Kent E. Kraus, DVM
There are a lot of jokes about book titles and their authors. It is sophomoric entertainment at best, but usually nothing more than grade school bathroom humor. You know what I’m talking about. Such classics as “Rusted Bedsprings” by I.P. Knightly, “Mountain Stream” by I.P. Freely (no relation), and, of course, one of my favorites “Trails in the Sand” by Peter Dragon – just think about that one for few seconds. No, no, no. I’m not trying to insult your intelligence; I’m just used to having to explain jokes to my most perfect and wonderfully naïve mother. Love you, Mutti! (Mutti is the endearing German term for “mom.”)
Anyway, flatulence by your pet is an oft sought-after topic of discussion by clients in my practice. And, by the end of this article, you will know everything I know. But first (no pun intended – sorry, that was just too easy), a few stories.
Every veterinarian I know has a similar flatulence story. Nine times out of ten, the female client (the wife) has a complaint about the dog “passing gas” in the bedroom. Being a trained observer of the “human/animal” bond, I quickly glance to my XY comrade. He, of course has an intriguing and somewhat spiritual “half grin” on his face. It’s kind of like the male equivalent of the Mona Lisa, which I warn you, may be hard to look at after reading this article. You may never be able to look at that painting again without thinking she may have just lifted up one cheek and “let ‘er rip.” Nonetheless, in a nanosecond I have to discern whether the husband is thinking: a) “I fooled her,” b) “Hey, that’s my dog!” or c) “Kent, you better figure this out quickly or she will blame me.” Please understand this: To my knowledge, all warm-blooded species “fart” (with the exception of me, of course). You know, we spend millions of dollars every year to figure out why there is a hole in the ozone layer. All that the scientists have to do is talk to my ex-wife (no, I’m not bitter!).
Then there are the “doggy S.B.D’s” – silent but deadly. This brings to mind my brother, Karl. Karl, a very accomplished board certified veterinary surgeon in neuro and orthopedics, professor at Tufts University, and owner of numerous patents, had the “brilliant” idea of offsetting his medical school costs by breeding a dog and selling her puppies. The dog was a beautiful yellow lab named Brooke Fields. Get it? Brooke Fields/Brooke Shields (obviously, humor only runs in one part of our family). That dog could really clear out the family room. But she did it while feigning sleep. She would lie there motionless and release an inaudible, ionicly adhesive cloud of gas whose molecular weight miraculously stabilized about three feet off the floor. We would by watching the Johnny Carson monologue and then, one by one, start seizuring as if we took a cyanide capsule. Opening windows in our farm house in January with -30°F wind chill factor may sound suicidal to some. To us, that breath of fresh air meant survival. Yelling at the dog did no good. Brooke would lay motionless, barely open one eye and, I swear, would lift her left lip and sneer.
I’ve had clients try everything from changing dog food to supplementing with Beano®, Pepto Bismol®, Gas-X®, etc., etc, etc. I’ve even spent money on a continuing education course about “gaseous pets.” Imagine if you will, a four-day veterinary conference with a choice of 15 lectures each hour by some of the best minds in veterinary medicine, and a lecture devoted to flatulence drawing a standing-room-only crowd.
Yep, in this particular lecture hall there were over 100 seats that were filled and well over 50 other vets standing up against the wall just waiting for that “pearl of wisdom” so we could fix this problem that so many of our clients ask of us. In fact, so many of us crowded into that room that the fire marshal had to ask some to leave because the room was over capacity level. Those of us, the go-getters of education, the inquiring minds of knowledge – O.K. the nerds, sprinted to the nearest seats. You know, those wonderful seats, those chairs so scrunched together that after 15 minutes sitting there your toes start tingling, your legs begin to burn and your butt goes numb! We sat there for 45 minutes (the professor gets paid for a 50-minute lecture) viewing slides on the physiology and chemical makeup of farts! I just wanted to know how to fix the problem!!
So I continued to sit, keeping a close eye on my watch for the last four minutes and 38 seconds, waiting with baited breath like everyone else and thinking that the lecture was going to go into “overtime” for that mystical wisdom. Then with less then 30 seconds to go, the professor informs us that since dogs are horizontal in their gastrointestinal anatomy, no medication really works to fix flatulence. Then she ran out of the room, knowing it would take us three to five minutes to be able to stand up out of those miserable chairs, track her down and yell at her for wasting our time. But then again, I just did the same thing to you. I’m sorry. I don’t have that magical pill, but I do hope you were reading this sitting on a couch.