Stomach upset in dogs is common, and most pet owners will have to deal with this at some point. Dietary changes will be key in fixing this issue.
So what to feed a dog with an upset stomach and what to avoid?
Table of Contents
- What to Feed Dog With Upset Stomach
- How to Structure Your Dog’s Diet
- A Closer Look at Specific Foods for Your Dog's Upset Stomach
- Common Questions about Food for Digestive Upset in Dogs
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 very often, then you'll first need to confirm that they are not suffering from any other serious health condition.
A dog's stomach upset can be a symptom of both minor and severe health problems.
Minor issues often include temporary tummy issues related to what the dog might have eaten recently – a small gastrointestinal problem.
Serious problems can also result in an upset stomach but will often include other symptoms that are difficult to ignore.
Those could be consistent diarrhea and vomiting, bloody stool, lack of appetite, and more.
Talk to your veterinarian when you notice any additional symptoms or if your dog's upset stomach doesn't go away after several days.
If your pooch has an 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.
A proper diet and knowing what to feed the dog with an upset stomach will help you fix the problem or alleviate the symptoms.
Note: This article will not address anything related to severe health problems. We 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 the scientific evidence we have. And, of course, call a vet.
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, to help your pooch deal with this long-term, you must address the underlying issue – your dog's diet.
Dietary changes for dogs with upset stomachs can come from commercial foods or a home-cooked diet.
There are several sensitive stomach foods available that are often recommended for dogs with an upset stomach, but you can also make homemade dog food for dogs with an upset stomach on your own.
Both options are acceptable.
Dr. Dana Brown, DVM, has previously published an article on feeding dogs with a sensitive stomach, with advice that directly relates to dogs with an upset stomach.
This article will be an accompaniment to that one, and I'll provide some information on what foods may work for your dog if you choose to use homemade food.
So, what to feed the dog with an upset stomach, and what foods to avoid?
The first thing you do to help your dog get over a stomach issue is make him fast for 12 hours or an entire day.
Since his stomach is trying to get rid of some bad things that he ate, it can be beneficial not to put anything else in his stomach and allow the body to deal with it.
Your dog will be wonderful with fasting for a day.
Fasting for a short period of time was shown to be 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 to dogs.
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.
Dehydration is a real danger for your dog during diarrhea or vomiting bout, so make sure your pup 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 the dog a bland diet that will not upset his stomach again. Start with a few teaspoons of food first, and if your pet can hold it down, proceed to feed 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.
How to Structure Your Dog’s Diet
Feeding your dog with an upset stomach only a bland diet is essential until his tummy settles down. After a week of this, he proceeds to introduce his regular diet gradually.
What to feed the dog with an 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 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.
You can only feed a bland diet temporarily.
You cannot feed a bland diet for a prolonged period of time because it's not a well-balanced diet; it lacks nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your dog needs regularly.
However, for up to a week 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 stomachs consists of low-fat foods. Usually, that means including one protein source 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 feeding the dog with an upset stomach using a bland diet.
For more ideas, read this veterinarian-approved guide right here (PDF).
Foods to Include
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
Pick lean poultry meat, which generally works best for a dog with an upset stomach, as a good protein source.
The best thing to choose during an episode is cooked chicken breasts, boneless and skinless. Turkey can also work.
For vegetables, pumpkin and sweet potato are beneficial for your dog’s diet 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 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.
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 in yogurt to make a difference, so 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 bananas in your canine’s diet because they are a good source of vitamin C and potassium and 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.
Ginger is safe for dogs and is often used for other health issues, too.
A little bone broth is a perfect 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 only. 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 a dog's meal.
Avoid dairy of any kind (except plain, unsweetened yogurt in small amounts) and cheese because most are high in fat.
Even if you want to go with low-fat cheese, save it for later when your dog’s stomach is better. Stick to a bland diet until then.
For the same reason, avoid fish during an episode. While generally healthy and being a good source of protein for dogs, most fish are high in fat and are likely to upset your pet's stomach even more.
Avoid highly acidic foods, including vegetables and fruits in particular that have high acidity content.
