If you have a dog with a sensitive stomach and digestive disorders, then you'll need to adjust his diet. Dietary changes have been shown to be most effective to help dogs with sensitive stomachs, and that's what your vet will likely recommend as the first plan of action.
Table of Contents
- What is a Sensitive Stomach?
- Sensitive Stomach and Diet
- Structuring Your Dog’s Diet
- Homemade Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
- Remedies for Dogs with Sensitive Stomach
Here are the dietary guidelines for dogs with sensitive stomach that you should keep in mind when making the change. I will also include a few recipes of homemade dog food for sensitive stomachs if you choose to cook for your pooch yourself.
What is a Sensitive Stomach?
Sensitive stomach is a generic medical term used to describe various digestive problems in dogs that are not caused by some other disease or illness, which are usually mild in nature. Dogs with sensitive stomach can be born with this condition, or they can develop it later in life for a variety of reasons.
Sensitive stomach can become an issue as a result of some other ailment, but it can also lead to more serious problems if left untreated for a longer time. If you need to learn more about digestive disorders in dogs, check out Merck Vet Manual resource.
Even though sensitive stomach can affect dogs of all breeds, sizes and age, some breeds, like Scottish or Yorkshire Terriers, and some other small breeds are more susceptible to this health issue (Seim-Wikse et al. Acta Vet Scand. 2013).
Puppies and old dogs are more prone to have sensitive stomachs as well.
Sensitive Stomach and Diet
The best way to fight this issue is with diet changes that are specifically designed for your individual dog's condition. Once you have determined the ingredients that are causing the stomach upset in your dog, then you can plan a diet that will suit his specific needs. I've previously given 9 tips on how to do this, and now here are the dietary guidelines.
Begin by simplifying your dog’s diet. You should eliminate all unnecessary things that are not a part of his regular diet – table scraps, treats, etc.
If you still want to give your dog treats, you should stick with just one type of treats which are highly digestible (and that have just a few ingredients), although I would recommend that you use regular, highly nutritive food as treats instead.
If your dog still has problems once you eliminate these things, you should then take a good look at your dog’s food and anything you feed him on a regular basis. Dog food made from high-quality ingredients is usually more digestible than cheap dog food that is made from lower quality ingredients (and that may include wheat, corn or soy).
If you can afford it and want to stick with commercial foods, look for formulas that are hydrolyzed and/or hypoallergenic. There are also sensitive stomach formulas designed specifically with novel proteins that are less likely to irritate the dog's stomach (Guilford et al. J Vet Intern Med. 1994).
Majority of these special recipes are highly digestible and have supplements that promote a healthy GI tract in dogs. However, they are also pricey; the alternative to these foods is to make a diet plan for your dog and make homemade dog food for sensitive stomach.
Nutrients for Sensitive Stomachs
It is important to understand what nutrients cause an upset stomach in your dog and which nutrients can actually help to deal with this problem.
Change your dog’s protein source to make sure that he is not particularly sensitive to the type of protein that you feed him. Some dogs react badly to certain proteins sources. Beef and chicken (and dairy) are known to often cause food intolerance and allergies in dogs, so try to eliminate them first to see how your dog reacts.
Best protein sources for sensitive stomachs (least likely to be irritants) are lamb and fish, as well as venison, bison and duck. If you're picking commercial dog foods, then go with formulas that have only one source of protein (some may have 2-4 types of meat) until you determine that it doesn't upset your dog's stomach. The same applies when cooking for your dog – choose just one.
A high fat diet often presents a problem for the dog's stomach because fat is harder to digest than carbohydrates or protein. Check the ingredient label on the commercial food that your dog is eating and see whether fats or oils are listed as the first few on the ingredients list (meaning high concentration) and confirm by looking at the “Guaranteed Analysis” section.
If that's the case, look for another dog food that is lower in fat. There are several low fat dog food brands that you can choose from, and the sensitive stomach dog food recipes often account for that as well.
The best diet for your dog is one with moderate fat levels – approx. 15 percent. But for dogs with serious cases of sensitive stomach even this can be too much, so try to lower your pet's fat intake as much as possible. Do not remove fat from the diet entirely. It's best to discuss this with a vet to find a safe middle ground.
Sometimes, sensitive stomach in dogs is simply a sign that he needs more fiber in his diet. Adding fiber may fix the issue, but too much fiber can result in the same stomach upset and digestive problems. Check with your vet before adding fiber to your dog’s diet because that kind of diet change needs to be done carefully.
Try to find ingredients that are a good source of fiber, like beet pulp, barley, rice bran, etc. You should also look to include both soluble and insoluble fiber sources in his diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
Same as with fiber, the lack of essential vitamins and minerals could be the cause of sensitive stomach in your dog. Most commercial sensitive stomach dog foods do have some ingredients in their formulas that pass as vitamins and minerals.
When cooking for dogs yourself, this becomes a little more tricky because adding vitamins and minerals isn't that easy without an abundance of extra calories or foods that your dog may not consume. Food toppers/mixers as well as additives can work in this case, but you'll need to consult with a vet to ensure a proper amount is included.
The best minerals for digestive issues in dogs are Vitamins A, C, and E and selenium.
Structuring Your Dog’s Diet
It's best to feed your dog small and frequent meals if he has tummy problems. Giving him larger meals less often (as is normal for healthy dogs) can make the dog bloated, gassy and hurt his stomach.
Feed your dog at least 3 or 4 times a day, and break down the portions.
