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As the Vet: Many Animals Have White Bellies

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: I notice that many cats have white bellies and some also have white paws, even when the rest of the coat is another color. Are white bellies as prevalent among cats as they seem? If so, why?

A: White bellies are indeed common among cats, dogs and other species. Each of my tuxedo cats is black with a white underside and paws, as though the cat is wearing a black tuxedo with a white shirt and socks.

This coat pattern occurs because of the distribution of melanocytes, cells that contain a pigment called melanin that produces color.

When the developing cat is just an embryo, still a tiny round ball, the melanocytes congregate on the outer surface, where the skin and fur will form, along what will become the kitten's spine.

As the embryo develops, the melanocytes migrate down along the outside surface of the sphere toward what will be the kitten's belly and feet.

If the melanocytes divide quickly, enough of them reach the kitten's underside to produce color there. However, if the pigment cells divide slowly and don't migrate the full distance, the cat's belly will be devoid of pigment and appear white.


Q: Our dog, Jingles, has dreadful flatulence. When he farts, the odor can clear a room. What causes flatulence, and what can we do about it?

A: Dogs pass air they swallow while eating and expel the gases formed by intestinal bacteria that ferment dietary fiber and other carbohydrates not broken down by the dog's digestive enzymes.

Most of the passed gas is odorless. However, some that is produced by bacteria in the large intestine contains hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

Flatulence is treated many ways, depending on the cause.


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