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What Causes Upset Stomach in Dogs?

Posted by Animal Care Team on
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It is quite common for dogs to experience an upset stomach, otherwise known as dyspepsia. An upset stomach can affect both young dogs as well as older dogs, and in most cases, they will recover just fine on their own. However, sometimes an upset stomach is more than just an upset stomach and may be related to an underlying health concern. Regardless of the cause, if your dog is suffering from a severe upset stomach, and it has lasted beyond a reasonable 24-hour timeframe, you should see your vet as soon as possible. A tummy upset that goes beyond the 24-hour period can cause further health issues, such as dehydration, anemia, and weight loss. Severe dehydration and anemia can be fatal.

Causes of Stomach Upset in Dogs

Dogs can suffer from an upset stomach for a variety of reasons. Some of the more benign triggers are related to things like overeating, or not eating enough. In both cases, your dog’s stomach can become upset and cause illness. Or things like worms, viruses and bacteria, and even motion sickness can cause your dog to have an upset stomach. And that’s something to keep in mind the next time you want to take your dog on a road trip to the beach!


Other causes of an upset stomach may be related to parasites, such as giardia, hookworm, whipworm, coccidia, and more. Though coccidia is relatively rare, giardia is common. These tiny parasites are microscopic, and very hardy. When they are the cause of your dog's upset stomach, they can wreak quite a bit of havoc.

Dietary Changes

Sometimes, dogs suffer from an upset stomach due to dietary changes, or eating something that they don't agree with. Other times it may be a food allergy that could have been previously unknown.


Viruses can cause stomach upsets too, including serious viruses such as parvo and distemper, as well as corona. Distemper and parvo can be deadly, so if you suspect either of these, it's important to see your vet as soon as possible. If your dog’s immune system is compromised or weakened in any way, bacterial infections can gain a foothold too, and cause gastrointestinal upsets. In particular, bacteria like e. coli and salmonella are quite common.


Sometimes, dogs may experience an upset stomach because they have inadvertently poisoned themselves. Dogs can be poisoned by getting into household items such as pesticides, as well as over-the-counter drugs. Other things like antifreeze, and even seemingly innocuous things like your vitamin D supplements can be toxic to your dog and make him very ill. If your dog goes outside a lot, some plants can be poisonous to dogs. These can cause diarrhea and vomiting, especially with plants like elephant ears and nettles. Dogs also tend to enjoy rooting around in the garbage, and often find all sorts of interesting and potentially toxic things.

Food Sensitivity

Seemingly benign foods, such as garlic, grapes, onions, and chocolate, can at times make a dog sick if ingested. This is especially true if they are ingested in large quantities. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that extremely toxic to animals, and should be kept in a high pantry in a sealed container, well away from your four-legged friends.

Stress & Anxiety

Finally, stress and anxiety are common causes of an upset stomach in dogs. Just like people, dogs can respond to stressful situations with feelings of anxiousness. Those feelings can cause gastrointestinal upset, gas, and even diarrhea. If you suspect stress or anxiety is the cause of your dog’s illness, you will need to look around your environment, and try to figure out the source of his distress. If you can't eliminate the source of the stress and anxiety, you may need to see your vet so that they can prescribe specialized treatment options and possible medications to keep your dog calm and even-keeled.

More Severe Symptoms

More severe signs of an upset stomach in dogs include vomiting as well as diarrhea, and if left unchecked, both can lead to dehydration. Sometimes, dogs may have slightly yellow colored bile in their vomit, or show signs of blood, either fresh or digested. These type of symptoms can indicate a more serious stomach upset, such as gastritis or inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease can cause problems with your dog’s small or large intestine, and unfortunately, is usually a condition that will have to be managed throughout his life. As you can see, dogs are much like people when it comes to getting an upset stomach. There can be a variety of causes, and treatment methods can vary depending on your dog’s needs. Again, in milder cases it often resolves on its own when you just let your dog do his thing. Just remember that if your dog has an upset stomach and it doesn’t resolve on its own within 24 hours, see your vet.

*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.





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