Stomach upset, otherwise known as gastroenteritis or dyspepsia, is one of the most common ailments in dogs. It can affect both puppies as well as older dogs, and in most cases, they will recover just fine on their own. However, there are times that gastrointestinal (GI) issues are more than just an upset stomach and may be linked to an underlying health condition.
Regardless of the cause, if your pet is suffering from severe GI symptoms that last beyond a reasonable 24-hour period, you should get in touch with your vet as soon as possible. An upset stomach that goes beyond the 24-hour timeframe can cause further health concerns, such as anemia, dehydration, and weight loss. Severe anemia and dehydration can be fatal.
Table of Contents:
- What causes stomach upset in dogs?
- Symptoms of upset stomach in dogs
- Home remedies for dog's upset stomach
- When to go to the vet for dog diarrhea or vomiting
- Key takeaways
Pro Tip: In many cases, a dog's upset stomach will go away on it's own, but long-lasting or severe symptoms should be evaluated by a vet. Pet insurance can help by reimbursing you up to 100% of covered vet costs, so you can give your loved one the essential care they need to start feeling better ASAP with less damage to your wallet.
What Causes Stomach Upset in Dogs?
There are a variety of reasons why dogs suffer from an upset stomach. Some of the more benign triggers could be linked to an abrupt change in appetite, overeating, or simply not eating enough. In both cases, a pup’s stomach can become irritated and cause illness. Here are some of the common causes for dogs’ upset stomachs.
A dog’s upset stomach may be related to parasites, such as hookworm, tapeworm, roundworm, giardia, coccidia, whipworm, and more. Among the common ones on this list is giardia while coccidia is relatively rare. These microscopic parasites can affect your pup in a variety of ways, ranging from simple irritation to life-threatening issues if left untreated.
If your pet’s immune system is weakened or compromised in any way, bacterial infections can be the culprit here, and cause gastrointestinal upsets. In particular, bacteria like salmonella and E. coli are quite common. Chronic conditions, such as colitis in dogs, could also be at the root of the problem and will require a vet’s diagnosis.
Sometimes, a dog can suffer from dyspepsia due to changes in their diet or eating something they shouldn’t. Refer to this list of food dogs can’t eat to ensure you’re not feeding them anything that could be responsible for indigestion. Other times it may be undetected food allergies that cause your canine companion to not eat. You could also check here to see other possible reasons why your dog is not eating.
There are certain foods dogs can’t eat although they’re perfectly suitable for humans. Seemingly benign foods, such as grapes, garlic, onions, and chocolates, can at times make a dog ill if ingested. This is especially true if your dog ingested them in large amounts. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is highly toxic to animals and should be stored in a high pantry in a sealed container, well away from your furry baby.
Your dog is suffering from digestive upsets because he may have inadvertently poisoned himself. A dog can be poisoned by just getting into household items such as over-the-counter drugs or cleaning detergents.
If your dog plays around in the garden, some plants can be poisonous to them, as well. Ingestion could cause vomiting and diarrhea, especially with plants like nettles and elephant ears. Dogs also tend to enjoy getting into the trash, and usually find all sorts of interesting, potentially hazardous things to eat.
Call the Pet Poison Helpline immediately at (855) 765-7661 if you fear your dog may have consumed a toxic poison.
Stress and Anxiety
Dogs can get an upset stomach when they’re stressed or anxious. Just like humans, our canine companions can feel “sick to the stomach” when they are uneasy. That can manifest as gas, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and avoidance of food.
If you’ve noticed these symptoms, look around your environment and try to identify any key triggers or recent changes that may be responsible. If you can’t eliminate the root of stress and anxiety, you may need to visit your vet so that they can prescribe possible medications, like trazodone for dogs, and recommend specialized treatments that can help keep your pup even-keeled and calm.
Pro Tip: Do you have an anxious pup? Compare pet insurance plans to find a policy that helps cover the costs of prescription medications, so you can save money while helping your dog stress less throughout their lifetime.
Symptoms of Upset Stomach in Dogs
Some of the most common symptoms of digestive issues in dogs are:
- Excessive gas, even more so than normal.
- Audible gurgling that you can hear coming from the dog’s belly.
- Behavioral changes such as depression and disinterest in his surroundings.
- Vomiting and diarrhea.
- Loss of appetite.
- Eating grass to alleviate discomfort.
- Breath smells foul.
- Burping and excessive thirst.
Sometimes a dog can experience more severe cases of dyspepsia, or intense symptoms that may indicate an underlying health condition. Serious clinical signs to look out for include:
- Severe vomiting especially vomits that are considered “acute” and have a sudden onset.
- Vomit that appears as though it has coffee grounds in it, which is digested blood.
- Vomit that looks a bit yellow with bile.
- Vomit or stool that seems to have blood in it.
- Abdominal pain. You may notice your dog standing in an odd stance, as though it is standing with its head hanging or praying or bowing.
- Lethargy and weakness are clinical signs of gastroenteritis.
- Dogs with chronic stomach issues may have dull-looking coats.
- If a dog has ingested something toxic, he will drool a lot and his mucous membrane could appear jaundiced or yellow in color.
