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Many dogs present symptoms of a sensitive stomach such as flatulence, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. In some cases, this can lead to malnutrition and chronic pain in dogs. Knowing exactly how to feed a dog with sensitive stomach is key to relieving these symptoms.

In this article, I'll briefly explain what sensitive stomach in dogs mean, how you can prevent it and deal with it, what to give a dog with sensitive stomach to eat.

What is a sensitive stomach in dogs?Tips on How to Feed Dogs With Sensitive Stomachs

It's very common for dogs to have sensitive stomachs, and some experts have argued that it's the result of our domestication of canines and how we feed them. Currently there's no actual scientific evidence to prove this one way or the other, while the issue remains.

Studies have shown numerous times that certain dog breeds are more prone to have issues with stomach, including upset stomachs, sensitivity to foods and even cancer. Yorkshire Terriers and Scottish Terriers have been known to deal with this often.

The most common symptoms of a dog having sensitive stomach are:

  • Vomiting (that occurs regularly; not just occasional throw up)
  • Diarrhea (regularly loose stools are likely caused by stomach issues)
  • Flatulence (dogs that pass gas very often may have an issue with the diet)

When you notice the above symptoms, it's time to analyze your dog's diet. But before you set out to find the best sensitive stomach dog food brands, you should understand how to feed dogs that have tummy problems on a regular basis, and what are the causes of it.

What's the cause of a sensitive stomach in dogs?

There are a range of factors that can cause the issue of sensitive stomach in dogs, including stress, dietary allergies and even cancer.

Dog digestive system image
Dog's digestive system.

However, often the cause of this condition is poorly digestible meals and high fat dog food diets.

Animals suffering from a sensitive stomach may become constipated, although more often they pass frequent, small stools with blood or mucous present, or they may also have diarrhea resulting in dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and lost nutrients.

Although sensitive stomach can be a chronic condition in a dog, there is strong research that shows that your dog's diet can play (and most likely does) a large role in the pathogenesis and management of this upset stomach disorder.

There are too many factors that can cause stomach sensitivity in dogs, but based on the most common, some dog food brands manufactured specific formulas that usually help.

What to feed dogs with sensitive stomachs?

In numerous studies, dogs who had previously experienced symptoms related to a sensitive stomach were able to be maintained long term on commercially available, highly digestible hypoallergenic dog food diets.

These carefully balanced complete diets for pets with sensitive stomach conditions are often more expensive than standard dog food brands; however, this is reflective of the quality of nutrients and inclusion of novel proteins and easily digestible carbohydrate sources that are used in them.

When manufacturing sensitive stomach dog foods, careful quality control protocols during processing ensure that these types of commercial pet foods are not contaminated with potential allergens. Despite the increased cost, many owners find their pet’s life quality and overall health is drastically improved when switched to one of these diets.

If feeding your dog specifically designed hypoallergenic dog food brands does not help, you'll need to find the exact cause of your dog's tummy problems. Visit a veterinarian and get on an elimination diet that will help to rule out products that your dog is allergic to.

Dog owners also have an option of feeding homemade dog food for sensitive stomachs, which many have found to be helpful. You can find some homemade dog food recipes on this website, but you must first understand how to feed dogs with sensitive stomachs.

RECIPE: Homemade Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach (Recipe Video)

9 Tips on How to Feed Dogs With Sensitive Stomachs and Stomach Problems

9 Tips on How to Feed Dogs With Sensitive Stomachs and Stomach Problems

1 Therapeutic dietary support

Therapeutic diets can be incredibly beneficial for dogs who suffer from a sensitive stomach issues and other stomach-related health problems.

I've previously written about feeding dogs with renal problems and another writer covered some tips for dogs with allergies – several pieces of advice apply very well in this case too.

These diets should contain highly digestible carbohydrates, such as white rice and potato or barley, in order to increase nutrient availability and decrease osmolar effects. These diets should also be lactose and gluten free, while containing low to moderate levels of fat.

2 Carefully selected protein

Vet checking dog stomachProtein is an essential part of the canine diet; however, increasingly more and more dogs are showing sensitivities to protein that develop over time.

Many pet owners choose low-protein dog food brands to avoid these issues, but this doesn't always help.

Specifically designed (or vet advised) dog food diets for sensitive stomachs are usually formulated in a way to provide high quality, highly digestible protein sources that are often tolerated better by dogs with these problems.

That being said, protein source itself may not be the main cause of health problems. Therefore, we need to look into any related problems, such as protein allergies in dogs.

3 Protein allergies in dogs

For some pets, providing a highly digestible protein source is not effective when treating a sensitive stomach. For these dogs a protein allergy may be suspected.

It has been estimated that over half of a canine’s white blood cells are located in the digestive system. These cells are an integral part of your pet’s defense system, which protect your canine against many different illness and disease.

When protein is not broken down effectively in the intestinal system, the remaining acids are seen as antigens and an immune response is triggered. This immune response is often what causes the symptoms of a sensitive stomach in dogs.

