Dogs are naturally scavengers so have evolved with incredibly robust digestive systems, allowing them to cope with the unspeakable things that they seem to delight in finding and eating.
Even with this digestive toughness, from time to time things do go wrong and they get an upset stomach – so what do you do when this happens.
Common causes of stomach upset in dogs
In the vast majority of cases, it is something that they have eaten that is causing the problem.
Less common causes are infections and allergies. Stress can also trigger an upset stomach and sometimes it may be a sign of other conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease or urinary tract infections,
However, before you worry too much - the most likely reason they have an upset stomach they have eaten something that they should have left well alone
When should you take them to the vet?
A bit of vomiting and diarrhoea is the body’s natural way of clearing the out the problem. It is nothing to worry about and not worth a trip to the vet. Just keep an eye on them and see if the symptoms start to improve.
You should take them to the vet if you see any of these
- The vomiting or diarrhoea is continuous or carries on for several hours or is getting worse
- The vomiting or diarrhoea carries on for more than 24 hours
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Signs of blood in the vomit or diarrhoea
- If they seem to be in pain
- If they seem tired or lethargic
If you see any of these signs, or if you are worried, then take them to the vet.
What are the signs of a dog with a stomach upset?
The most obvious signs that something is wrong with their digestive system are diarrhoea or vomiting.
However, dehydration, tiredness, excessive gas, drooling, and loss of appetite could all be signs of a stomach upset.
A tip to see whether they are dehydrated is, gently pinch their skin between your thumb and forefinger. If the skin springs back quickly then they are well hydrated, if it goes back more slowly then they may be dehydrated.
What do you feed a dog with an upset stomach?
The first thing to think about is water. Vomiting or diarrhoea can cause dehydration, and that can happen quickly, within a few hours, so you want to replace the water. The problem is if they drink too much then that can make the problem worse. Try giving them some ice cubes and if they keep that down then try a small amount of water in the bowl and keep doing that – so keep them hydrated but don’t let them gulp down water.
In terms of feeding, if they are not too old or very young you can avoid food for 12 to 24 hours – they probably won’t feel much like eating anyway.
If the symptoms persist you should take them to the vet. Once they are eating again and the symptoms have gone – then you need to think about what to feed them. You will eventually want to go back to ther normal food but there are specialist diets that can give them some help to recover.
Their ability to digest foods may be impaired so foods made with highly digestible ingredients and extra vitamins and minerals will help them get the nutrients they need.
The vomiting or diaorreah will have caused them to lose electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium and these need replacing. Specialist digestive recovery diets have increased levels of these electrolytes to help replace losses.
There are some specialist ingredients that can also help. Mannan-oligo-saccharides (MOS), can bind to problem bacteria, preventing them from attaching to intestinal wall whilst Zeolite absorbs toxic components in the gut.
If your dog’s digestive upset is due to food allergy or sensitivity then there are specialist diets that contain low allergy ingredients or hydrolysed protein – less likely to trigger an allergic response.
If the problem is constipation then high fibre diets will help.