- A dog that is suffering from some sort of blood loss will have pale-looking mucous membranes.
Take your dog to a nearby vet or animal hospital immediately if you notice any of the above.
Home Remedies For Dog's Upset Stomach
1. Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics for dogs help improve or maintain digestion by increasing the amount of “good” bacteria in the gut. If your dog was recently on antibiotics, there’s a chance the medication may have attacked these beneficial microorganisms in the GI tract, allowing harmful bacteria to proliferate and cause stomach upset. Always talk to your veterinarian before introducing your dog to dietary supplements.
2. Grazing on Grass
The grass is one of those instinctual home remedies dogs turn to when they don’t feel well… or so we might think. According to VCA Hospitals, it’s a common assumption that canines eat grass to relieve upset stomachs. However, there’s no scientific evidence to support this belief, and if your dog vomits after eating grass, it could be the behavior that made them feel ill rather than the other way around. Evidence also suggests that improving digestion, treating intestinal worms, or fulfilling some unmet nutritional need are some of the reasons why dogs eat grass.
If your dog keeps eating grass, consider allowing them to do so. It may be just what they need to do to feel better. Just ensure to keep your dog well hydrated and be mindful of potential pesticides. If they persistently eat grass or vomit more than twice, contact your vet straight away.
3. 24-Hour Fasting
It is entirely normal for dogs to go without food for periods of time in the wild. In the case that your dog is experiencing frequent and intense bouts of diarrhea, fasting (more commonly called ‘intermittent/therapeutic fasting’) will allow their GI tract to rest and recover if inflamed. But if your dog is still a puppy, you should not remove food for longer than 12 hours or overnight.
Many people think fasting means starvation, but it is actually very much the opposite. To starve the body means there is no nutritional intake which is damaging to the body causing it to break down and leading to certain health issues.
Rather than starving your pet, in fasting, you are actually creating a nutritional plan of fasting and non-fasting days which leads to maintenance of their organ function and vital muscle. Intermittent fasting means feeding your pet once or twice during a 6 to 8 hour period and then fasting them for the other 16 to 18 hours, depending on your vet’s advice.
For your dog to benefit from fasting, they must receive a sufficient amount of nutrient intake on non-fasting days. While fasting is beneficial for dogs, remember to always consult an integrative or holistic veterinarian to ensure fasting is a safe practice for your pet.
4. Increasing Hydration
Diarrhea in dogs is a common symptom of stomach upset. So, if your dog is suffering from diarrhea, he or she might need to drink a bit more than usual to replace the water content in the liquid stool. Otherwise, they may become dehydrated and demonstrate symptoms such as lethargy and dizziness.
To check if your dog is dehydrated, try to lift their lips and inspect the gums. Typically, their gums should be slick, pink, and wet in appearance rather than dry.
If you’re not sure, press on the gums until you see a change in color. Remove your finger and note how long it takes for the color to come back. The color should return instantly. If it takes a couple of moments, your pet could be dehydrated.
Another way is to pill at the scruff of your dog’s neck, the way a mother dog may lift their young. If his skin snaps back, they should be fine. If it takes a long time for your dog’s skin to retract, it may indicate dehydration.
To get them feeling back up to speed, make sure your pup has access to plenty of fresh, clean water that they drink throughout the day.
5. Bland Diet
When feeling nauseous, dogs may benefit from a bland diet made up of soft foods (e.g. boiled and shredded chicken with plain, white rice) that are easy to digest. Bland diets may be boring by design but they can soothe the digestive tract until your pet’s normal appetite, bowel movements, and metabolic function are restored.
Take a cue from your vet regarding when and how to give your pet a bland food diet. Arlington Animal Hospital recommends that dog owners wait 12 to 24 hours before feeding your pet anything after they throw up, but notes that puppies should not fast for more than 12 hours. Fasting will help give the dog’s digestive system a chance to rest.
Once your dog can hold down water, it may be time to gradually introduce a bland diet. VCA Hospitals advises that you begin by offering 1 to 2 tablespoons of food every 2 to 3 hours. If your pet seems to tolerate this approach, gradually increase how much food you give them and feed them less frequently. For example, offer a quarter to a half cup of bland food every 4 hours.
When to Go to the Vet for Dog Diarrhea or Vomiting
It’s not uncommon for dogs to throw up or have loose stools from time to time. Most mild cases of stomach upset improve within 1 to 2 days, but if your pet has been vomiting or passing diarrhea for more than 48 hours, it’s time to see the vet. Keep in mind, if their digestive upsets occur frequently or with intensity, their condition could worsen quickly due to dehydration.
You know your dog best. Even if they don’t display the symptoms listed above, but you’re still worried about their health, it’s always best to call your vet.
- If your dog has an upset stomach, there are several home remedies that may alleviate their symptoms, aid indigestion, and help them recover faster.
- It’s important to consider the possible causes of stomach upset in dogs and be aware of the clinical signs they display, so you can get them feeling back up to speed with the right course of action.
- Dogs may resolve an upset stomach naturally, but call your veterinarian if their digestive issues do not resolve within 48 hours.