Managing your Dog’s Sensitive Stomach

Understanding your dog’s tummy can be a minefield and controlling what enters their mouth is sometimes impossible. Yet figuring out their unique dietary and digestive needs can be vital for their overall health and happiness.

Many dogs naturally have sensitive stomachs, others have food intolerances, and sometimes it’s a sign of something more serious. However, choosing a diet that suits your dog and feeding them the right food can help massively with their digestive issues.

We asked Brandon Stapleton, DVM, and head veterinarian for 5-star-rated The Farmer’s Dog, for his advice on spotting, aiding, and feeding a dog with a sensitive stomach.

What is a sensitive stomach?

As with people, conditions such as sporadic diarrhea or stomach bloat can be triggered in certain dogs if something doesn’t agree with them.

“A sensitive stomach generally describes persistent digestive problems of varying type and intensity in dogs,” says Dr. Stapleton. “It can manifest in several ways, from gas, diarrhea, difficulty tolerating foods beyond their regular diet, or even complete food intolerance.”

If your dog is showing any of the following symptoms, they may be experiencing stomach sensitivity:

  • Intolerance for many foods or sensitivity to small dietary changes
  • Periodic loose stools or diarrhea (“unpredictable poops”)
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Bouts of vomiting or regurgitation
  • Lots of gas
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

These are just some of the common symptoms of an extensive list. For dogs with a sensitive stomach, these issues often persist over extended periods and can prove resistant to various forms of treatment or intervention.

What causes a dog’s stomach problems?

Some dogs are just unlucky and are born with an inherited sensitive tummy. Certain breeds, such as brachycephalic dogs, are known for their gaseousness (sorry, Pugs!). But, dogs of any breed and age can experience digestive issues.

However, it’s important to note that a “sensitive stomach” is not a diagnosis but a sign of an underlying issue that you should get to the bottom of.

“Pinpointing the exact cause of your dog’s stomach problems can be difficult, given the many possible triggers for a sensitive stomach,” says Dr. Stapleton.

“Your dog might be overeating or have a dietary indiscretion. Other reasons can include infections, ulcers, allergies — or it could be something even more alarming such as liver ro kidney disease or an intestinal blockage.”

The occasional bout of gas or loose stool is part and parcel of a dog’s (and human’s) life, but if these symptoms persist over the long term, it might be an underlying issue.

What to do for a dog with a sensitive stomach

First and foremost, you must uncover what might be causing your dog’s digestive issues.

If your dog is vomiting after eating an unwanted item at the park, this is normal and probably welcomed. One or two experiences of diarrhea or vomiting are most likely nothing to worry about.

“You must identify if your dog’s stomach issue is recurring and not just the consequence of an obvious trigger,” says Dr. Stapleton. “If this is the case, or if there is a serious symptom like vomiting blood, see your veterinarian as soon as possible.”

But, as we’ve said, stomach problems can come from an array of issues — your vet will help identify the cause. They’ll try to figure out if the problem is in your dog’s stomach or somewhere else in their body. If it’s in the stomach, it could be things like parasites, infections, food sensitivities, or IBD. If it’s somewhere else in the body, like their kidneys, liver, or pancreas, it can still mess with their digestion.

Depending on their diagnosis, a veterinarian will advise the best protocol which may include a limited-ingredient diet to identify and eliminate triggers. However, if you have ruled out the more serious issues and your veterinarian has not suggested a particular diet, maybe it’s time to look at what you’re already feeding your dog.

What to feed a dog with a sensitive stomach

All dogs have unique tastes and sensitivities so, unfortunately, there is no easy answer for a sensitive tummy.

The first protocol is to understand what exactly is going into that mouth of theirs. If your dog is hoovering up the trash or nibbling up the cat’s litter tray, it’s time to get their snack intake under control.

Once you’ve got your dog’s snacking in check, it’s time to focus on their main meal.

What should my dog’s dinner look like on a sensitive stomach?

You might consider a different type of food, for example, a dry, wet, or fresh food diet. Recipes that are highly digestible could be a great option for sensitive stomachs.

“Firstly, ensure you are feeding your dog a complete and balanced meal,” says Dr. Stapleton. “It’s important to feed your dog high-quality meat and vegetables so they can absorb the powerful nutrients and easily digest the food.”

Often it’s easier to identify what is in limited-ingredient dog food, which can be a good option if you are struggling to understand what sets your dog’s stomach off.

Many dogs can be sensitive to a particular protein which is why it’s essential to find a food that contains one high-quality source. It can also be easier for dogs to digest one single source and — easier for you to identify what is causing their problems.

When it comes to addressing a sensitive tummy in dogs, a one-size-fits-all solution simply doesn’t exist. Dogs of varying breeds, ages, and types often demand tailored diets, occasionally involving a bit of experimentation.

The crucial factor lies in prioritizing a well-balanced, digestible diet that aligns with your dog’s individual needs. Whether your furry friend favors turkey, beef, or another protein source, finding the right formula can make all the difference in their digestive health.

You can see our pick of the Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs.

How do I safely transition to a new food
if my dog has a sensitive stomach?

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, be patient and don’t rush the transitioning process.

Start with about 20-25% of the “new” food and 75-80% of the “old” food. Then, slowly increase that amount to a full 100% over the next 7 to 10-day period. Monitor your dog’s poop and take note of the new ingredients that may or may not be agreeing with them.

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