Just like people, dogs may have different reactions to various foods. One of your dogs might thrive on the dog food you give them, but the other might end up with an upset stomach.
My yorkie Frankie, who went over the rainbow bridge last winter used to get super sick from eating turkey. The rest of his fur family was able to digest it just fine. One dog may be sensitive to certain foods, but another isn’t, just like with people. The same goes for those sneaky scraps we give them from our plate - it’s often a case of learning what they can handle and what leaves them feeling a little under the weather.
Assuming your dog is healthy and has no ongoing problems, an upset stomach can be caused by many things, including eating a new food, having a new treat or chew that has higher-than-usual fat content, a change in environment, or eating too fast, to name a few. Here’s how to identify a dog’s upset stomach and treat it.
When it comes to upset tummies in dogs, it’s important to remember prevention is better than a cure. “I recommend feeding a high quality diet, and limiting the number of treats you give,” says Jordan Turner, a veterinary surgeon. For those dogs who like to scavenge, try to keep things out of reach. For some dogs, it’s important to keep your trash can secure!
“Besides the obvious vomiting or diarrhea, dogs with upset stomachs usually exhibit certain behaviors like being unable to settle down, pacing back and forth, and/or using grass to help quickly purge the contents of the stomach (if available),” explains Johnna Devereaux, a clinical pet nutritionist, decades-long Herbalist, and Director of Nutrition & Wellness for Bow Wow Labs. You may also hear audible gurgling in their bellies or notice excess flatulence.
If your dog has a digestive problem, the first thing to think about is how severe the problem is. “There are a few times where you’ll need to contact your veterinarian straight away,” says Dr. Turner. For example: if your dog is seeming very quiet, lethargic or confused; if your dog’s poop or sickness turns black, or contains lots of blood; or if your dog is trying to be sick, but nothing is coming up. “Unfortunately every dog (and person!) will get ill at some point,” says Dr. Turner.
Constipation is unusual in dogs but it does sometimes happen. “More often, dogs that initially look constipated actually have a problem called colitis,” explains Dr. Turner. This makes dogs strain to try to poop, over and over again, without producing anything. “Colitis makes dogs think they need to go to the toilet, but there’s nothing there to come out anymore,” says Dr. Turner. So sometimes dogs with “constipation” actually have diarrhea!
It can be hard to deal with, but remember, you’ve got to forgive any accidents at this time. Your dog can’t help it! The best thing is to just clean up any messes and not to punish your dog, punishing in this situation won’t help anybody.
For cases where the upset is more unpleasant than concerning there are a few things you can do at home.
Rest is really important to let your dog get better, so take it easy! “Plenty of relaxation and cuddles is the order of the day, but a bit of gentle exercising and walking (just around the block or so) can be beneficial,” says Dr. Turner.
Sometimes, you can give dogs electrolytes in their water. “This helps them to recover and ensures that they do not dehydrate. You can buy this from your vet, and it is usually chicken flavor to encourage them to drink it. It’s basically Dioralyte for dogs,” says Jeff Carbridge, a dog trainer at DogOwner.co.uk.
For dogs with diarrhea, it’s best to keep feeding them and NOT to starve them. “Starving dogs with diarrhea is old-fashioned and has been shown to slow the recovery period,” says Dr. Turner. For dogs with sickness, it’s worth trying to see if they want to eat, but if they’re not interested in food, that’s OK, as long as it’s only for a short period.
When feeding dogs with upset tummies, the real key is to feed bland food and to give small amounts frequently. “Some dogs do well when fed their own food, so long as it’s high quality,” says Dr. Turner. “For other dogs, tempting them with something like chicken and rice, scrambled eggs, boiled potatoes, white fish or pasta works well. You could also try feeding your dog “sensitive” or prescription food. Foods low in fat are definitely best for upset tummies,” adds Dr. Turner.
Another example is an egg. “I always recommend feeding a hard-boiled egg with brown rice in very small mini-meals for the next 24 hours — again we want the body to work as minimally as possible while it is healing,” says Devereaux. You can then begin to mix in your dog’s regular food (as long as this isn’t the cause for the upset tummy).
There are some supplements that can be helpful for dogs with upset tummies. “Look for a supplement that contains kaolin and psyllium,” says Dr. Turner. These ingredients help bind diarrhea together, settle the upset, and some products have probiotics to help the good gut bacteria.
If the situation doesn’t resolve itself within 48 hours, or if there is a known reason, like ingestion of a foreign or toxic substance, Devereaux says it’s very important NOT to delay and to contact your veterinarian immediately.