Do Dogs Fart or Do They Just Take the Blame?

Everyone’s been in a situation where a foul smell gets blamed on the dog. But did the dog really do it? And do scientists really study dog farts?
By Caroline Coile

The dog did it.

And it’s time to break out the gas masks. Walter the Farting Dog may be the most famous dog with flatus (that’s the fancy word for fart) but he’s far from the only one. But why do some dogs seem to emit more poisonous gas than others?

To answer this you have to understand the science of farting (fartology?). Amazingly, researchers at Waltham designed a dog fart collection suit (they called it something else, maybe Flatulence Aroma Retention Togs, which I will abbreviate as F.A.R.T.), complete with a sulfur-detecting pump attached to the area near the dog’s anus. That’s your first clue about the ingredients of gas. Sulfur gases, especially hydrogen sulfide, make us want to pinch our noses and start looking for a dog to blame. Even if there’s no dog about. And sulfur-rich foods (like broccoli and cauliflower) just egg it along.

In addition to the cutting edge F.A.R.T. ensemble to measure parts per million hydrogen sulfide, an Odor Judge rated the essence of each flatulence episode. I am sure the parents of this judge left out exactly what kind of judge their son was when tooting about him at dinner parties. The judge rated each on a scale from 1 to 5, from noise only (1) to unbearable (5).

The quantitative data from the fart suit was then compared to the qualitative data from the fart judge. Big surprise, just as with humans, the deadliest ones contained the most hydrogen sulfide.

Let’s get back to basics for a second. A fart is made up partly of gases from swallowed air, partly of components of ingested food, and partly of by-products of bacterial fermentation. Dogs eat diets rich in protein, and proteins contain lots of sulfur, which is a major component of the stink in farts. In addition, some of the stink is made by bacterial fermentation in the gut. Certain carbohydrates that dogs cannot naturally digest increase the amount of gut fermentation, and thus, gas.

The fart scientists at Waltham next gave the dogs a treat containing charcoal, Yucca schidigera and zinc acetate, all of which reduce gas stench in humans. The dogs still farted as much—but the esteemed Odor Judge rated them as far more pleasant. Or at least, less eye-watering.

Certain breeds, most notably the flat-faced ones, have earned a reputation for gassiness, in part because they tend to swallow air when gulping down their food. If your dog farts a lot, you can try different diets, feed less fiber or sulfer-rich foods, give anti-stench supplements, or feed him from a bowl that discourages gulping. Or just buy a gas mask.

“In our house, there is never a question over whether the dog did it. He did,” says DogChannel editor Samantha Meyers. “When our French Bulldog is asleep you can hear him taking in the air on one end as it slowly and often loudly, comes out the other end. He remains asleep and unaware while we are left to suffer with the smell. He’s a hit a dinner parties. ”

By the way, why do dog farts tend to be silent (if deadly)? Some other researchers (are there really dog flatulence researchers at more than one institute?) believe it has to do with the fact that a dog’s anus is not at the bottom of his body, but at the rear. This means his anal sphincter doesn’t have to be as tight as a human one, because it doesn’t have to contend with the pressure caused by gravity that the sphincter at the bottom of our bodies has. A less tight sphincter means the anal opening doesn’t vibrate as much when the gas escapes. It could also be that the dog’s fart, while excelling in quality, isn’t nearly the equal of the human fart in quantity. All of these are still theories, though, and the Nobel Prize surely awaits the intrepid scientist who can get to the “bottom” of this.


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