Just like humans, dogs can have sensitive stomachs as well. It could be something they ate, a change in their diet, or dehydration, and their way of telling us is usually with diarrhea or constipation. Our dogs are carnivores, just look at their ancestry! They are meant to eat a fresh raw diet that mimics what they would eat in the wild. When a dog has been fed kibble their whole life, they may experience an upset stomach when their diet is changed. This is very normal, as they are detoxing the harmful ingredients in kibble as they transition to a raw natural diet. Below we will give you some tips on what to do, what not to do, and how to settle your pups upset stomach!
Before looking at what causes an upset stomach in dogs, and how to treat it, it's important to understand how your dog’s digestive system works. Dogs have much shorter GI tracts than humans. This allows food to pass through in a much shorter amount of time, depending on the makeup of the food they are digesting. Raw food, for instance, is digested much quicker and smoother. A natural raw diet with digestive enzymes and probiotics can be broken down and absorbed, allowing the body to utilize the nutrients without any waste. This is also why you will notice smaller, firmer stool in raw fed dogs, as there are no fillers. Keep in mind that your dog's digestive tract was built to digest species-appropriate foods, not a processed diet.
Just like humans, some foods don’t agree with your dog’s stomach. One of the most common causes of an upset stomach in dogs is a change in their diet, but don’t let this discourage you from switching your dog from kibble to a species-appropriate raw diet. If the transition is done slowly and gradually, as shown in our transition guide, you should be able to change your dog’s diet with ease. The reason for this is if your dog has been on a processed diet, their gut has been conditioned to process one type of food.
When switching them to a raw diet, their digestive system needs time to adjust the pH levels in their stomachs to start breaking down the kind of food they are meant to be eating. If your dog does have diarrhea during this transition, don’t panic! It is very normal, as your dog’s stomach is used to process food and is being slightly shocked by a new raw diet. In time, your dog’s stomach pH will adjust to their new diet. With supplements and natural remedies, which we will discuss below, you can settle your dog’s tummy!
Dogs can easily get dehydrated, just like humans. If you notice your dog has diarrhea and is not interested in eating their food or drinking water, they may be dehydrated. To tell if your dog is dehydrated, you can check their gums and make sure they are shiny and wet. You can also do a skin pinch test on your dog's neck, if the skin does not return back to its normal form immediately, your dog could be dehydrated.
Another cause of upset stomach in dogs is food sensitivities and allergies. If your dog is allergic to a protein source, a change in their food may be necessary. Many dogs have sensitivities and allergies to chicken but may not have a sensitivity to turkey. Keep in mind, if your dog is allergic to “chicken” in kibble, they may not be allergic to raw chicken. It is oftentimes an allergy to artificial flavoring and other additives in processed foods.
If you have started the transition to raw, or already have fully transitioned and your dog experiences an upset stomach, refrain from switching them back to their previous diet! A sudden dietary change will only make their stomach more upset by shocking the digestive system again, and with something that is not beneficial to their health. Be patient, and if needed lengthen the transition process to make it a more gradual switch. Remember the transition process can take days to weeks, depending on your dog.
This ‘bland food’ remedy is a common misconception. Dogs do not need cooked chicken, as it is not biologically appropriate. Rice, also, is not a species-appropriate food for dogs. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for grains and carbohydrates, especially because grains cause inflammation often times making problems worse. This diet is high in fat and grain content and does not digest well in dogs. If feeding your dog a bland diet during an upset stomach, it is recommended to high fiber veggies as a base instead, such as canned pumpkin as mentioned below.
When your dog gets sick from their food, you may think it is the food's fault. Sometimes pet owners give their dog a diet that can make things worse. Avoid dairy of any kind, except Goat’s Milk, as well as highly acidic vegetables. Don’t give your dog human food is they have digestive issues, as it can lead to more problems.
Make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh drinking water at all times, and especially if they have an upset stomach. Diarrhea can cause dehydration and loss of important electrolytes, and it is important to make sure they can replenish what has been lost. Watch their water intake so they don’t drink too much water resulting in more diarrhea. To be sure this doesn’t happen, you can give your dog ice cubes with a couple of teaspoons of water instead of an entire bowl to slow down their water intake.
Fiber-rich veggies such as 100% pure canned pumpkin is a good natural remedy for dogs with upset stomachs, diarrhea, and constipation. Make sure it is pure pumpkin and have no added spices. Pumpkin is very rich in soluble fiber, which coats and soothes irritated bowels. Soluble fiber also delays the GI tract transit time, calming the digestive tract to lessen the frequency of diarrhea episodes. Pumpkin is an excellent source of potassium, which is something your dog may lose a lot of from having diarrhea. Low potassium levels can result in stomach pains, fatigue, weakness, and heart rate irregularities. For small dogs, give ½ teaspoon and for larger dogs 1 teaspoon.
Goat’s Milk contains vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, enzymes, protein, and fatty acids which all promote good gut health. It is easily digestible and helps to settle the stomach and prepare it for a new raw diet. Goat’s Milk will improve the balance between good and bad bacteria, aiding digestion as a while. It is also high in potassium, making it a great antacid while helping your dog achieve the right pH throughout their digestive system. For dogs under 20 pounds, serve 2oz a day. For dogs 20-40lbs, serve 4oz a day. For dogs 50-80 pounds, feed 8oz day.
To read more about the benefits of goat’s milk for dogs, read our blog here.
Slippery Elm is recommended for stomach sensitivities, diarrhea, and constipation. It eases the stomach like a natural Pepto-Bismol for dogs! It also reduces GI inflammation. It contains mucilage content which coats, soothes, and lubricates the mucus membranes in the digestive tract. It is a great supplement for digestive issues, as well as other health conditions. Slippery Elm is high in fiber and can assist in relieving both diarrhea and constipation. It is recommended to give about a half teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight, mixed into your dog’s diet twice daily.
If your dog has an upset stomach, giving them more food may further complicate things. Fasting your dog for 12-24 hours can provide relief before introducing them to a normal diet again. This will give the digestive system time to digest before giving them more food. If fasting your dog, be sure they have access to clean drinking water.
To read more about the benefits of intermittent fasting, read our blog here.
With these holistic remedies, your dog's stomach should naturally settle. If your dog’s diarrhea doesn’t clear up in a few days, we recommend taking them to a holistic vet to see if there are any other health issues going on. Be patient and remember your dog’s digestive system is going through a change to be able to digest raw food. With these tips, you will be able to settle your furry friends' tummy while also providing them with nutritional benefits leading to overall good health!