Causes of Upset Stomach in DogsAs with most health ailments, dogs can experience an upset stomach for a variety of reasons. Because of the number of potential culprits, it can be difficult to narrow down exactly what may be causing your pup to feel so icky. However, there are a few common causes of upset stomach in dogs. These include:
Food ChangesMost dogs will eat just about anything that you give them. True, there are some dogs that seem to be more particular and picky, but in general, dogs like to eat just about everything. The problem with eating anything and everything is that sometimes their tummies don't like what they've eaten. Some dogs can have sensitive guts, and even small changes in their diet can mess with their system and make them sick. One way to combat this is if you are attempting to change their food, mix two different formulas together. Then you can slowly phase the old one out over a period of time, rather than making an abrupt change.
Table Scraps and Spoiled FoodAnother way to avoid an upset stomach in dogs is to not feed your dog table scraps. This is especially important if his stomach is sensitive. When dogs have a delicate constitution, you never know what might trigger an upset, and sometimes people food is a little too rich for their digestive systems. An additional thing to watch out for is your dog getting into the trash and consuming food that may be spoiled. Canines, like humans, can become violently sick from eating spoiled or contaminated meats and veggies. And what dog doesn’t like to root around in the garbage? Unfortunately, this makes rotten food a common trigger for an upset stomach.
Eating Too Fast or SlowSometimes, dogs can simply get sick because they eat too much. Just like you and I can overeat, dogs can too, and they may pay for it later. On other occasions, it's possible for your dog not to eat enough, and then feel sick because of it. Other times, maybe your dog just ate his food too fast. Puppies are notorious for gobbling down their food quickly, so that's something to look out for especially in younger canines. Also, sometimes dogs eat foreign (non-food items) that they shouldn't, such as plastic, fuzz, and whatever else they come across that they find intriguing. Foreign objects in your dog’s gut can cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal problems.
DehydrationSometimes dogs can become dehydrated, and this can cause their stomach to be upset. This seems to be especially common in pups, as it is very easy for their small bodies to become dehydrated. Dehydration often comes on with a bout of diarrhea, and you may notice that your dog doesn’t seem interested in drinking his water or have much of an appetite. If you suspect dehydration, you can do a skin pinch test on your dog's neck. Skin that remains in a pinched position indicates dehydration. You can also check your dog’s gums, and make sure they appear shiny and wet-looking. If they don’t, dehydration could be the issue.
Stress and AnxietySometimes dogs can just become stressed and anxious, which can upset their tummies. This can rock the balance of bacteria, and trigger vomiting and diarrhea, as well as cause fatigue. Your dog may experience a loss of appetite, and attempt to eat grass to soothe his stomach. Sometimes even the weather can trigger an upset stomach, especially in the case of thunderstorms and dogs who may be afraid of thunder.
VirusesYour dog could also contract a virus that is making him sick. Especially if his stomach upset seems particularly virulent, with explosive diarrhea or hard-core vomiting. This can be an indication his problem is viral. The parvovirus, as well as the coronavirus, are particularly nasty little agents of illness for dogs. If you suspect any type virus, it is important to see your vet. He may not need medications, but your dog could still require treatment in the form of fluids to help him stay hydrated until the virus runs its course.
Underlying IllnessDogs often get sick to their stomach because of some underlying health issue that you may or may not be aware of. Pancreatitis can sometimes be an underlying health concern, especially if your dog appears to be in severe pain and is running a fever. Stomach ulcers are also a common culprit, and one indicator of that could be whether your dog appears to have blood in his vomit. Digested blood will look like old coffee grounds, only smell much worse! Sometimes dogs experience bloat, also called torsion, which causes their belly to become bloated and tender, and then they get very sick.
Signs and Symptoms of Upset Stomach in DogsDogs can present with many indicators of an upset stomach, with two of the most common being diarrhea and vomiting. Other signs of upset stomach in dogs may include:
- Constipation or trouble defecating.
- Signs of blood, either in your dog’s feces or sometimes in his urine and vomit.
- Fatigue and lethargy.
- A stomach that looks hard or distended, and appears painful.
- Dehydration, which you can check by the elasticity of his skin, and by examining his gums. If they look dry and pale, without a moist coating, then your dog could need fluids.
- Sometimes dogs may drool if they are feeling nauseous.
- Your dog’s appetite may change and he may not be hungry.
- Your dog could have gas.
- Sometimes dogs may run a fever with tummy upset.
Treating Dogs with Upset Stomach
There are many ways to treat an upset stomach, but it all depends on what is causing the upset in the first place. If your dog appears to be extremely ill, then taking him to the vet is your best move. Your vet can prescribe antibiotics as well anti-fungal or bacterial medications if needed. Your vet can also administer fluids if your dog is extremely dehydrated, and they can give you specific recommendations based on your dog’s needs. However, if your dog's upset tummy appears to be a mild case, there are other ways to treat his symptoms and keep him comfortable while the illness runs its course, which may allow you to skip the expensive vet visit.
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Pepto Bismol™ and Imodium®For a mild upset stomach or case of diarrhea, sometimes giving your dog Pepto-Bismol™ or Imodium® can be helpful. You will want to call your vet first to make sure it's safe, as well as obtain the proper dosage for the size of your dog.
FastingObviously, if your dog's tummy is upset, giving him food is only going to upset it further. Just like with humans who contract a tummy bug, fasting can provide a period of relief and give your dog’s tummy a bit of time to rest and heal. You will still need to give your pup fluids and water, but you should do it in very small amounts on a frequent basis, so that he doesn’t consume too much too fast, and make his upset stomach worse. Fasting is recommended for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, but should only really be used with adult dogs. After the fasting period, you can introduce very bland foods into your dog’s diet very slowly, until you are sure his stomach is back on track and can handle a normal diet.
Plain Unsweetened YogurtYogurt contains probiotics, and dogs that are having tummy issues can always benefit from probiotics. Feeding your dog a tablespoon or two of unsweetened yogurt can be soothing to the gut, and help your dog’s intestinal flora to balance back out. However, make sure the yogurt is plain, as artificial sweeteners and sweeteners like Xylitol can be very dangerous for your canine friend.
Bananas and PumpkinAdding foods like bananas and pumpkin into your dog’s diet can be beneficial to an upset stomach too. Pumpkin is very high in fiber, so it can help with bowel problems and keep him moving properly, plus it is loaded with antioxidants. Bananas are loaded with many nutrients too, including potassium and vitamin C, and they can boost your dog's immune system, inhibit the growth of bacteria, and provide essential electrolytes that help prevent dehydration.
Try a Bland DietFoods that are recommended for a dog on a bland diet include boiled rice, white meat chicken with no bones or skin, or lean and drained hamburger. Do not season this type of food, or add anything extra at all. Remember, the goal is bland! You can offer this mixture to your dog several times a day in three or four small meals, until his digestive issues begin to improve. You can also try adding in the yogurt or pumpkin to this mixture, to give it a fiber and probiotics boost. If your dog doesn’t seem interested in this recipe, you could also try giving him baby food with meat in it. Just make sure there are no onions or garlic in the recipe, as these are toxic for dogs. Most of the time, baby food is bland enough that it can be eaten on an upset tummy, and dogs seem to like the flavor.
IceGiving your dog water can cause further upset in a dog that is ill. While it’s important to keep your furry friend hydrated, sometimes water isn’t the best route. You can try offering him ice chips instead. If your dog can tolerate the ice chips well, then you can offer him more a few hours later, and combine it with 1 or 2 teaspoons of water.
Bone BrothBone broth is an excellent way to provide minerals and nutrition for dogs that are sick, and it is soothing and healing to their stomach. However, bone broth would need to be made ahead of time and frozen, because it takes at least a day to make it properly. Then you could freeze it into ice cubes, and have on hand whenever your dog gets sick.
Ginger and Oatmeal
Additionally, natural remedies like ginger and oatmeal can be helpful to dogs with an upset stomach. Ginger is well known for its anti-nausea properties, and can also help with gas and bloating. Oatmeal is great for soothing a stomach that is upset, and provides a variety of vitamins, minerals, and soluble fiber. Like yogurt however, avoid oatmeal blends that have sugar, especially artificial sweeteners. Plain is the way to go! As you can see, there are many potential reasons a dog develops an upset stomach, and there can be many ways to treat it. Some cases of tummy upset will be milder than others; in some instances, they may even resolve on their own. If you leave your dog alone and let him do what comes naturally, (i.e. eat grass), he will often recover without any help from you. If you feel that fasting, or protocols like the bland diet might help, then there's nothing wrong with giving it a shot. You want to give your dog the best chance at speedy and full recovery. However, if your dog appears to be running a fever, or his illness and symptoms seem particularly severe, do not hesitate to take your dog to the vet to rule out more serious conditions like parvo or giardia. Always better to be safe, rather than sorry.
*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.