As a dog owner, sooner or later you'll be in a situation where your pooch is having an upset stomach. Dietary changes will be the key part in fixing this issue. If you're reading this, it's likely you're in that situation. So what to feed a dog with upset stomach? You have a few good options.
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Why Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach
An upset stomach is a general term for many digestive issues in dogs that are not chronic. If your dog has diarrhea, vomiting or nausea much too often, then you'll first need to confirm that he is not suffering from any other serious health condition.
Stomach upset is a symptom of both minor and severe health problems.
Minor issues will often include temporary tummy issues related to what the dog might have eaten recently, a small gastrointestinal problem. It can also be related to your dog having a sensitive stomach or food allergies, both of which are very common in dogs.
Serious problems can also result in an upset stomach, but will often include many other symptoms that are difficult to ignore. Those could be consistent diarrhea and vomiting, bloody stool, lack of appetite, and more. When you notice any additional symptoms or if your dog's upset stomach doesn't go away after several days – talk to your veterinarian.
This article will not address anything related to severe health problems. I recommend reading the Merck Vet Manual's guide on GI and stomach disorders in dogs. This is the most up-to-date source based on scientific evidence we have. And of course, call a vet.
If your pooch has upset stomach and exhibits symptoms only occasionally, or if you have taken him to the vet and you know that he doesn’t have any other problem, then he is probably having an upset stomach, which is usually caused by something your dog ate that didn't agree with him. This is where proper diet and knowing what to feed dog with upset stomach will help you fix the problem, or alleviate the symptoms.
What to Feed Dog With Upset Stomach
Stomach upset in dogs is very common. There are some medications and supplements, both prescription and over the counter, that can help with symptoms. However, in order to help your pooch deal with this long-term, you must address the underlying issue – his diet.
Dietary changes for dogs with upset stomach can come from commercial foods or a home cooked diet. There are several sensitive stomach dog food brands available which are often recommended for dogs with upset stomach, but you can also make homemade dog food for dogs with upset stomach on your own. Both options are acceptable.
Dr Dana Brown, DVM has previously published a great article on how to feed dogs with sensitive stomach, with advice that directly relates to dogs with upset stomach as well. This article will be an accompaniment to that one, and I'll provide some information on what foods exactly may work for your dog in case you choose to use homemade food. So, what to feed dog with upset stomach, and what foods to avoid?
The first thing you should do in order to help your pooch get over his stomach issues is to make him fast for 12 hours or an entire day. Since his stomach is trying to get rid of some bad thing that he ate, it can be very helpful not to put anything else in his stomach and allow the body to deal with it. Your dog will be perfectly fine with fasting for a day.
Fasting for a short period of time is safe for dogs. In a study with 20 dogs being treated for cancer (Withers, et al. 2014), scientists observed that fasting helped with vomiting and diarrhea, and did not pose any dangers.
Dr Nancy Scanlan, DVM confirms this:
“Fasting is not the same as starvation. With therapeutic fasting, nutrient intake is enough to maintain vital tissues, like heart and muscle. Ideally, there will be an additional supply of co-factors for liver enzymes required to deal with the breakdown of fat and release of toxins that occurs. Starvation occurs when there are no reserves left in the body and insufficient intake of nutrients, so that vital tissues are broken down.” – Nancy Scanlan, DVM [source]
Another thing you need to be wary of is dehydration. During diarrhea or vomiting bout, dehydration is a real danger for your dog, and you need to make sure that your pooch stays hydrated. However, if you give him too much water his stomach can become even more upset. Balance is key, and oftentimes using ice cubes instead of water is better. You may want to remove his water bowl and feed him ice chips every couple of hours.
After your dog’s stomach has settled down a little bit after a period of fasting, you can start feeding him again. Feed him a bland diet that will not upset his stomach again. Start with a few teaspoons of food first, and if he is able to hold it down, start feeding him small portions more often. The best thing is to feed him frequently, in smaller meals, 4-5 times a day for the next week.
Structuring Your Dog’s Diet
Feeding your dog with upset stomach only a bland diet is essential until his tummy settles down. After a week of this, proceed to introduce his regular diet.
What to feed dog with upset stomach? A very bland diet is the answer. However, keep in mind that you shouldn’t feed your dog a bland diet if you are not sure that he is suffering from a mild digestive issue or if you don’t know what is the cause of his stomach upset.
Your dog might have ingested something toxic, in which case a bland diet will not help. As noted above, watch out for any other signs and symptoms. If something is amiss, take your dog to the vet before you administer this type of diet and keep in mind that this is only a short-term solution. If none of those are present, you can try a bland diet.
Bland diet can only be fed temporarily.
The reason you cannot feed a bland diet for a prolonged period of time is because it's not a well-balanced diet; it lacks nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your dog needs on a regular basis. For up to a week, however, until your dog gets better, a bland diet will provide enough calories and energy sources without upsetting his stomach further.
A bland diet for dogs with upset stomach consists of low-fat foods. Usually, that means including one protein source that is low in fat, like chicken breast or ground turkey, mixed with rice. You can also make scrambled eggs since they are a good protein source. Below are some tips on exactly what to feed dog with upset stomach using a bland diet. For more ideas, check you a veterinarian-approved guide right here (PDF).