In order to prevent this response, many therapeutic dog foods contain novel protein sources that are known to be effective for pets with sensitive stomachs. The novel protein provided should be from a source of which the pet has not been exposed to before. These diets are also often called “hypoallergenic” dog food diets, even though there's more to it.

4 Hydrolyzed diets for dogs

Hydroloyzed diets are often considered an option for dogs who have not had success on standard novel protein and other diets. Like novel protein diets these focus on protein as the most common nutrient that causes adverse reactions during digestion.

It is during breakdown that the protein causes histamine release in the dog's body, during molecule bridging, and therefore the development of symptoms. Hydrolyzed protein dog food diets aim to change this molecule, but we have no scientific evidence to this yet.

Gastric dilatation in a dog
Gastric dilatation in a dog.

Basically, when using hydrolyzed dog food diet, the protein in the food is broken down into smaller peptide fragments that prevent bridging and histamine release from occurring. This, theoretically, should save the dog from developing stomach problems.

Hydrolyzed protein dog food diet does have a higher price point when compared to many brands, and it's also slightly controversial in the pet food industry.

5 Supporting dog's healthy gut flora

Studies have shown the importance of healthy gut flora for gastrointestinal health for both humans and canines. For example, feeding your dog good brand of probiotics was shown in clinical trials to be beneficial in the treatment of stomach conditions in dogs.

Not all probiotics work for dogs, however. Some dog friendly probiotic brands contain the exact amount and variety of the necessary probiotic strains that address stomach issues.

Furthermore, other components can be used in dog food diets that aid canines with sensitive stomachs. For example, fructooligosaccharides (FSOs) are complex carbohydrates found in many sensitive stomach dog foods. They aid in many functions, including:

  • enhancing colonic microflora and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria
  • supporting digestion and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria
  • responsible for the production of short-chain fatty acids
  • used as an energy source for specific colonic bacteria

READ THIS: 16 Things You Didn't Know About Prescription Dog Food

Here's a good video to learn a little more about how your dog's GI track works:

6 Healthy immune function in dogs

Increased levels of antioxidants are thought to be beneficial in reducing the inflammatory response and increasing the health of the bacterial gut flora and enterocytes.

Whether your dog is suffering from upset stomach or not, ensuring that he gets a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals is essential nonetheless to prevent all types of other potential illnesses and diseases. Make sure your dog's diet is well-balanced.

7 Enhanced levels of omega-3 long chain fatty acids

The supplementation of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids has shown to have many benefits for the health of your pet, including coat and skin health.

These fatty acids are also beneficial for relieving gastrointestinal pain, as they have been scientifically proven to reduce inflammatory cytokines, the protein molecules that cause inflammatory responses such as pain and swelling.

There are several good fish oil for dogs supplement brands that work well.

8 Choosing dog food for sensitive stomach

Nutrition is considered of great value and genuine efficacy for dogs who suffer from sensitive stomachs. It's the first and most effective way to fix this problem.

As there are a range of ingredients that may cause your pet to react, it is recommended that you contact your animal health expert to discuss your pet’s symptoms and the best diet for him. We've previously selected 15 dog food brands for upset stomachs.

In short, there are a range of veterinary standard diets, which include:

Purina Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach FormulaA) Purina Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula

This specialized diet is made without common allergen’s such as corn, wheat, soy and red meat. It contains a novel protein in the form of salmon and rice for carbohydrates.

This formula also includes antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids and zinc. It contains no artificial colors or flavors.

B) Eukanuba’s Nutritional Intestinal Formula Low-Residue

This contains moderate levels of soluble fiber and it is low in fat. This dog food also contains an optimum balance of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids for increased digestibility.

Unfortunately, this either may have been discontinued or the manufacturer are changing their formulate before re-releasing the product into the public, so try to find alternative dog food brands for sensitive stomachs in the meantime.

Hill's Science Sensitive Stomach & SkinC) Hill's Science Sensitive Stomach & Skin

This dog food contains high quality, easily digestible ingredients with added antioxidants and omega-6 fatty acids.

The main source of carbohydrates is brewers rice, and this food contains both chicken and pork as protein sources as well as soy oil.

9 Introduce the new dog food diet correctly

It is normal for your pet to initially refuse to eat his new diet. It is recommended to slowly introduce it by adding the new food in with the pet’s original food, gradual increasing the amount over a 7-10 days until only the new food is remaining. The same applies if you choose homemade dog food for sensitive stomach.

As pets with stomach sensitivities often have unknown triggers, it is vital that the new food is the only nutrition given during an elimination period.

All other dog treats, snacks and table foods should be eliminated from your pet’s diet completely. If he is exposed to a food that he is sensitive to, clinical signs can show in as little as 12 hours, but in some cases they may take as long as 10 days.

For many dogs, clinical signs can diminish by 10 days of being on a low allergen diet. If a pet’s symptoms do not improve or become worse, a different diet should be considered.

Although managing a dog’s sensitive stomach may be difficult when trying to isolate the ingredients causing the reaction, these issues are often able to be well-managed through diet alone. Nevertheless, always consult with your veterinarian beforehand.

READ NEXT: Dog Food Prices – 30 Top Dog Foods and Their Prices Compared

IBD in dogs