Flatulence in Cats

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Key takeaways

Flatulence (also known as ‘passing gas’ or ‘farting,’ among others) is a natural bodily process where gasses built up in the gastrointestinal system are released through the rectum. Occasional flatulence is normal in cats.

  • Changes to the frequency of flatulence, as well as ongoing, excessive, or extremely foul-smelling flatulence can be signs of gastrointestinal problems, especially if accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, pain, or lack of appetite
  • Underlying causes of excessive flatulence include dietary intolerance, eating too quickly or too much, parasites, infections, allergies, digestive disorders, or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cats with excessive flatulence benefit from veterinary attention, especially if flatulence is accompanied by other signs of illness
  • Diagnostic tools include physical examination, fecal analysis, urinalysis, bloodwork, diagnostic imaging, and biopsy
  • Treatments depend on the underlying cause and may include changes to the diet, environmental changes, and medications including antibiotics or anthelmintics, antiinflammatories, or immunosuppressants
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A closer look: Flatulence in Cats


Digestion is a complex process involving mechanical, chemical, and biological breakdown of foods in the gastrointestinal tract. As food is broken down, gasses are released into the tract by the food itself and by microbes that play a part in digestion. These gasses gradually build up in the tract until they are released either as burps when build up is higher in the tract or as flatulence from the rectum from the lower portion of the tract.

Occasional flatulence is a natural part of a healthy digestive system. Healthy cats pass gas every once in a while with nothing to worry about. Flatulence may be a symptom of an underlying problem when:

  • The frequency increases noticeably
  • The odor is worse than usual
  • It has been going on for several days
  • It is accompanied by other symptoms

Cats with excessive flatulence and other symptoms require veterinary care to diagnose the underlying cause and plan treatment.

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Possible causes


Flatulence occurs when gas accumulates in the gastrointestinal system and exits the body through the rectum. This gas is the result either of air that has been swallowed or as a byproduct of food being digested. A small amount of flatulence is normal. Excessive flatulence may be a sign that something is not right.

Changes in flatulence often occur as a result of dietary changes. Examples include

  • When new food has been introduced too quickly
  • When a manufacturer has changed the formulation of food
  • If the diet is too high in soy, fiber, carbohydrates, etc
  • Overeating
  • Eating too quickly

Increased flatulence may also occur with conditions related to the GI tract or food intolerance.

Risk factors


All cats are expected to have a small amount of flatulence as part of normal digestion.

Whether the onset of flatulence is sudden, intermittent, or gradual, the frequency of flatulence, the volume of the air expelled, and the odor it causes are all indications of the severity of this symptom.

In cases where the number of instances of flatulence has increased to many more times a day than expected, especially if the gas is very smelly, it is likely that the cat has eaten something such as rotten prey or human food that has caused a chemical reaction in its digestive system.

In cases where changes to the frequency or odor of flatulence are less dramatic, it is more likely that there has been a change in diet, that too much food is being eaten, or food is being eaten too quickly.

In the case that onset is gradual, it is more likely to be a microbial imbalance or a digestive disorder.

Testing and diagnosis


Occasional flatulence is normal in cats. Flatulence that increases noticeably in frequency, is excessive, or is particularly smelly, especially when it is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, pain, or lack of appetite, merits veterinary attention.

If investigation of flatulence is warranted, diagnostic tools include:

  • Physical examination
  • Fecal analysis
  • Urinalysis
  • Diagnostic imaging such as X-ray or ultrasound
  • Bloodwork
  • Biopsy

If food allergies are suspected, diet elimination trials and further diagnostics may be suggested. Referral to a specialist may be required.

Treatment depends on the underlying condition, if one is present. Depending on the specifics, treatments for conditions associated with flatulence may include:

  • Changes to the diet
  • Changes to the way the cat is fed (for example a slow feeder)
  • Anthelmintics (dewormers)
  • Antibiotics
  • Antivirals
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antiinflammatory medication
  • Gas reducers
  • Prebiotics or probiotics

Similar symptoms


Normal flatulence in cats is sometimes mistaken for a symptom of an underlying issue.

Associated symptoms


References


Amanda Ardente, DVM, PhD. - Writing for PetMD
Hannah Hollinger - Writing for Wag!
Alice Defarges , DVM, DACVIM / Shauna Blois , DVM, DVSc, DACVIM-SAIM / Edward J. Hall , MA, VetMB, PhD, DECVIM-CA / Thomas W. G. Gibson , BSc, BEd, DVM, DVSc, DACVSMR / Kelly D. Mitchell , BSc, DVM, DVSc, DACVIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
No Author - Writing for Hill's Pet Nutrition
DR. SARAH WOOTEN, DVM, CVJ - Writing for Cats.com
No Author - Writing for Dutch

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