History

Dog Flatulence

Key Message

WALTHAM has contributed to the understanding of flatulence in dogs by:

  • Developing the first real-time non-invasive system for measuring flatulence in dogs.
  • Demonstrating that a nutritional supplement can reduce odiferous flatulence in dogs.?

Background

Flatulence can be defined as the emission of intestinal gasses via the rectum. This is a frequent daily occurrence in many species, including the human and the dog, and is generally only associated with occasional mild abdominal discomfort. However in some individuals the flatus can be excessively malodorous and/or frequent.

The composition of human flatus has been studied (Suarez et al. 1997; Tomlin et al. 1991), and comprises mostly nitrogen and oxygen (derived from air that has been swallowed or diffusion from the blood), and carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane (arising intraluminally from chemical reactions and bacterial fermentation). The odiferous component comprises less than 1% by volume and is mostly hydrogen sulphide and methaneniol (Suarez et al. 1997; Suarez et al. 1998).

Little was known about canine flatulence before 2000. A small survey of 110 pet dogs in New Zealand reported a prevalence of 43%, and in nearly half of these cases (19/47) it was bad enough for the owner to want to reduce it (Jones et al. 1998). As in humans, sulphur-containing gasses (especially hydrogen sulphide) are the main cause of the malodour in dog flatus (Collins et al. 2001).

The diet has a considerable role in flatulence by providing substrate for the colonic microflora (particularly sulphates). Dietary manipulation is therefore an attractive approach for reducing flatulence. In humans, orally administered charcoal (Hall et al. 1981) has been shown to reduce flatulence, and charcoal and zinc acetate reduce its odour following ex vivo treatment (Suarez et al. 1998). In dogs, dietary Yucca schidigera is known to reduce faecal odour (Lowe et al. 1997).

Why WALTHAM is Interested

Canine flatulence is often a source of humour in dog-owning households. However it can be a social nuisance and embarrassment for dog owners, and some dogs do seem to experience it more than others.

Furthermore, there is a potential health benefit for reducing odiferous flatulence, because sulphur-containing intestinal gasses have been implicated in the pathogenesis of some gastrointestinal disorders in humans (Rowan et al. 2009; O’Keefe 2009).

Understanding canine flatulence and developing a way to reduce it is therefore of potential benefit to both owner and dog.

Approach

An innovative approach was required to develop a real-time technique for measuring dog flatulence. WALTHAM adapted a standard dog coat to non-invasively collect flatulence. A nutritional supplement was subsequently developed to reduce flatulence, using the coat to confirm that it worked.

Discovery (Coat)

Flatulence can be measured in dogs – non-invasively and in real time

WALTHAM adapted a standard commercially-available dog coat to collect flatulence in vivo (Figure 1). The coat held in position a perforated tube placed close to the dog’s anus which was attached to a small battery-powered pump with a sensor that measured hydrogen sulphide production every 20 seconds (Collins et al. 2001). In this way, flatulence could be monitored whilst the dog underwent its usual daily routine. This was the first real-time, episode-by-episode, non-invasive system for measuring flatulence in dogs.

The flatulence-collecting system for dogs
Reproduced from Giffard C, Collins S. Dietary manipulation of canine odiferous flatulence. WALTHAM Focus 2000.10(3):32-33

Figure 1: The flatulence-collecting system for dogs, with a representative profile showing flatulence episodes and flatulence-free intervals (Giffard and Collins 2000)

In line with the Caring Science ethos of WALTHAM this was non-invasive and acceptable to the dog, whilst providing robust quantitative data. The dogs accepted the coats with little difficulty. They were monitored continuously whilst wearing the coats to ensure there was no discomfort or complications.

Hydrogen sulphide was established as the main source of malodour, in studies using the coats. A study in 8 adult dogs who wore the coats for 14 hours after feeding on each of 4 days found that the rate of hydrogen sulphide production from each dog was highly variable, as was its production between different dogs (Collins et al. 2001). When hydrogen sulphide was present at a concentration of more than 1 part per million, this was detected by the human nose, and the severity of malodour was highly correlated with hydrogen sulphide concentration (Figure 2) (Collins et al. 2001).