Foods to Include
Include rice in your dog’s diet, both during the episode and after it. Rice can help your Fido's stomach to settle when it gets upset because it is a a mild food. Choose white rice for an upset stomach, and brown rice for your dog’s regular diet because it is higher in nutritional value.
Lean, poultry meat works best for a dog with upset stomach as a protein source. The best thing to choose during an episode are cooked chicken breasts, boneless and skinless. Turkey can also work.
Pumpkin and sweet potato should be a part of your dog’s diet both during the episode and after. These vegetables provide a lot of fiber, which can help regulate your dog’s digestive system and help him with intestinal issues. Canned pumpkin is probably a better choice when your dog has an upset stomach because it has a low glycemic index, which means that it's absorbed slowly and thus helps with digestion.
Add a bit of yogurt (one or two tablespoons) to your dog’s diet if he has an upset stomach because it can soothe it. In theory, the probiotics in yogurt can also help restore good bacteria in the dog's intestines and keep his GI tract in good shape; however, it's unlikely that there will be enough probiotic cultures to make a difference. Instead, you can use probiotic supplements to improve your dog's gut flora.
Certain low-acidity fruits can help with an upset stomach too. Include some banana in your canine’s diet because they are a good source of vitamin C and potassium while also being a pretty mild food. Bananas will also keep your dog’s fluid balance in check as an additional source of electrolytes.
People have been using ginger to deal with stomach issues, and it's possible that a small amount of it can soothe a dog's upset stomach as well, and relieve your canine from bloating and gas.
A little bone broth is a particularly good thing to feed your dog a part of a bland diet. It will help him stay hydrated and soothe his stomach at the same time.
Foods to Avoid
Pumpkin is good for your dog, but stick to fresh or canned pumpkin and avoid pumpkin pie mix or anything with additives. You don’t want to feed your dog spices when his stomach is upset. Even during the regular diet, you should avoid spices in his food.
Avoid dairy of any kind (except plain, unsweetened yogurt, in small amounts) and cheese because most of them are pretty high in fat. Even if you want to go with a low-fat cheese, save it for later when your dog’s stomach is better. Stick to bland diet until then. For the same reason, avoid fish during an episode, especially those high in fat.
Avoid foods that are highly acidic, including vegetables and fruits in particular. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and others that may be fine to feed in small amounts in general are a no-no when dealing with a stomach upset.
Don’t feed your dog any human or processed food when he has any digestive issues.
Nutrients and their Roles
Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet is important because it can also prevent further stomach issues. After you are done with the bland diet after about a week, you need to provide your Fido with all the necessary nutrients to get his diet back on track.
Protein is crucial as it's the best source of energy for your pooch. However, if he often suffers from an upset stomach, you should consider sticking to lean protein sources, like ground turkey, chicken breast, low-fat fish and lean hamburgers.
Stay away from fatty foods during an upset stomach episode and after your dog’s stomach is stable, avoid giving him food that is too high in fat. If you are feeding him commercial dog foods, check the label to see if there are fats and oils listed in large amounts. Stick to 10-15 percent of fat in your dog’s diet.
Healthy fats are essential, however. If you are cooking for your dog, stick to fish like salmon or herring. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties among other benefits.
Fiber is probably the most important nutrient for your dog’s digestive system. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables, especially in sweet potato and pumpkin. You can also include barley or beet pulp, or add some green beans to his diet.
That said, fiber can also do the opposite – be careful not to add too much fiber, especially if he suffers from an upset stomach since that can upset his digestive system further. Balance will be key here.
Vitamins and Minerals
Same as fiber, vitamins and minerals are mostly found in veggies and fruits. They are vital for your dog’s health, but most of vitamin sources should be avoided during an upset stomach episode while feeding a bland diet. Stick only to bananas during this time.
Homemade Dog Food for Dogs with Upset Stomach
Cooking for dogs with upset stomach is a much safer option than giving him some commercial food, and since you will have to feed him a bland diet, it is also pretty simple and doesn’t take a lot of time. Many recipes for dogs with sensitive stomach can also be used for dogs with upset stomach; find them in Top Dog Tips recipes section.
Below is a good starter recipe for dogs with upset stomach, but here are a few more ideas with videos on how to make homemade dog food for your pooch with tummy issues:
- Chicken & Rice Cakes for Dogs with Upset Stomach
- Homemade Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
- Pumpkin Dog Biscuits for Sensitive Stomachs
Ground Turkey with Canned Pumpkin
This recipe is good to use as part of a bland diet regime, while adding a little bit of twist in taste as well. You can also use rice or sweet potato instead of canned pumpkin, or use skinless and boneless turkey or chicken breasts instead of ground turkey. These ingredients will be enough for a 25-pound dog for the entire day, just remember to feed him in 4 or 5 servings through the day.
- 1/2 cup of ground turkey
- 3 cups of water
- 3 cups of canned pumpkin
Put the turkey in a pan with about 3 cups water and let the water boil, then proceed to cook the turkey for 20-30 minutes. Get turkey out of the water and put it into a mixing bowl. Mixed canned pumpkin with the turkey and separate this mixture into four or four servings for your dog.