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Digestive Health in Dogs

Posted by Animal Care Team on
dog licking it's mouth for Digestive Health in Dogs blog post
Has Fido been turning his nose up at his food? Has Spot been leaving not-so-fun surprises on the freshly cleaned carpet? Has Foxy’s tummy been looking bloated and less like her usual “foxy” figure? Your dog may be acting up or being difficult because of a digestive issue, not a behavioral problem. With all of the mischief that our mutts tend to get themselves into, there are a number of ways that dogs can develop digestive diseases. Since our dogs can’t slyly hint that they need a few TUMS and a Pepto, we need to be conscious of their digestive health on their behalf. In order to keep Fido, Spot, and Foxy feeling their best, it is important for dog parents to educate themselves on dog digestive health.

Symptoms of Dog Digestive Problems

Keeping your dog’s digestive system healthy begins with being aware of the symptoms associated with digestive complications. Luckily, dog digestive problems are usually relatively easy to spot (and smell), as they typically result in vomiting and diarrhea. Although these are two things that one typically does not want to come across, they are common signs that your dog is having stomach problems. In addition to vomit and diarrhea, there are a number of other symptoms to be on the lookout for when identifying a digestive disease. Loss of appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and abdominal pain are all indicators that your pup’s digestion is slacking. If symptoms only last a day, it is most likely the result of your dog getting into the garbage and eating something that upset his stomach. However, if symptoms continue into a second day, you should seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible to decrease the risk of dehydration and further health complications. Being aware of your furry friend’s typical behavior and observing any drastic changes can help you identify symptoms of a digestive health issue.

Causes of Stomach Problems in Dogs

Dietary Indiscretion

Most digestive problems in dogs are caused by your dog sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong – usually in the trashcan or on your dinner plate. The technical term for this is “dietary indiscretion,” and refers to your dog eating something that his stomach doesn’t agree with. This can be compared to the human version of food poisoning. Similar to the result of eating some spoiled store-bought sushi that doesn’t sit well in your stomach, your dog’s dietary indiscretion will pass in 24-72 hours. During this time, it is extremely important to keep an eye on your dog to prevent him from becoming dehydrated due to the loss of fluids. While most cases are mild and only last about a day, some cases can be more serious. If your dog is feeling down in the dumps for more than 24 hours, it is safest to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that he didn’t ingest anything harmful.


Similar to dietary indiscretions, hypersensitivity is another easily treatable cause of digestive health issues. Some dogs seem to have stomachs of steel as they chow down whatever they can get their paws on; however, other picky pooches are more prone to stomach irritation. Hypersensitivity is a common cause of digestive problems, and is essentially a heightened immune response to a food allergy. Your dog may have an allergy caused by food additives or less-than-ideal ingredients included in many mainstream dog food brands. This issue can be resolved by keeping a close eye on your dog’s diet and checking the ingredients list twice before putting the food bowl down.


Another potential cause of digestive complications in dogs occurs when they have some unexpected visitors of their own—parasites. Intestinal parasites or worms are most common in puppies, but dogs of all ages can be affected by these pests. Tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and coccidian are all intestinal parasites that could be irritating your pup’s digestive system. Although a veterinarian must examine your dog’s stool to identify the type of parasite and recommend the best treatment, you can be on the lookout for worms or eggs in your dog’s stool, excessive rubbing and scratching of the rear end, and an abnormally increased appetite.

Gastritis or IBD

If your canine companion has digestive health issues that won’t seem to quit, there may be a larger issue at hand. Inflammatory Gastritis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are chronic diseases among dogs. They occur when there is an abnormal increase of inflammatory cells in the intestines, causing a number of digestive ailments. Unfortunately, IBD and Gastritis are chronic diseases and are not totally curable. However, when diagnosed, flare-ups can be treated and managed with proper diet and medication.


Another problem area to check when diagnosing your four-legged friend’s digestive health is the pancreas. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed, forcing pancreatic enzymes into the abdominal. The pancreas is part of the digestive system, so by forcing these enzymes into the abdomen, the digestive enzymes begin to break down substances that they shouldn’t. Pancreatitis can spread quickly in dogs and should be treated immediately so that it does not escalate and cause further damage. This is a treatable disease, but when left unattended can cause life-long health defects.

Canine Coronavirus Infection & Parvovirus

Other serious and potentially life threatening digestive diseases are Canine Coronavirus Infection (CCV) and Parvovirus Infection. CCV is a highly contagious intestinal disease with mild, treatable symptoms. However, when coupled with Parvovirus, the side effects are very dangerous. Parvovirus is most commonly manifested as an intestinal infection. In this form, the virus affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, quickly leading to weakness and dehydration. Parvovirus is most common in puppies, and can be a serious threat to a dog’s life. If you suspect it is the cause of your dog’s upset stomach, you should seek veterinary treatment immediately.

