My Dog Has an Upset Stomach
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It may not surprise some of us that dogs can get indigestion. The amount of food they eat and the speed with which they do it can be intense. While overeating and eating too quickly often lead to humans having an upset stomach, they are generally more discerning than dogs in their eating habits. Dogs may eat something which might seem very unappealing or may not even be considered food. This is why an upset stomach in dogs is fairly common. Despite this, it is still an issue which needs to be addressed. Gastrointestinal problems can cause serious problems down the line, gastric torsion being one particularly worrying health issue.
At AnimalWised we look at the causes, symptoms and treatment when your dog has an upset stomach. We also look at how to prevent this problem and what risk factors indigestion can cause problems for your dog.
Why my dog has an upset stomach
As stated in the introduction, the causes of indigestion in dogs is most commonly associated with overeating or eating too quickly. This can happen with food which is otherwise healthy for them to eat. Although any dog can suffer from an upset stomach, there are some breeds which have a predisposition towards eating too much.
There have been studies which relate the reasons for this propensity toward increased appetite to genetics. Breeds which appear to be genetically inclined to greediness include the Beagle, the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever. In fact, one study went as far to suggest that Labrador Retrievers used as service dogs were more likely to have the gene linked to greater food motivation.
These risk factors linked to indigestion in dogs also increase the risk of gastric torsion. Otherwise known as ‘bloat’, this is a serious and potentially fatal condition. It involves the gastrointestinal tract becoming twisted and putting the dog at risk of severe rupture.
Another reason a dog may suffer from an upset stomach has to do with their activity levels. If a dog has just eaten and they then take part in extensive exercise immediately afterwards, it can lead to an upset stomach. This is partly because many dogs may not know to rest beforehand. In extreme cases, gastric torsion may result. Excessive gas, vomiting and/or diarrhea more commonly occur.
Dogs which do not have much access to food may eat more quickly. This is common with stray or abandoned dogs. Since food is scarce and they do not have the security other domestic dogs may have, they eat quickly when possible. Going from malnutrition to eating food can put a strain on the dog's domestic system, one of the many reasons stray dogs are more likely to suffer health problems. Even in otherwise loving homes, a dog may get an upset stomach if they are not fed regularly or sufficiently enough.
Dogs which have frequent bouts of indigestion may have an underlying health issue linked to an upset stomach. Symptoms of gastrointestinal problems, which we detail below, can accompany a wide range of diseases. So too can medical conditions such as allergies or food intolerance. With a chronic upset stomach, we will need to take the dog to a veterinarian to diagnose any related conditions.
Indigestion in a dog may have more to do with their guardian than they themselves. Portion sizes not only have an influence in what a dog will eat in one sitting, but also how they approach eating in general. A 2019 study confirms that dogs at significantly more food when their portion size was increased. This means we dog guardians need to be careful how much food we give our dogs, especially if they regularly suffer an upset stomach.
A negative environment can also affect our dog's digestion. If we provide for them a space which has a lot of loud noise, lots of foot traffic or any influences which can lead to stress, the dog's eating habits may be affected. They may lose the ability to properly regulate their intake.
What the dog eats can have a large influence on their tendency towards an upset stomach. If the food does not have sufficient nutrition, they will not be able to metabolise properly and digestive issues are likely. Similarly, food which is too rich and high in calories can be discomfiting when eaten in sufficient quantities. Finally, if a dog eats substances toxic to dogs, not only can it lead to an upset stomach, it can also cause poisoning.
Symptoms of an upset stomach in dogs
Since our dogs cannot always communicate with us directly, many people want to know how they can tell if their dog has an upset stomach. To do this we need to look at the most frequent symptoms of indigestion in dogs. In general, the symptoms will be mild, starting with gas (belching and/or flatulence), but they can exacerbate.
The following symptoms of an upset stomach in dogs may occur:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Stomach ache
- Lying in strange positions
As we stated above, gastric torsion is a possible outcome of a dog's having an upset stomach. The related bloat can be felt as a symptom, but it is important to know the difference between a little trapped gas and a serious obstruction. This is why veterinary advice may be required.