Foods to Avoid
Obviously, avoid any irritants that you're already aware of. Also, you can begin by limiting foods that are known to cause digestive problems in dogs, like those mentioned above (dairy, beef, chicken and any fillers – corn, soy, wheat, grains).
Avoid foods high in fat, like cheese. If you really want to feed him cheese, then opt for Swiss cheese or cottage cheese because they are low in fat (but it's best to avoid it).
The same goes for fish. Fish is a good protein source, but some types of fish are high in fat. Choose cod or flounder. Avoid giving your dog fatty parts of any meat type of meat (even dark meats can be fattier), and skin from poultry.
Limit your dog’s intake of carbohydrates. Potatoes, bread, rice, and wholegrain products are all rich in carbohydrates. You don't have to avoid these foods completely, but try to find a good and healthy balance.
Avoid any human food – table scraps and unhealthy treats.
Foods to Include
Make rice congee (wet rice) for your dog when he has diarrhea. That means cooking one cup of white rice in four cups of water for 30 minutes and then serving the water to your dog because this liquid is soothing and can calm his stomach down. Make rice a regular part of your dog's diet because it's good for most dogs with sensitive stomach; just ensure moderation. One cup of rice per serving is enough.
Include probiotics in your Fido's diet. They can help your dog restore the intestinal balance by growing helpful bacteria and keeping the harmful bacteria in check. The best source of probiotics and good bacteria is yogurt. There are also many probiotic supplements for dogs you can safely use. Dogs react best to Bacillus coagulans and Enterococcus faecium. Supplements will have a much higher number of good bacteria.
Add pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, and other non-irritating vegetables to your dog’s diet. They are a good source of fiber, gentle on his stomach and provide essential vitamins and minerals. You can also try apples, prunes and cabbage juice.
Homemade Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
When you prepare a home cooked meal for a dog with a sensitive stomach, you'll need to keep everything mentioned above in mind. Remember to include all the needed nutrients, like protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins; otherwise, the meal is nutritionally incomplete. Having a well-balanced diet will help your dog deal with sensitive stomach.
It's very important to consult with your vet before you make any dietary changes, and especially if you're making homemade dog food for sensitive stomach. While some aren't supportive of pet owners cooking for dogs, others can help you with your plan for the new diet and determine what foods to avoid since every dog is different.
Home Cooked Meal with [Meat Source]
Keep in mind that you can use any meat for this recipe that your dog will respond well to. I'm using chicken breast as example, but any other protein source, whether it is fish, lamb or beef, can be used, depending on your dog’s specific needs.
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breast
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 cups spinach
- 2/3 cup oats
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1/2 cup carrots
- 1/2 cup dried parsley
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
This is a very easy recipe that takes about an hour to make. The first thing you need to do is cook the oats and rice, and boil the chicken breasts. They should be boiled until it is easy to pull them apart. Once they are done, you need to shred them.
The next step is to steam the carrots and spinach. After you are done with that, all you need to do is to combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix it thoroughly. As soon as the food cools off, you can serve it. You can also save the leftovers for a week in an airtight container in your fridge, and freeze it up for up to 2 months.
This sensitive stomach recipe is great for dogs with digestive problems because it has all the necessary nutrients from the vegetables and meat, as well as fiber from carrots and rice. Yogurt is also good for your dog due to added bacteria to improve gut microbiota.
ANOTHER RECIPE: Homemade Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
Beef and Potato Homemade Meal
If you are positive that your dog is not sensitive to beef, then try this one.
- 1/2 pounds beef
- 1 pint of chicken broth
- 2 carrots
- 2 potatoes
- 1 celery stick
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
The first thing to do is to sauté the beef with olive oil in a hot saucepan. Wait for it to turn golden brown and then proceed to stew it in the broth. This should take about 45 minutes. Add the vegetables and leave it to simmer for another 45 minutes. The meat should become soft, so leave it on for a longer time if 45 minutes don’t make it soft. Wait for the meal to cool off and serve it to your dog.
This recipe is good because it adds starch from potatoes to your dog’s diet, which can be extremely helpful if your dog has diarrhea. Potatoes are also a great source of carbohydrates and fiber.
ANOTHER RECIPE: Pumpkin Dog Biscuits for Sensitive Stomachs
Remedies for Dogs with Sensitive Stomach
On top of the dietary changes, you can also include some supplements and remedies that have been shown to help dogs with digestive problems. Many pet owners have also reported using these with success. Remember that you'll need to consult with a vet about these, and most of them cannot be used for longer than 2-5 days.
Common pet remedies:
- Dia Bac Diarrhea Control
- Fast Balance-G.I.
- Bene-Bac Pet Gel
Human remedies safe for dogs:
Natural remedies for dogs:
- Carob powder
- Slippery elm bark
- Huang Lian Su
- Marshmallow root
Commercial supplements for dogs with diarrhea:
- Thorne Veterinary Perma-Clear
- Thorne Veterinary Gastriplex
- Standard Process Canine Enteric Support
- Nutrigest Rx Biotic
- The Honest Kitchen Perfect Form
- L-glutamine (amino acid)
- Berte's Digestion Blend
- Vetri-Probiotic BD
- Various digestive enzymes and aids
Remember that these are just temporary remedies, not to be used for longer than 2-5 days and you must consult with a veterinarian before using them. The first thing to do for dogs with sensitive stomachs is to adjust their diet. Then, you may not even need to spend money on any of these supplements and remedies.