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 in dogs.
Please don’t feed your dog any human or processed food when he has any digestive issues. No table scraps and no snacks.
Nutrients and Their Roles
Feeding your dog a well-balanced diet when dealing with stomach upset is important because it can also prevent stomach issues in the future.
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.
Rarely, these sources may still upset some dogs' stomachs, in which case you'll need to look for novel protein foods and discuss this with your vet to develop a new dietary plan.
Please stay away from fatty foods during an upset stomach episode, and after your dog’s stomach is stable, avoid giving him any food that is too high in fat.
If you are feeding him commercial dog foods, check the label to see if fats and oils are listed in large amounts. Stick to 10-15 percent of fat in your dog’s diet.
However, healthy fats are not only good but essential for dogs. If you are cooking for your dog after an episode of stomach upset, it's best to stick to fatty fish like salmon or herring.
They are a good source of lean protein, no carbohydrates, and a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, among other benefits.
Probably the most important nutrient for your dog’s digestive system is fiber. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables, especially in sweet potatoes and pumpkin.
You can also include barley or beet pulp or add some green beans to your pet's diet.
That said, fiber can also do the opposite, and when given too much, it can upset your dog's stomach, cause diarrhea or constipation.
So be careful not to add too much fiber, especially if your dog tends to suffer from an upset stomach since that can upset his digestive system further. The balance will be key here.
Vitamins and Minerals
Many vitamins are crucial to dogs. Similar to fiber, vitamins and minerals are mostly added through veggies and fruits when feeding a home-cooked diet.
They are vital for your dog’s health, but most vitamin sources should be avoided during an upset stomach episode while feeding a bland diet.
Stick only to bananas during that time and gradually introduce them after the bland diet period is done.
Homemade Dog Food for Dogs with Upset Stomach
Cooking for dogs with upset stomachs can be a much safer (and easier to manage) option than giving a dog commercial foods.
Since you will have to feed the dog a bland diet, it is also pretty simple and doesn’t take long.
You can also use many recipes for dogs with a sensitive stomach for dogs with an upset stomach – find them in our recipes section.
Below is a good starter recipe for dogs with an upset stomach and three links to more ideas with videos on how to make homemade dog food for your dog with tummy issues:
- Chicken & Rice Cakes for Dogs with Upset Stomach
- Homemade Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
- Pumpkin Dog Biscuits for Sensitive Stomachs
Recipe: 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.
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 throughout 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 of 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.
The Best Food for Dogs with Upset Stomach
While feeding a dog with an upset stomach is easier by making home-cooked meals, particularly during a bland diet period, some owners prefer to avoid that due to time constraints, money, or other reasons.
If you'd rather feed your dog a commercial brand, there are several food options for dogs with upset stomachs available.
|Under the Weather Pets | Rice, Chicken & Pumpkin |...||652 Reviews||Check Price|
|Hill's Science Diet Dry Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive...||6,298 Reviews||Check Price|
|Hill's Science Diet Wet Dog Food, Adult, Sensitive...||7,591 Reviews||Check Price|
|Diamond Naturals Dry Food for Adult Dog, Beef and...||6,742 Reviews||Check Price|
|Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach Dog...||17,286 Reviews||Check Price|
A Closer Look at Specific Foods for Your Dog's Upset Stomach
We already touched on the importance of bland foods when dealing with an upset stomach in dogs.
We also mentioned some ingredients that are great to include, like rice and bananas.
Take a closer look at some of these, as well as other foods that are gentle on your furry friend's digestive tract.
Some are ingredients, while others are combinations of ingredients to create a balanced meal.
As a pet owner, you may want to make your dog some bone broth. This is nutritious, and because it's liquid, it counts as a bland food that is gentle on your pup's stomach.
You can also try adding some bone broth to your dog's kibble if he doesn't want to eat. (Remember that normal kibble isn't ideal for a dog with digestive upset).
If you want to make bone broth yourself, you need a large pot, water, and plenty of marrow bones. Alternatively, you can use bones with a lot of joints.
Chicken and turkey legs are great options. Just put the bones in the pot, add several inches of water, cover it, and let it cook on low heat.
