Got a Dog with an Upset Stomach? Decision Making Time

Sick labrador dog with upset stomach

It’s the weekend. Yeah! But oh no, you have a dog with an upset stomach.

He seems well enough but what he’s producing is most unpleasant. You’re torn. The dog hates visiting the vets, plus sitting for an hour in a packed waiting room is hardly the best start to the weekend. So what to do? Should you play it safe and get him checked or is it safe to care for him at home?

From what causes an upset stomach, to knowing when help is essential, or what to feed a dog with an upset stomach, let’s take a practical approach to helping your pooch.

Upset Stomach Symptoms

Sounds simple enough, after all the evidence is there in the garden…or carpet if you’re really unlucky.

A typical stomach upset means the stool may range from too soft to scoop up through to liquid, and is usually limited to the back end (rather than vomiting.)

A true upset stomach is just that, a bump along the road of an otherwise healthy dog. Although his output isn’t pretty and the symptoms are unpleasant, he’s not in any immediate danger and it’s probably more an inconvenience (see what we did there!) than life-threatening. Indeed, it’s often not necessary to dash straight to the vet when you know what to do.

Signs your dog has an upset stomach (and not something more serious.)

  • His motions are usually firm but today took a turn for the worse
  • He has diarrhoea but is otherwise bright and well
  • No blood in the stool
  • He’s drinking water and keeping it down
  • He’s looking for food and would eat it if offered
  • You can remember him scavenging something unmentionable on a walk

The bright, bonny dog with soft poop and a history of scavenging (garbage gut!) can often be managed at home. Of course, if you are worried then you should trust your instincts and always seek veterinary advice.

Visit the Vet?

Likewise, sometimes there are clear signs that your dog SHOULD see the vet. If in any doubt, pick up the phone and take the clinic’s advice.

Those red light warnings that all’s not well include:

  • Vomiting or retching
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of interest in food
  • Fever
  • Not drinking
  • Blood in the stool
  • A swollen stomach
  • Diarrhoea that persists for more than 24 – 48 hours in an otherwise bright dog.

What Causes Upset Stomachs?

It’s not a pretty expression but it’s an apt one: Garbage gut. Some dogs make a habit of scavenging and when what they eat is unsavoury, an upset stomach is the result.

Dogs just love to steal food at any chance

However it’s also true that infection, parasitic infections; food allergy can cause diarrhoea, with or without vomiting. It is a subtle difference but upset stomachs tend to be ‘self-limiting’ and will clear up given time, whereas infections or allergies take much longer and often need treatment.

What to Feed a Dog with an Upset Stomach

Feed the right food and you help an upset stomach to heal, feed the wrong food and it makes matters worse. Here’s what to do:

  1. Starve the dog for 12 – 24 hours. This allows the bowel to purge itself of toxins, rest, and recover.
  2. Re-introduce food gradually by feeding small portions, often. This is because food in the stomach stimulates the gut: the larger the meal the bigger the stimulation, so smaller meals are gentler on the system.
  3. Offer bland foods. The classic is to feed a white meat such as chicken breast, with a bland carbohydrate such as boiled white rice or pasta, or boiled potato without dairy products. (However, the white meat must be just that and not a chicken-flavoured food.)
  4. Consider feeding a prescription food. Your vet can supply specially formulated foods (such as Hills ID or Purina EN) that are proven to speed up the recovery time from diarrhoea.

How to Treat an Upset Stomach

What else can you do?

  • Make sure your dog has plenty of clean, fresh drinking water. When he drinks well, he won’t get dehydrated, which can be a serious complication of diarrhoea.
  • Consider probiotics. Dogs have different bacteria in their bowel to humans, so leave your probiotic drink in the fridge. Instead, source doggy probiotics such as Fortiflora. Sprinkled on food daily it repopulates the bowel with healthy bacteria and helps restore order.
  • Consider non-prescription anti-diarrheal such as Promax or Canikur. Stocked by vets but available without prescription, these products also contain probiotics, as well as absorbent minerals that mop up toxins and soothe the bowel wall.

Serious Signs to Watch for

By all means care for your dog at home, but if he takes a turn for the worse or fails to improve after 24 – 48 hours, then speak to your vet.

Pick up the phone if:

  • The dog deteriorates, such as loses energy, his appetite, or starts to vomit
  • He becomes dehydrated (check by lifting his scruff and letting it go. It should spring back immediately)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea with blood

Does your dog have a garbage gut?

Is he always scavenging, share the frustration and tell us the most unusual thing he’s stolen! Please leave a comment below.

Leave a comment: