Flatulence in Cats
Dr. Bari Spielman
Flatulence is the distension of the stomach or intestines with gas or air. Flatus is the gas expelled from the body opening. The term flatulence is also used to refer to the release of intestinal gas through the anus. Aerophagia (swallowing air) occurs most often from eating quickly or gulping during eating.
Gas production or accumulation in the gastrointestinal tract is normal. Excessive production may not be indicative of any particular disease or disorder. However, in certain gastrointestinal diseases, the normal production of gas may be increased and excessive flatulence may result. Nearly all gastrointestinal gas comes from either swallowed air (aerophagia) or from air produced by bacterial fermentation and processing of ingested nutrients. Any condition that leads to increases in these gases can cause flatulence. Over 99 percent of gas is odorless, and less than 1 percent accounts for the odor we often associate with flatulence.
Flatulence can be benign and short lived, such as when an animal overeats or ingests food it is not used to. Flatulence can also be recurrent, chronic, and/or representative of a significant underlying disease. For this reason, persistent flatulence should not be ignored.
Diets that are high in soybean or fiber, spoiled food, and/or overeating increase the amount of gas produced by the intestinal bacteria and increase the amount of flatulence.
Dietary intolerance or allergy may induce gastrointestinal signs that include any combination of vomiting, diarrhea, and flatulence.
Malabsorptive disorders (diseases that cause difficulty absorbing nutrients) and maldigestive disorders (diseases that cause poor digestion of food) result in flatulence by altering bacterial fermentation and food processing.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an inflammation of the walls of the intestines. Vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, poor appetite, and weight loss are common clinical signs of IBD.
Gastrointestinal cancer, such as lymphosarcoma and others may cause flatulence.
Infections of the intestines with viruses, bacteria, parasites may increase gas production, but this is often overlooked because of the significant vomiting and diarrhea they also produce.
Constipation is the infrequent or difficult passage of feces. It is occasionally associated with flatulence.
What to Watch For
Borborygmus, which is the rumbling noise made as gas moves through the gastrointestinal tract
Passage of gas from the anus (farting)
A complete history may help identify foodstuffs or eating patterns that might be responsible for the flatulence. A thorough physical examination may help identify other signs of a gastrointestinal disease. Initial diagnostic tests that may then be recommended include the following:
A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis
Multiple fecal examinations
Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to treat the patient with flatulence prior to instituting a more complete diagnostic work up.
Discourage rapid ingestion of food by feeding smaller, more frequent meals. Cats that gulp their food should be fed alone. The food may also be separated into small quantities that are given in different bowls or locations, or released slowly by an automatic dispenser.
Do not allow your cat access to spoiled food. Keep him confined to the house or yard, and supervise all outdoor activities. Create an environment that does not allow your cat access to garbage or trash.
Change your pet's diet to one that is low in fiber and easily digested.
Institute all feeding and dietary recommendations as directed by your veterinarian. Remove any possible causes of the flatulence, such as exposure to garbage and certain food.