What to give a dog for an upset somach
If your dog shows the above symptoms after eating their food, it is likely they are suffering indigestion. Fortunately, occasional bouts of indigestion are fairly normal in dogs and do not necessarily imply a serious condition. Most dogs will have some form of indigestion throughout their lives.
The best thing to do in these cases is to stop giving the dog any food for a period of 12 to 24 hours. This will depend on the severity of their symptoms. However, your dog should always have access to water. This will both help the dog to overcome their upset stomach as well as prevent dehydration which can occur with vomiting and diarrhea.
After a period of fasting, we need to gradually introduce food again. We will do this by giving them small portions in several daily administrations. If we give them too much food too soon, then their already sensitive stomach may cause a relapse of indigestion. We cannot necessarily trust the dog to reduce their own intake accordingly which is why we need to do it for them.
However, if you see that your dog has these symptoms regularly, ingests their food too quickly all the time (almost as if they are desperate) or you think your dog is thinner than they should be, you will need to take them to te veterinarian. They will be able to diagnose or rule out any physical reasons which may be causing indigestion. If the dog is otherwise healthy, they will be able to put you in touch with a canine behaviorist or ethologist who can help reduce their anxiety over eating.
If you think your dog may have eaten something toxic, whether food or otherwise, do not hesitate to take them to the veterinarian. They may need to pump their stomach, provide fluid therapy or administer various treatments. In general, if symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, you will need to take them to the veterinarian.
Home remedies for an upset stomach in dogs
In cases where indigestion has been caused by excessive consumption of food, we may be able to use some tricks and tips at home to help them. This can both help to stimulate their digestive process and reduce discomfort which occurs due to the upset stomach.
It is essential we don't see these home remedies as treatments which can replace veterinary advice. This is especially so if the dog has a serious illness.
Home remedies for canine indigestion
- Chamomile: as one of the herbal preparations which are not toxic to dogs, it is possible it may be used to aid digestion. It is believed to have digestive and soothing effects on the dog's gastrointestinal system. You can prepare a tea infusion as you may if making a cup for yourself. Offer your dog 2 tablespoons at room temperature and ensure it is free of any sugar or sweeteners.
- Cinnamon: this spice is thought to have some anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and digestive properties. In moderate doses, it may relieve muscle spasms and cramps by preventing he formation of gas. To prevent digestive problem, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon added to their food may be beneficial.
- Turmeric: dogs can eat turmeric and it is believed to be beneficial to their bodies. As with cinnamon, turmeric might be able to relieve muscle cramps related to indigestion. For medium sized dogs, a maximum of 60 mg 3 times a week should not be exceeded.
- Homemade whey: whey protein is a good remedy for dogs that have had vomiting and had diarrhea. It also may help to prevent potential dehydration.
How to prevent indigestion in dogs
To prevent our dog from developing an upset stomach, we must follow these guidelines:
- Provide them with complete and balanced nutrition. We do this by meeting the specific nutritional requirements of each stage of their life.
- You will also need to encourage good eating habits. For example, dividing the total amount of food into 2 or 3 daily doses can help prevent the dog from eating too much in one sitting. We also shouldn't leave too much time between feedings so their digestive system doesn't get overwhelmed. This will also help to prevent anxiety if the dog thinks they are not going to be fed.
- Walking and exercise at the most appropriate times, avoiding physical activity near feeding schedules.
- Maintain your home so that the dog does not have access to prohibited food, plants or toxic substances. Don't overfeed them with treats and inappropriate food.
- Offer a positive environment and respect your dog's feeding moments without disturbing them or causing anxiety.
This video on how many times a day a dog should eat can also offer some additional insight:
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Has an Upset Stomach, we recommend you visit our Intestinal problems category.
1. Raffan, E., et al. (2016). A Deletion in the Canine POMC Gene Is Associated with Weight and Appetite in Obesity-Prone Labrador Retriever Dogs. Cell Metabolism, 23(5), 893-900.
2. Kersbergen, I., et al. (2019). Portion Size and Meal Consumption in Domesticated Dogs: An Experimental Study. Physiology & Behavior, 204(15), 174-179.