well-mannered pets.
Although both male and female cats may spray, unneutered males are the biggest offenders. Neutering takes care of the problem in the majority of cases if done before sexual maturity is attained. While neutering isn't quite as effective on adult cats, it's worthwhile to alter older spraying cats.
For those cats who don't respond to neutering, environmental stresses -- such as a new person or pet in the house or a neighbor's cat in the yard -- may be triggering the spraying. Anti-anxiety medication may help (talk to your veterinarian), as can cleaning sprayed areas thoroughly and covering them with foil to discourage fresh marking. The pheromone-based aerosol products made by Feliway may also help calm your cat and reduce the urge to spray.
Don't punish your cat for spraying, even if you catch him in the act. Doing so makes him even more anxious and more likely to mark. Punishment is never a good strategy when trying to solve behavior problems in cats. -- Gina Spadafori
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ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.
Pet industry expands
as population grows
-- Looking for a new career? The demand for pet-related services continues to increase along with the number of pets and the need many people have for help with their care. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20 percent increase in the number of animal trainers in the next decade, with nearly 60,000 working as trainers by 2018. The Bureau's observations match those of pet-industry experts who have long noted a steady increase in services such as canine day-care providers, dog exercisers and yard-cleanup companies.
-- Property owners in California will no longer be allowed to demand that dogs be debarked and cats be declawed as a condition for renting if a bill in the state legislature becomes law. The bill would also forbid landlords from giving preferential treatment to tenants with declawed or devocalized animals and from advertising in a way designed to discourage applicants whose animals have not been surgically altered in such a way.
-- As the pet health insurance industry continues to grow with more companies entering the market, the kinds of pets being insured is expanding as well. Veterinary Pet Insurance reports that more than 5,000 animals besides dogs and cats have been insured with the company. The number is still small -- VPI insures nearly half a million animals overall -- but continues to grow. The company reports issuing policies to 334 guinea pigs, 38 hedgehogs, seven ducks, 10 doves, 19 pot-bellied pigs, 18 sugar gliders, one goose, one hawk and one pigeon, 60 iguanas, four boa constrictors, 18 pythons and 1,437 rabbits. (Note: VPI is a sponsor of PetConnection.com.) -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon