Gastrointestinal distress is fairly common in dogs regardless of age or breed. Ranging from a minor upset to chronic digestive issues, most dogs will experience some form of gastrointestinal upset at some point in their lifetimes.
As a pet parent, you may be wondering how to best support your dog’s gastrointestinal system to keep your pup happy and well-nourished. You know that keeping your dog at a healthy weight and giving them proper nutrition will help them live a long an healthy life.
If your dog seems to have a sensitive stomach or is struggling with digestive issues, there are plenty of ways to help. We’ve broken it down by age and condition to help you talk to your vet about the right plan for your pup!
One note of caution - if your pup is in constant distress, has blood in either vomit or stool or isn’t eating or drinking normally, call your vet ASAP. While we can make some suggestions to support your pup’s gastrointestinal system, this is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice from your vet.
How do I know if my dog has a sensitive stomach?
The term sensitive stomach isn't really a medical term per-se, but if you notice your pup is frequently showing signs of digestive distress this might be a good discriptor. Their symptoms might include: frequent bouts of gas or belching, hiccups, and issues with their stool like soft mushy stool or constipation.
Why do pups suffer from digestive distress?
1. Stress or anxiety
Just like you may get an upset stomach when you are highly stressed, your dog may experience this as well. Reasons for stress in dogs could include a change in routine, adding a new person or pet to your home, moving, or being surrendered to a shelter. Additionally, if your dog is stressed about things like a trip to the vet, you might see some short term tummy troubles!
2. Previous malnourishment
If you have a rescue pup or a dog that is malnourished due to previous neglect or illness, they may still experience some digestive issues.
3. Medical conditions like colitis
Medical conditions like colitis or other gastrointestinal issues can cause tummy troubles on the regular.
4. Viruses and bacteria
Like you, your dog can suffer from a stomach bug. These generally short term illnesses can be contagious. If you send your pup to doggie daycare or frequent the dog park your pup could pick up (or pass on) the stomach bug. It's good practice to keep your pup at home if they aren’t feeling well or you know one of the other pup’s is sick.
5. Parasitic infections
Parasites like intestinal worms can cause digestive issues and lead to malnourishment in dogs. If you see worms in your pups vomit or stool you’ll want to get to the vet quickly.
6. Allergies or intolerances
Your pup could be suffering from digestive issues if they have undiagnosed food allergies or dietary intolerances. If you have tried everything and your pup isn’t getting better, you may want to consider working with your vet to try to find the culprit ingredient. This could take a few tries and be time-consuming as you will need to eliminate specific ingredients from your pet’s diet for a period of time. You will want to do this slowly and systematically to ensure you know exactly what is causing the issue. Work with a pro to come up with the process and ensure your pup’s nutritional needs are being met.
Best food for puppies with sensitive stomachs
Young puppies go through some stressful transitions that can cause some digestive distress. If you have a new puppy, the transition to your home could be stressful and can cause some gastrointestinal upset. Other transitions could include temperature changes, moving, and meeting new family members. Keep an eye on your puppy and if they’re experiencing gastrointestinal issues check in with your vet. They may suggest a bland diet for a few days while your pup’s stomach settles down.
If you find that you’re frequently dealing with GI issues, you may need to make some permanent changes to your dog’s diet. Chat with your vet about what you’ve been feeding. They may recommend checking for allergies or choosing a food better suited for your puppy’s needs.
At Ollie, our delicious recipes are approved for all life stages (including puppies). Our onboarding quiz helps pet parents find the right recipe and meal plan for their pups. Many pups with sensitive gastrointestinal systems do well with Ollie’s Chicken Recipe. For pups with chicken allergies -- we recommend steering clear and trying Turkey, Lamb, or Beef.
Best food for seniors with sensitive stomachs
As dogs age, other gastrointestinal problems can develop. You may find that as your pup is getting older, you need to make some changes to their diet. Chat with your vet about what you’re noticing to get a recommendation as to what direction you need to go.
Remember that digestion starts in your dog’s mouth and if your senior dog has bad teeth or pain with chewing you may want to consider fresh food like Ollie in place of dry kibble. For pups that tend to have bad teeth like Cavalier King Charles, it is not unusual for your vet to extract a few damaged teeth.
Best food for dogs with sensitive stomachs combined with skin issues
If your pup has both a sensitive stomach and some skin issues, they could actually be related. These symptoms could point to a food allergy or sensitivity. Your vet will be able to help you determine which food or foods you need to eliminate from your dog’s diet.
To best support pups with food allergies, Ollie offers Recipes with four different proteins. We also offer single-ingredient treats to go with our food. These treats are made from dried sweet potatoes and meats like beef, chicken, and turkey. Since there is only one ingredient they are perfect for pups with allergies and do not contain preservatives, sweeteners, or any type of fillers.
Best food for dogs with diarrhea or vomiting
If your dog has diarrhea or is vomiting, you will want to resolve these symptoms as they can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. If these symptoms are caused by illness your vet may recommend a bland diet for a few days. You can purchase a prescription product or cook for your pup at home.
To prepare a bland diet for your dog, follow your vet’s instructions. Most bland diets consist of small portions of plain white rice, plain pasta, oatmeal, boiled chicken, turkey or beef, or plain scrambled eggs. All of these foods will help your pup’s stomach settle. Pups with diarrhea sometimes benefit from some pumpkin or banana puree. If you are not making your own and using a pre-packaged product, ensure you are using puree that does not contain sugar or spices. These can make your dog sicker.
Bland diets are generally only used short term. A virus or illness should resolve in a few days. If your pup’s symptoms do not resolve, you’ll want to work with your vet to see what is going on.
Your dog’s vet may recommend probiotic supplements, additional testing or a change of diet to fully resolve your pup’s digestive issues.
To learn more about food for dogs with sensitive stomachs,Dog Food Advisor has resources and reviews to help pet owners make the best decision for their pets. You can combine what you learn from dog food advisor with your vet’s recommendations to choose the right food for your dog.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.