How To Settle A Dog’s Upset Stomach

Sad dog laying on ground

What helps a dog's upset stomach?

Just like it is for us, an occasional upset stomach can be a totally normal thing for your pooch to experience. However, the main difference is we can communicate out loud when our belly is playing up, and your poor pup can’t.

So, it’s important for any pet parent to recognise the signs and symptoms of a poorly tummy. That way you'll be able to find the cause, learn a preventative, and know what to do if a tempestuous tummy occurs…

What are the symptoms of a dog’s upset stomach?

The signs of an upset stomach are very similar to a human’s. They include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Retching
  • Vomiting
  • Eating grass
  • Excessive gulping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of energy or enthusiasm
  • Sore tummy - indicated by protective behaviour when you go near the belly. This might be a growl when being picked up, or them adopting a downward dog stance (front legs on the floor, hind legs straight) when you approach.

The overall pattern of the above symptoms should subside within 24-48 hours, but if they continue, or happen frequently, it’s always advisable that you check in with your vet.

If your furry friend is experiencing any of the following:

  • Blood in their vomit, urine or poo
  • Signs of dehydration (tacky, pale gums and/or tight skin)
  • You suspect they’ve ingested chemicals, poisons, medicines or known toxic food
  • And/or have a very hard belly

They need to be seen by a vet immediately, as these symptoms could be the signs of a medical emergency.

What causes a dog’s upset stomach?

Boxer dog looking at camera

There are several reasons your dog may have developed an upset stomach. Again, the reasons behind the upset are very similar to human causes too;

  • A sudden change in their food
  • Eating something they shouldn’t have
  • Worms and other parasites
  • Food allergies
  • Gut blockages
  • Bacterial infection
  • Stress

Yes, even stress (most commonly separation anxiety) can cause stomach upsets in dogs!

Does your dog suffer from symptoms often? This may indicate an issue with their gastrointestinal tract or be a sign of a food sensitivity or allergy… Did you know that the most common food reactions in dogs are beef, dairy, chicken, and wheat?

If your suspect your dog might be allergic to food, always discuss your concerns with your vet. You could consider switching to hypoallergenic diet formulations that are on the market which contain hydrolysed proteins, meaning that the ‘reactive’ proteins are already broken down into molecules that the immune system will not recognise as allergens.

If you decide to try a specialised hypoallergenic dog food, it should be fed for a minimum of 8-12 weeks to assess your pooch’s response. It is important to feed them only the hypoallergenic dog food during this period, avoiding all other foods, treats, table scraps, and medicine whilst introducing the new specially-formulated food. 

So, we know why dogs can get troublesome tummies and what the signs of one are. Now we need to know what helps relieve a dog’s upset stomach…

How to settle a dog's stomach: Fasting

If your dog isn’t very old, isn’t a puppy and/or doesn’t have another health condition you’ve got to withhold food for 12 - 24 hours, however difficult this may be to do!

Rest assured, it is perfectly safe to do this. Feeding during a bout of sickness or diarrhoea can just exasperate and prolong your pup’s discomfort. A short period of fasting like this can help speed up their recovery.

How to settle a dog's stomach: Hydration

Dogs who are suffering from diarrhoea will try and replenish the fluid they're losing when they poo with water, so make sure they have access to fresh water at all times. If your dog completely stops drinking water or drinks an excessively abnormal amount, speak to your vet.

They will also need as much access to outdoor space as possible, avoiding your poorly pup from messing inside the house whilst their stomach is playing up!

How to settle a dog's stomach: Simplify Food

When your dog’s symptoms have started to subside and you feel they are ready to be reintroduced to food, serve them small meals of bland food throughout the day. Smaller sized but more regular portions (3-4 times a day) won’t overwhelm the gut all at once, and the plainer the food, the easier to digest.

Boiled chicken and white/brown rice is a great, mild dish that will sit better on an aggravated canine stomach. Make sure the meat is boneless, skinless, and don’t season it.

You can also try and give your pooch a little bit of pumpkin. It’s a food that is slowly absorbed by the body, which is useful for a sore tummy struggling with digestion. If you’re curious about giving them pumpkin, make sure it’s canned or plainly cooked, peeled, unseasoned, and unsalted (notpumpkin pie mix, otherwise they’ll be ingesting spices which could have the opposite effect!).

Some herbs have also been touted as natural soothers for upset doggy stomachs. Read up on how dill, liquorice root, slippery elm, parsley, and ginger could help your pooch’s troubled tummy here.

Once their poop’s solid again, you can gradually start giving them their normal food.

How to prevent a future upset stomach

White Golden Labrador

Your dog’s going to develop a little tummy trouble from time to time, just like you! However, staying on top of their regular vaccinations and worming treatment can reduce the amount they might experience. You can vaccinate your dog against parvovirus, which is a common cause of gastroenteritis (stomach upset!). You should be vaccinating your dog every year, and regularly de-worming and flea treating your dog to maintain their overall health too.

Maintaining a healthy diet and making sure they’re getting all the minerals, vitamins, and nutrients they need is also essential for a healthy gut. You can do this by using probiotics to target a sensitive gut specifically, or promote their overall health with a multivitamin that's been designed and made for dogs. optimal nutrition they need.

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