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16 May 2023


Best Food For Dogs With Sensitive Stomachs & Digestive Issues

Many dogs suffer from digestive issues, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. The right diet can help minimize problems for your dog’s sensitive stomach.

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Your pup may be suffering from an upset or sensitive stomach if you must frequently assess their poop and concoct elaborate homemade recipes to keep messy digestive issues from occurring at inconvenient times. Unfortunately, most dogs experience gastrointestinal (GI) upset during their lifetime, which can range from minor and temporary upset to chronic GI disorders. By understanding your dog’s digestive health and determining their discomfort source, you can help ensure they receive safe, effective, and targeted treatment, as well as appropriate ongoing support.

While our Ollie team can provide tips and strategies to nurture and protect your pup’s GI system, this article is not intended to be a substitute for veterinary diagnosis or advice. Always speak to your veterinarian before altering your dog’s diet.

Does my dog have a sensitive stomach or digestion issues?

Sensitive stomach isn’t a medical term or condition, but a good descriptor for generalized digestive (i.e., GI) distress. While some GI signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are impossible to ignore, other digestive upset indicators may be more subtle. According to Pet Food Advisor, such signs may include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Gas or bloating
  • Lethargy or decreased activity
  • Gurgling noises
  • Belching or hiccups
  • Abdominal pain (e.g., arched spine, tense abdomen, frequent stretching)
  • Soft, loose, or abnormal stool
  • Constipation

Any combination of these signs can signal an abnormality in your pup’s digestive tract and merit a close look at their diet and overall health. Recurring GI fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea can have serious health consequences, including dehydration, and may signal an underlying health issue such as inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal blockage, or cancer. If your dog is experiencing frequent GI issues, seek prompt veterinary care.  

Is Your Dog’s Poop Healthy?

What causes sensitive stomachs or digestive problems?

Not all digestive issues are created equal, but all of them suggest that something is upsetting your pup’s intestinal balance. While a sensitive stomach can occur for potentially hundreds of reasons, consider the most common causes why your dog may end up in the digestive doghouse.

1. Stress or anxiety

Stress and nervousness can make dogs feel queasy. This happens when stress triggers the fight-or-flight response and slows digestive function. Common stress-inducing events include adoption, routine changes, veterinary visits, shifts in the family dynamic (i.e., arrival or loss of a human or fellow pet), boarding, relocating, or being surrendered to a shelter. 

2. Dietary indiscretion or unfamiliar foods

Inappropriate foods (e.g., table scraps) or a sudden diet change can overwhelm your dog’s digestive tract. If your pooch loves to counter surf or rummage through the trash, they may suffer unpleasant GI consequences. Likewise, switching your pup’s food cold turkey can throw their intestines for a loop.

3. Previous malnourishment

If you adopted your dog from a shelter, or they previously experienced poor nutrition because of neglect or illness, they may have underdeveloped gut flora (i.e., healthy bacteria). As a result, your pooch may struggle to absorb necessary nutrients.

4. Viral and bacterial infections

Dogs are susceptible to numerous stomach bugs. These generally short-term viral or bacterial illnesses can be contagious. Virus transmission is most common in areas where dogs gather in high numbers, such as doggie daycare facilities and dog parks, and occurs through direct contact with infected dogs (e.g., nose-to-nose or nose-to-hind end) or their stool. If your pup isn’t feeling well, or one of their four-legged friends is sick, keep your dog at home to avoid transmitting or contracting illness.

5. Intestinal parasites

Parasites, such as intestinal worms and single-celled protozoa, can cause digestive issues and harm your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients. Although puppies most commonly contract intestinal parasites, adult dogs can also contract infection. Contact your veterinarian if your pup is experiencing chronic diarrhea, or you see spaghetti- or rice-shaped worms in their vomit or stool.

6. Food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity

Undiagnosed food allergies or dietary intolerances can cause chronic digestive upset and may appear at any time in your dog’s life, no matter how long they’ve eaten a certain food. If your veterinarian suspects your pooch has a food allergy or sensitivity, they can help you create a systematic plan (i.e., elimination diet) to identify the offending ingredient. This process can be lengthy and requires some trial-and-error as you remove specific ingredients from your pet’s diet for a certain period. To prevent your dog from experiencing a nutritional deficiency, an elimination diet should be conducted under veterinary supervision.

The Most Common Food Allergies for Dogs

What can I feed my dog to support a sensitive stomach?

