What are Gas?
In spite of gas being a normal bodily experience for a pet, an excessive amount of it may be due to some underlying cause such as poor diet or a disease. If your cat's gas appears to be a continuous problem, then it may be time to discover the exact cause behind it.
Flatulence, or what is commonly known as 'gas', is a natural digestive process. It occurs when the stomach or intestines expands with air or gas, and that accumulation is then released from the body. Although an unfortunate odor can sometimes accompany it, gas is something that your pet should experience on a regular basis.
Symptoms of Gas in Cats
Gas is certainly a typical digestive response, but, regrettably, it can also be an indicator of a more serious issue. There are a few obvious signs your cat can exhibit, so be on the lookout for one or more of the following:
- Excessive flatulence
- Foul/strong odor
- Abdominal cramps
- Protruding stomach
Borborygmus (low rumbling sounds from lower abdominal region)
Causes of Gas in Cats
There are a variety of reasons why your cat is experiencing too much gas. Common causes are listed below:
- Infection within intestines (both bacterial and viral)
- Intestinal parasites (e.g. roundworms, hookworms)
- Overeating or eating too quickly (swallowing a lot of air)
- Consuming spoiled food
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Malabsorptive disorders (body has difficulty absorbing nutrients)
- Maldigestive disorders (difficulty digesting food)
- Intolerance/allergy (e.g. milk)
- Diet (e.g. high in fiber or soy)
Diagnosis of Gas in Cats
Once you have become aware of a difference in your cat's natural flatulence, then having them examined by a veterinarian is the next important step. Initially, your vet will want a full health history. Eating patterns and specific foods can help reveal an immediate cause to your cat's gas. As such, it is important to keep record of exactly what your cat is eating, the time they eat, and how much. Furthermore, your vet may order a hypoallergenic food trial in order to determine if food allergies are to blame.
If the problem appears to be caused by a more serious complication such as a disease of some sort, then your vet will recommend further diagnostic tests. For instance, if parasites are believed to be a culprit, then your vet will order stool samples as they are highly useful in exposing any worms. If your vet suspects IBD, they will order a gastric biopsy, a procedure that can be done either through abdominal surgery or with an endoscope. An endoscope is far less invasive, but both procedures pose certain risks that should be taken into consideration with your vet.
There are a handful of other tests your vet may recommend completing. Some include a urinalysis, a complete blood count (CBC), a biochemical profile, and abdominal X-rays.
Treatment of Gas in Cats
Treating your cat's flatulence can be simple or more complicated, depending on the cause.
Perhaps the most obvious treatment plan (if food alone is to blame) is changing up your cat's diet. One possible change is lowering the amount of fiber or soy. This can be helped by switching brands of food. If you switch, do not change out all the food at once. The process should occur gradually over the course of a few weeks in order for your cat's digestive system to properly adjust. As such, mix some of the new food with the old, and continue increasing that substitution until your cat is fully ingesting the new brand.
It is helpful to also deter your cat from overeating or consuming their meal too quickly. You can help in this by giving them smaller meals, yet give them more frequently. Making use of an automatic food dispenser, if possible, can assist in this matter. Also, when you have more than one cat, consider feeding them alone as to not bring about any competition which can make them eat faster and overeat.
If a food allergy has been discovered, then it is best to try to eliminate the culprit from the diet completely. A hypoallergenic food diet can serve you best in this case.
Specific treatment is necessary in the event that a larger medical issue has been discovered, such as disease or an infection of some sort. In the case of IBD, the condition can be helped by managing the diet. If not, then your vet may place your cat on a course of corticosteroids, which have immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties. Antibiotics may also be useful in treating IBD if other treatment plans have failed.
Antibiotics, are also prescribed in the treatment of an infection. If your vet has placed your cat on antibiotics, be certain to follow the exact care plan in order to properly treat the infection. If these medications are not given correctly, your cat may develop drug-resistant bacteria, and their initial infection may not go away. There are risks when taking antibiotics such as fever, diarrhea, and other side effects. However, your vet should conduct the necessary tests to determine the exact antibiotic that can best treat the infection while offering minimal side effects.
If parasites are found, then your vet will begin treatment immediately. The exact medication is determined once a positive fecal exam has been performed. Just as the case with antibiotics, it is important to give the medicine to your cat per your vet's instructions as your cat become re-infected with the same parasite.
Recovery of Gas in Cats
Once you understand the cause of your cat’s excessive gas and have made use of the treatment plan laid out by your vet, it should be simple enough to ensure your cat's flatulence remains normal. If your cat was placed on medication, then it is important to follow up with your vet. Frequent check-ups can ensure that the underlying issue has been fully managed.
It can take up to several weeks after a change in diet for there to be any noticeable reduction of gas, but it is essential to stick to the plan laid out so your cat's system can adapt. Further changes around the home may be necessary. For instance, be sure to dispose of garbage properly and keep it covered to minimize the chance of your cat consuming any spoiled food. If the cat was infected with a parasite, then be sure to remove fecal matter daily, and disinfect the litter box regularly. Additionally, think about including light exercise in your cat's everyday habits as that can aid in the digestive process.