Treatment for Dog Digestive Problems

With more digestion problems than Fido can count on all four paws, rest assured that there are also a number of treatments to settle his upset stomach. When a stomach ailment does not pass in 24 hours, it is important not to take any risks and consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. When a dog’s digestion is compromised, they often lose an abundance of nutrients and fluids and risk dehydration. The veterinarian can diagnose man’s best friend and let you know if you are facing an unexpected fluke or a more serious, long-term health complication. In cases of parasites, chronic diseases, serious viruses, or infections, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or specific medicines depending on the origin of the cause. If this is the case, your vet is the only one who can provide you with the solution. However, there are also a number of holistic treatments that you can integrate into your dog’s routine to help keep his digestive tract on the right track. For the abundance of ailments, there are also an abundance of solutions to keep your dog healthy.

Treatment for Dietary Indiscretions

When it comes to dietary indiscretions, (aka getting into the neighbor’s trash) there are a few ways you can treat your pup at home. Even though your dog is losing food through vomit and diarrhea, you should refrain from feeding him for 24 hours to allow the digestive tract to clear. Feeding your dog could lead to further irritation and another mess for you to clean up. Although you want to steer clear of food, you want to do just the opposite with water. When your dog is sick, they lose an abundance of fluids and it’s crucial to keep them hydrated. Leave plenty of fresh, clean water out for your pet when he’s feeling sick. Once your furry friend is ready to eat again, stick to bland food and integrate a probiotic supplement to help speed up the recovery process. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus are beneficial bacteria that naturally live inside your dog’s digestive system. By boosting the probiotics, your dog’s digestive system will be strengthened, speeding up the road to recovery. In addition to probiotics, it is not uncommon to provide your dog with herbal supplements such as Slippery Elm and Boswellia, which are used to calm upset stomachs in dogs and people alike.

Treatment for Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity can be treated naturally through the products that you feed them. Dogs can develop food allergies due to the additives and ingredients in big-brand dog foods. Many dogs react poorly to corn, soy, and wheat, which are unfortunately at the top of the ingredients list in many foods. Additionally, big brands tend to cut corners and fill dog food with animal byproducts, which are essentially the undesirable leftovers that the meat industry throws to the dogs. Avoid feeding your pup these subpar products by reading the ingredients list and looking for a high-quality dog food that contains natural ingredients, real meat, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. Try sticking to bland, wholesome foods in the beginning to determine what is triggering the hypersensitivity in your dog.

Treatment for Parasites

There are a number of monthly combination treatments which treat all of the major stomach parasites at once. Talk to your veterinarian about which is right for your dog. It's important to be constant with these medications as the parasites can easily come back if you stop for a month. In addition to traditional medicines, worms are surprisingly not big on eating their fruits and veggies. Try adding shredded carrot, fennel, papaya, coconut, and pumpkin seeds into your dog’s diet to see if that helps kick the worms out.

Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

There are a number of natural ways that you can help ease flare-ups if your dog suffers from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Unfortunately, this disease is not totally curable, but it can be managed. First and foremost, check the food you are feeding your dog and ensure that it is not filled with irritation-causing ingredients and preservatives. Additionally, probiotic and digestive enzyme supplements can be added to your dog’s food to help mitigate IBD.

Treatment for Pancreatitis in Dogs

The same advice can be given for Pancreatitis. Although you should consult a veterinarian to ensure that the disease does not escalate, changing your dog’s diet can help alleviate the problem. When making any changes to your doggy’s food, make sure to ease the transition so that you do not further upset their sensitive stomach.

Treatment for CCV & Parvovirus

With viruses such as CCV and Parvovirus, you must consult a veterinarian for adequate treatment. Of course, providing your dog with proper vitamins and nutrients will always help improve your pup’s health, but in some, cases nature needs a little boost from the doctor.

Promoting Dog Digestive Health

Being sick is never fun, and cleaning up the aftermath of your furry-friend’s sickness isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. Sometimes digestive health complications are inevitable, but there are preventative measures that you can take to decrease the risk. The most impactful step that you can take is to monitor your dog’s diet. A high-quality pet food can make a huge difference in your dog’s health. Many foods lack nature’s nutrients and you may need to supplement their diet to ensure they are getting the vitamins they need. Integrating probiotics and digestive enzymes into your dog’s food can help monitor the digestive tract and prevent issues from developing.

All of The Missing Link supplements have digestive benefits. Our Powdered supplements are high in fiber from their Brown Flax Seed base. This helps digestive motility and supports your animal's digestive biome. Recently, we've gone one step further and upgraded all of our Original Powders by adding probiotics. Our new Digestion formula builds on this even more with additional digestive support ingredients like ginger and chamomile to ease discomfort, and chicory root as a prebiotic. And as a bonus, it's great for multi-pet households as cats can use it too! Read all about it HERE. 

In addition to the food your dog is consuming, good old-fashioned exercise can also keep your dog’s digestive system moving. Just like with humans, sometimes the solution is as simple as proper diet and exercise!

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