Odour ratings and concentration
Reproduced from Giffard C, Collins S. Dietary manipulation of canine odiferous flatulence. WALTHAM Focus 2000.10(3):32-33

Figure 2: Correlation between odour ratings and concentration of hydrogen sulphide in dog flatus (Giffard and Collins 2000). 1 = no odour, 2 = slightly noticeable odour, 3 = mildly unpleasant odour, 4 = bad odour, 5 = unbearable odour. Odour ratings were positively correlated with concentration of hydrogen sulphide (r = 0.92, P<0.001) and were accurately predicted by the equation 1.5 x H2S concentration0.28

Discovery (Diet)

A dietary supplement containing activated charcoal, Yucca schidigera and zinc acetate can reduce flatulence in dogs

A study in 8 adult dogs showed that the incorporation of activated charcoal, Yucca schidigera and zinc acetate into a dog treat significantly reduced (by 86%) those flatulence episodes with a bad or unbearable odour (Figure 3) (Giffard et al. 2001). The treats were given to the dogs 30 minutes after their usual meal, with flatulence monitored for 5 hours using the coat.

Flatulence episodes of different odour ratings in dogs
Reproduced from Giffard C, Collins S. Dietary manipulation of canine odiferous flatulence. WALTHAM Focus 2000.10(3):32-33

Figure 3: Flatulence episodes of different odour ratings in dogs fed the treat containing charcoal, Yucca schidigera, and zinc acetate (active) or placebo treats (control) (Giffard and Collins 2000). 1 = no odour, 2 = slightly noticeable odour, 3 = mildly unpleasant odour, 4 = bad odour, 5 = unbearable odour. * denotes significant difference between active and control groups (P<0.05)

All three components were effective against malodour. In vitro studies using a faecal fermentation system demonstrated that the production of hydrogen sulphide from fresh dog faeces was reduced 71% by the addition of charcoal to the system, and was reduced 38% by Yucca schidigera and 58% by zinc acetate (Giffard et al. 2001). When all three were added together, hydrogen sulphide production was decreased by 86% (Giffard et al. 2001).

References

Collins SB, Perez-Camargo G, Gettinby G, Butterwick RF, Batt RM, Giffard CJ. Development of a technique for the in vivo assessment of flatulence in dogs. Am J Vet Res. 2001 Jul;62(7):1014-9.


Giffard CJ, Collins SB, Stoodley NC, Butterwick RF, Batt RM. Administration of charcoal, Yucca schidigera, and zinc acetate to reduce malodorous flatulence in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Mar 15;218(6):892-6.


Giffard C, Collins S. Dietary manipulation of canine odiferous flatulence. Waltham Focus 2000.10(3):32-33


Hall RG Jr, Thompson H, Strother A. Effects of orally administered activated charcoal on intestinal gas. Am J Gastroenterol. 1981 Mar;75(3):192-6.


Jones BR, Jones KS, Turner K, Rogatski B. Flatulence in pet dogs. N Z Vet J. 1998 Oct;46(5):191-3.


Lowe JA, Kershaw SJ, Taylor AJ, Linforth RS. The effect of Yucca schidigera extract on canine and feline faecal volatiles occurring concurrently with faecal aroma amelioration. Res Vet Sci. 1997 Jul-Aug;63(1):67-71.


O'Keefe SJ. Nutrition and colonic health: the critical role of the microbiota. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan;24(1):51-8.


Rowan FE, Docherty NG, Coffey JC, O'Connell PR. Sulphate-reducing bacteria and hydrogen sulphide in the aetiology of ulcerative colitis. Br J Surg. 2009 Feb;96(2):151-8.


Suarez FL, Springfield J, Levitt MD. Identification of gases responsible for the odour of human flatus and evaluation of a device purported to reduce this odour. Gut. 1998 Jul;43(1):100-4.


Suarez F, Furne J, Springfield J, Levitt M. Insights into human colonic physiology obtained from the study of flatus composition. Am J Physiol. 1997 May;272(5 Pt 1):G1028-33.


Tomlin J, Lowis C, Read NW. Investigation of normal flatus production in healthy volunteers. Gut. 1991 Jun;32(6):665-9.


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