The Ollie team always recommends consulting your veterinarian regarding your dog’s diet, we also believe in the power of fresh whole foods and their ability to build, sustain, and repair your pup’s health. However, with so many dog food and product options, knowing how to support your dog’s digestion can be difficult whether they are healthy or exhibiting illness signs. Consider feeding your dog these diet options:

  • Digestion-enhancing dog food ingredients — According to Pet Food Advisor, limited ingredient, hypoallergenic, and therapeutic diets can be helpful for dogs with sensitive digestion. However, you should carefully review a dog food’s ingredients, avoiding fillers and exotic ingredients, which may be linked to heart issues. Look for dog foods that include these beneficial ingredients, which are the most recognizable:
    • Lean meats — Reduced-fat proteins, such as chicken and turkey, deliver highly digestible nutrition and gut-nourishing moisture. 
    • Moisture-rich foods — Fresh meat, vegetables, and fruits are high in moisture, which aids motility, increases nutrient and vitamin absorption, and hydrates your dog’s body. 
    • Healthy fiber sources — Wholesome fiber sources, such as sweet potatoes, rice, and lentils, promote fullness and support smooth intestinal motility, so your pup’s bowel movements stay regular.
  • Home remedies for occasional digestive upset: If your pup is suffering from digestive issues, your veterinarian may suggest temporarily feeding them a bland diet, which is a great way to soothe and stabilize your pet’s upset belly and replenish lost moisture and nutrition. Bland diet foods are plain (i.e., no seasoning, preservatives, or additives) to help avoid aggravating your pup’s upset stomach. To encourage healthy digestion, serve bland foods in small portions. Recommended bland diet ingredients include:
    • White rice — Steamed rice is low in fiber and can help reduce diarrhea.
    • Boiled chicken, turkey, or beef — Lean meat with visible fat removed provides easily digestible protein to sustain your pet’s internal processes. 
    • Scrambled eggs — Plain scrambled eggs are a gentle protein source and low in fat.
    • Pure pumpkin — Pumpkin puree (i.e., not pumpkin pie filling) is an excellent fiber source and can firm up loose stool. However, to prevent your dog from becoming constipated, ensure you serve pumpkin puree in small quantities. If pumpkin isn’t pleasing to your pup, try pureed banana. 

Bland diets are not intended for long-term use. If your pup’s condition doesn’t improve within a few days, schedule an appointment or recheck with your veterinarian. They will perform additional diagnostic testing, supplemental probiotics, or a diet change to be able to diagnose and resolve your dog’s digestive issues.

To learn more about supporting your pet’s digestive health or selecting a sensitive stomach dog food, check out our Ollie blog, or visit Pet Food Advisor for additional resources and dog food reviews. Once you’ve completed some research, combine that information with your veterinarian’s recommendations to select the best food for your dog.

The 7 Best Dog Food Ingredients to Look For

How to Avoid Digestive Distress When Switching Dog Food

Change is never easy, especially when introducing new foods to a sensitive pup. Although you may be eager to make the switch and end carpet staining and messy poop, a slow and steady approach is the best way to ease your dog’s delicate digestive tract by providing them with a new and healthier diet. If you rush your dog’s diet transition, you may mistakenly assume your pup has a sensitive stomach when in reality they are healthy. During an ideal food transition, you will blend increasing amounts of the new food with your pup’s current diet. Follow these steps:

  1. Days 1 to 3 — Feed 25% of the new food mixed with 75% of the old food
  2. Days 4 to 6 —  Feed 50% of the new food mixed with 50% of the old food
  3. Days 7 to 10 — Feed 75% of the new food mixed with 25% of the old food
  4. Days 11+ — Feed 100% of the new food

Monitor your pup’s responses (e.g., behavior, digestive signs) at every step to ensure the diet change succeeds. Consider these steps as suggestions, not hard-and-fast rules. Sensitive dogs may require a more gradual transition time, remaining at each stage for a longer period than suggested here. If your pet experiences worsening signs or refuses to eat, take a step back, and contact your veterinarian.

How to Transition Your Pup’s Food According to a Vet

How Ollie Can Help

Our Ollie team knows a thing or two about pleasing pups’ bellies! Our fresh whole food recipes are designed with your pup’s complete health and taste buds in mind. Each Ollie recipe is specially designed for maximum digestion ease and nutrient and vitamin absorption, featuring many of the gut-friendly ingredients described earlier, such as fiber-filled pumpkin and sweet potato. Speaking of fiber, adding Ollie nutrition to your pet’s bowl means smaller, less frequent stools! This is because highly digestible, human-grade food nourishes your dog, rather than fertilizing your lawn. 

Ollie’s own Director of Food, Bridget Meadows, sums it up best when she explains that “less processed, whole foods can be properly digested, allowing nutrients to be directly absorbed.” When you feed your pet Ollie whole food, you can be confident that they are receiving optimal nutrition to keep their belly happy, gut moving, and tail wagging.

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