Does your dog struggle with digestive issues? This article looks at a few of the most common causes, when to seek immediate veterinary attention, as well as some natural remedies for your dog with mild tummy aches.
Symptoms of Stomach Issues in Dogs
Signs that your dog is having some gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort of any kind are important to pay attention to. Of course, symptoms of GI issues in dogs can range from mild to severe and be either predictable or intermittent.
Be sure to take good notes when you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog. Note the time of day and changes in diet, and be sure to investigate your dog’s stool. These notes can be very important when it comes to giving your vet the clues they need to make a prompt and accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms of GI upset in dogs can include:
- Changes in appetite and/or water intake
- Sensitivity to being touched in the abdomen
- Constipation or straining while defecating
- Excessive gas
- Weight loss
- Dry heaving or gagging
- Drooling or “swallowing air” or “air licking”
- Changes in bowel movements including frequency or time of day
- Suddenly having accidents in the house
- Fatigue or other changes in the desire to do things
- Excessive or unusual stretching of the abdominal area
When to Consult a Vet for Digestive Problems
Just like with people, a dog’s stomach problems may come and go in a day or even in a few hours. You don’t always have to drive your dog to the emergency vet just because they have a bit of tummy trouble.
However, some dog digestive problems can indeed be an emergency situation and others require veterinary treatment to get better.
Take your dog to the vet IMMEDIATELY if you see the following symptoms:
- A swollen or hard belly
- Dry heaving, particularly after a large meal or exercise
- Severe pain and discomfort in the abdomen
- Panting and restlessness accompanied by pain and distress
- Blood in the vomit or in the stool
- You suspect your dog may have eaten dangerous plants, chemicals, drugs, or poisonous foods such as chocolate
- Your dog has swallowed something indigestible such as a child’s toy
- Extreme weakness or collapse
- Your dog’s rectal temperature is elevated above 102 degrees F
Call your vet to see if a visit is warranted if you see the following symptoms:
- Diarrhea or vomiting that lasts more than 24 hours
- Mild pain, discomfort, or sensitivity in the stomach lasting more than 24 hours
- Unwillingness to eat for more than 24 hours
- Lack of bowel movement for more than 24 hours
Common Causes of Dog Indigestion
There are many different causes for why your dog has an upset stomach. Proper diagnosis and prompt treatment by a veterinarian can make a big difference in your dog’s quality of life.
The following are some of the more common causes of GI problems in dogs:
Bloat is a condition where the stomach twists and traps gas that builds until the stomach ruptures. It is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency vet care and, in some cases, surgery to release the gas.
The exact causes of bloat are not fully understood. However, large-chested breeds seem to be most susceptible. Feeding your dog smaller meals and reducing exercise after meals may help to prevent bloat in dogs.
Intestinal Obstruction or Puncture
Another potential emergency situation can occur when your dog eats something large and indigestible enough to cause an obstruction in the intestines. Or, if your dog swallows something sharp that can actually puncture the gut.
If left untreated, bowel obstruction or puncture can quickly become life-threatening and do permanent damage to the intestines. If you or your vet suspect an obstruction, the first step in treatment will likely include x-rays to track the obstruction and determine a further course of action.
Food Intolerance or Allergies
Just like people, canines sometimes struggle with allergies or food sensitivities to specific ingredients in their food. While this is not necessarily an emergency, proper identification and removal of the offending ingredient will make a major difference in your dog’s quality of life and overall health.
Your vet may recommend an elimination diet trial to identify ingredients in dog food that your dog may be reactive to.
Gastrointestinal Diseases in Dogs
There are many different diseases that can impact your dog’s digestive health including autoimmune diseases and gastrointestinal conditions. Examples include gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, and colitis.
Veterinary diagnosis of GI diseases in canines may include blood and fecal tests. Proper treatment for most of these conditions can vastly improve your furry friend’s quality of life and overall health.
Parasites such as roundworm, hookworm, or giardia can cause many digestive problems for dogs. The most common parasites known to infect dogs can be easily prevented with a regular worming regime available through your veterinarian.
If you suspect your dog may have been poisoned, it is an emergency situation. Since dogs explore their world with their nose and mouth, poisoning is not uncommon and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Common causes of dog poisoning include:
- People food (example: chocolate, artificial sweeteners)
- Toxic plants
- Drugs (including recreational and medicinal pharmaceuticals)
- Lawn and garden chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides
- Household chemicals
In addition, sometimes commercial dog food that has spoiled can cause fatal poisoning. Be sure to check the use-by date on every package of food you buy and visually inspect and smell your dog’s food before feeding.
Changes in Diet
If you have recently changed your dog’s food, you may see signs of stomach upset. It is recommended that you change food gradually to give your pooch a chance to adjust to their new food.
If symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort are severe or last more than a day, go back to the old food and consult with your vet.
What to Give a Dog for an Upset Stomach: Natural Remedies
The fact is, some dogs just have sensitive stomachs that flare up from time to time causing discomfort, loose stools, or other mild symptoms of GI upset.
What should you feed your dog with an upset stomach?
If you have already had your dog checked by a vet and these mild episodes continue intermittently, you may want to try some of the following homel remedies to help your dog with regularity and overall intestinal health:
- Bland diet (for a limited time during a flare-up) of boiled lean chicken and rice
- Small amounts of canned pumpkin (NOT canned pumpkin pie mix) added to meals
- A tablespoon of active yogurt added to meals for probiotic support (Use only plain yogurt and avoid any products with artificial sweeteners as some of these are toxic to dogs.)
- Offer ice cubes made from diluted low sodium broth to encourage hydration
- Organic Full Spectrum Hemp Oil may help improve overall gut health