You will leave it for 20 to 24 hours before letting it cool in the fridge for a few hours. The broth will be jelly-like and liquify when heated. Just make sure not to overheat it, as this can hurt your dog.
Rice with Boiled Chicken
Boiled chicken is a simple and healthy ingredient to give your dog any time, especially when his digestive system doesn't feel great.
Boiling the chicken is important, as this way, you don't accidentally add seasoning, oil, or butter during the cooking process.
That helps keep the chicken bland. The cooked rice is also bland and gentle on your dog's stomach.
You don't even need to give your dog cooked rice along with the chicken if he doesn't want to eat too much.
A little bit of shredded chicken can be enough fuel to keep him going until your poor dog's tummy feels better. Just remember that it needs to be plain and unseasoned.
One of the most common suggestions for dogs with an upset tummy is a pumpkin. This comes from its high fiber content and the fact that it contains many vitamins and minerals.
For example, it has vitamins A and C, potassium, riboflavin, manganese, copper, phosphorus, iron, folate, magnesium, and more.
The important caveat when feeding your dog pumpkin for upset stomachs is similar to that of chicken. Do not add seasonings to it. I
f you prepare it yourself, be sure to remove the skin and seeds. An alternative is to buy canned pumpkins. Just remember to get canned pumpkin, not canned pumpkin pie filling.
Whatever you buy for your dog's symptoms should not have any added sugar or spices. Those are likely to make your dog's issues even worse than regular food would.
Boiled, Mashed Carrots
You may also want to consider giving your dog some carrots. But because your dog doesn't feel great, you have to boil and mash them first.
This is a great choice because mashed, boiled carrots have vitamin C, K, and fiber. They are also bland food.
Mashed Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is another great option packed with nutrients. Like the other natural remedies of carrots and pumpkin, they are also high in fiber.
As with the carrots, you need to boil the sweet potatoes then mash them. Do not season them.
Always let mashed sweet potatoes, carrots, or other foods cool before giving them to your dog.
Eggs are yet another option that likely doesn't require you to go to the grocery store. As always, the key is to keep it bland.
Don't cook them with oil or butter, and never add seasoning or salt. Instead, boil the eggs and mash them up. You could also scramble eggs, but be sure to use as little oil as possible, ideally none.
Just like you may eat oatmeal for a few days when your stomach is upset, your dog can also have this food.
Like some of the products on this list, it has a lot of soluble fiber. That can help control diarrhea.
It is also common for veterinary advice to include giving your dog baby food when his tummy is upset.
That is because it is easy to digest and swallow. You can choose baby foods like sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Remember to make sure there are no additives in your chosen food.
How to Recognize When You Need Veterinary Advice
Your dog's situation with an upset stomach is not always bad enough to require a visit to the vet. However, you want to bring him to the vet immediately if you notice:
- Continuous vomiting
- Continuous diarrhea
- Blood in the stool
- A distended stomach
- Uncontrollable drooling
These are more serious symptoms that can indicate a more complicated problem. In that case, you will need your vet to examine your dog and provide veterinary advice.
Common Questions about Food for Digestive Upset in Dogs
If you still have questions about your dog's upset stomach, from common signs to why he is eating grass, the following answers should help.
Should You Feed a Dog with an Upset Stomach?
Yes, it would help if you fed dogs with upset stomachs. After all, they still need nutrients. However, you want only to give them foods that will be gentle on their digestive tract.
Examples include pumpkin, boiled meat, and cottage cheese.
Are Scrambled Eggs Good for a Dog's Upset Stomach?
Yes, scrambled eggs are good to make your dog feel better. They can settle his stomach while providing nutrients.
They have nutritional benefits, including protein and essential amino and fatty acids. Just remember not to season the eggs or add butter to them.
Those additions will make your poor dog feel worse.
Can You Give Milk to a Dog with an Upset Stomach?
You might be able to give a dog with upset stomach milk, but it shouldn't be your first move. That is because a lot of canines are lactose intolerant.
As such, giving them milk would actually make their upset stomachs worse.