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Dogs are notorious for eating things they aren't supposed to. Sometimes, this can lead to an upset stomach, vomiting and maybe diarrhoea. If your dog is otherwise healthy, an occasional upset stomach shouldn't cause concern. But if your dog has serious or frequent gastrointestinal problems, then it's time to seek your veterinarian's help. Being sick can rapidly cause dehydration and so can watery poop in the longer term. It’s better to be safe than sorry so if you’re ever worried about a digestive upset, always ask your vet for advice.
Signs That Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach
How do you know if your dog has an upset stomach? Many of the signs are similar to what you experience when your own tummy hurts. According to the PDSA, signs of a digestive upset (gastroenteritis) include:
- Diarrhoea, including stools of various colours such as green or yellow poop.
- Vomiting or retching
- Lack of appetite
- Tiredness or lethargy
- Abdominal pain
The PDSA adds that your dog might show abdominal pain by yelping or growling when you pick them up or touch their tummy. They might also adopt the "prayer position", which is when they stand with front legs stretched out, hind legs up, and tail in the air. This also looks exactly like when they play bow.
Causes of stomach issues can be internal (inside the stomach) or external (outside the stomach). Internal causes for an upset stomach include dietary indiscretion (a fancy way of saying your dog ate something they shouldn't), food allergies, overeating, parasites, intestinal blockages, ulcers or tumours. External causes include pain, heatstroke, stress, liver or kidney problems, pancreatitis, hormonal issues, brain problems, inner ear problems or cancer.
How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Sensitive Stomach or an Upset Stomach That may Pass.
Some dogs have guts of steel — they can eat just about anything and not get sick. Other dogs will throw up if they nibble something even the least bit different from their regular food.
You can tell if your dog has a sensitive stomach by the frequency of signs. If your dog experiences any of the signs of an upset stomach on a frequent basis (once a month or more), then they may have a sensitive stomach.
The causes of a sensitive stomach aren't always easy to figure out, but possible causes range from food sensitivities and food allergies to changes in bacterial populations in the digestive system, called the gut microbiome.
Signs of a food allergies, in addition to those listed above, may also include skin problems, such as itchy red skin, hair loss and increased gut sounds.
What to Give a Dog With an Upset Stomach
How to treat your dog's upset stomach depends on the severity and its underlying cause. If pancreatitis is causing their upset stomach, for example, their treatment will be different from that for a dog whose upset stomach is a result of a food allergy. If your dog only has mild stomach upset, though, treatment may not be needed at all. The Blue Cross recommends consulting your vet to be on the safe side, especially if you have a younger dog or if the symptoms seem to worsen quickly.
Veterinarians have many options to help pets with an upset stomach. Depending on what your dog is suffering from, treatments might include anti-sickness or anti-diarrhoea medication, antacids, intravenous or subcutaneous fluids or deworming medicine. Some dogs require hospitalisation and/or surgery.
Proper Food Can Help
An important part of caring for an upset stomach includes feeding your dog the right food. The most reliable way to settle a stomach upset is to ask your vet for an easily digestible food to feed for a few days. These foods give your dog all the nutrients they need and your vet may want to tailor the choice depending on the severity. Once it’s all settled you can reintroduce their normal food over a couple of days.
Fortunately, there are many options available to help a dog with an upset tummy to feel better fast. Together with the help of your veterinary team, you can help your dog get over an upset stomach and get back to tail-wagging in no time at all!
Dr. Sarah Wooten
Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.
Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS