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    Farting Dogs

    Bella and Gordy Photo: Rod Moser

    I may have reached a new low on Blog topics, so I apologize in advance. As a lifelong dog-lover, I think this is a topic that should be discussed. I am not the only one that feels this way, either. When I put “dog farts” in my Google search engine, there were 340,000 citations. Much to my personal horror, some of those citations were videos! Anyone that has ever owned dogs know that dogs will occasionally clear a room with an eye-watering, gassy ripper. Sometimes the dogs are just blamed by a shifty-eyed man sitting next to him, but sometimes it IS the dog, or in my most recent experience…two dogs.

    Dogs have similar gastrointestinal tracts as humans. They eat and intestinal bacteria try to digest and break the food down into fuel. Depending on what is eaten, some foods are just more-gassy. Foods high in sugars, carbohydrates, and slowly-digestible fibers can produce quite a bit of flatulence. Notorious in the gas department has always been beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, potatoes, brussel sprouts, milk/lactose, and even pasta. Most people have identified foods that react in this way. This is why we don’t feed bean burritos to dogs (or Grandpa) or why it is not a good idea to eat a big bowl of chili before a job interview. Much of dry or even wet dog food has a lot of grains, and most grains fit this gassy category.

    Other things that fill our intestinal tracks with gas would be carbonated beverages, eating too quickly, and aerophagia – the medical term for swallowing air. Stomach gas will come out as a belch (eructation), but some of this unwanted air will migrate into the intestinal track where it blends and mellows with the gassy products of digestion.

    Gas expands at higher altitudes, so this explains why air travel often causes flatulence. Most questions that I get on the Ear, Nose, and Throat message board involved ear pressure with air travel; not farting. Even with my tinnitus and decreasing hearing, I still hear (and smell) an occasional fart on my travels. The culprits are usually sleeping (or pretending to be sleeping).

    I had a farting dog when I was about twelve. He ate mostly what we ate, and his name was Casper – an albino boxer. Not only would he sleep on my bed and lie across my legs to the point I was dreaming I was paralyzed, he was a big farter. Because of that, he spent most of his time sleeping in our basement. My mother was not a big fan of dog farts.

    I recently read a National Geographic article on whales and they discussed foul-smelling, whale-farts. On a trip to Baja two years ago, I personally experienced a few of those, although the Mexican tour guide looked a bit guilty in my opinion. There were no dogs around to blame.

    So, everyone and every mammal will fart from time to time, although a significant percentage of the human population will deny it. When I was in medical training, I was horrified one day when the lecturing radiologist suddenly stops talking and let out one of the loudest intestinal explosions that I had every heard. Naturally, a fart causes a reaction, and in this case, the reaction was laughter.

    “Why are you laughing? Flatus is a normal, human response”, he said.

    We knew that, of course, but we were not expecting a distinguished member of the medical community to fart in front of the entire class. I hope this is not going to be on the final. Throughout the semester, he would fart at least two to three times per class – loud ones – and pretty much getting the same class response. After a few weeks, we sort of got used to them. I did try to come to class early so I could get one of the cherished seats toward the back. It is one thing to hear a fart. I did not intend to have a multi-sensory experience.

    I went to visit my new grandson for the first time this week. I will blog about that “First Encounter” on a separate post. It seems sacrilegious to talk about your grandson and farting dogs in the same story. My new grandson lives with his parents (of course), a cat, and two Boston Bull Terriers: Bella and Gordy, the Farting Dogs.

    Babies fart all of the time, much to the amusement of older siblings. Working in medicine, especially pediatrics, I have become accustomed to these random acts of innocence. I have encountered some of the more noxious and odoriferous smells known to man, but these two dogs can quickly clear a room. I am not exaggerating. Not only are they very sociable; jumping all over you, they will randomly fart a dozen or more times every hour. It was unbelievable. I once read that dogs have a sense of smell a thousand times greater than man. If this is true, then why did they not seem to mind the stench?

    Photo: Rod Moser

    They have even taken the dogs to see veterinarian specialists to no avail. The dogs are on a special diet (including duck!) and take special anti-fart food additives. Nothing works. One of my son’s proud possessions is an air purifier (one of those expensive ones that are not supposed to really work). I now know why he needs it. There are cans of room deodorizers all over the place, including special ones that are sold for dog farts. If these were my dogs, they would be eating activated charcoal, attached to a catalytic converter, or spending a considerable amount of time outdoors. This was a real learning experience for me.

    Inhaling dog farts cannot be healthy, but surprisingly, they have not been proven to cause tumors or respiratory problems. Or, do they? My son was diagnosed a few days ago with left lower lobe pneumonia. Is there a connection? If people can try to blame autism on vaccinations, then I can claim that dog farts cause pneumonia. I worry about my little grandson. He does seem to cry a lot. Can we really catch something from dog farts (other than nausea, of course)?

    Farts are composed mostly of nitrogen with a little carbon dioxide. The rotten egg smell is hydrogen sulfide. The flammable gases of methane and hydrogen are also produced in varying amounts. For those of you that have not witnessed the fine art of lighting a fart – a memorable experience from my undergraduate years – it does work. You can get a little blue flame, not unlike a gas stove. My son and his wife had a lot of perfumed candles burning. Hopefully, there will not be an explosion.

    I only had one patient over the years
    that specifically made an appointment because of farting. She had one of the original intestinal bypass surgeries for weight loss and no one really warned her about foul-smelling flatulence as a side-effect. We were able to help her using bismuth subgallate. I suggested this as a remedy for the farting dogs, but I don’t really know if this is safe or will even work.

    Probiotics used to restore intestinal balance are the new buzz word at the natural food stores. Perhaps, probiotics or some combination of digestive enzymes will help these dogs. Again, I don’t know. We use simethicone in babies (and adults) to control gas but I don’t think this will help with the odor. Simethicone does make larger gas bubbles smaller, so maybe a smaller dog fart will be more tolerable. If these were my dogs (unlikely), I would be actively experimenting on finding a cure.

    My son and his wife love their dogs (obviously). For the health of my new grandson, I will continue my research. Maybe I will call my congressman to see if the new economic stimulus package has funding for research in this area.

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