If you’ve noticed that your dog has gone off their food or is experiencing regular gastrointestinal symptoms, they might be sensitive to the food they are eating.
Of course, there are a number of other, more sinister causes of a sensitive stomach which would need to be investigated and treated by a vet. While it’s important to rule these out, in most cases, a sensitive dog stomach is probably just a case of your pup not tolerating their food well.
Thankfully, there are some simple switches you can make to ease your pup’s troubles and get them back to normal.
What is a sensitive dog stomach and what are the symptoms?
If your dog has a sensitive stomach or isn’t tolerating the food you’re giving him, you might notice one or a combination of the following symptoms:
- Vomiting. If your dog is sick occasionally, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, repeated bouts of sickness could indicate a sensitive stomach or another health concern.
- Runny stools. Loose or runny stools are a surefire symptom of digestive troubles. Every dog may experience this occasionally, but if you notice this regularly, your pup might not be getting along with their food.
- Excessive gas. Yuck - we’ve all smelt horrible dog farts! This is a natural part of being a dog, but if it’s become excessive or you’ve noticed a change, it could be down to their diet.
Sensitive dog stomach in itself isn’t a diagnosis. The cause of the sensitive stomach could be anything from inflammatory bowel disease to a food allergy. Although tests to pinpoint the specific cause are available, most owners are able to ease the symptoms through diet change alone.
However, before you attempt to treat the issue with sensitive stomach dog food, it’s essential to head to your vet to get your dog checked over. Vomiting and diarrhoea may indicate a more severe health problem which would require medical treatment.
Once you’ve had the all-clear from your vet and know there’s nothing sinister going on, you can start to implement some diet changes to help ease your dog’s symptoms.
Sensitive stomach dog food: what to look for
Finding the right sensitive stomach dog food can take time. You’ll need to go through some serious trial-and-error to determine what ingredients are causing your pooch the most trouble.
We’d recommend keeping a food diary and track what your dog has eaten and when they are sick or have diarrhoea, so you identify any patterns.
As a starting point, you should aim for foods which are generally easy to digest by dogs. We’d recommend foods which:
Are free from grains
Many commercial dog foods are chockablock with grains. While some dogs may be perfectly fine, lots of dogs have trouble digesting them.
A dog’s intestine isn’t technically designed to digest and metabolize complex grains, so in some cases, eating them long-term leads to an inflammatory response. In time, this could lead to damage of the digestive lining.
Have limited ingredients
Dog foods with limited ingredients are becoming more and more common - in fact, you’ll probably be able to pick up some in your local pet store.
The idea behind limited ingredient dog food is that with fewer ingredients, it’s easier to eliminate potential allergens, avoid unnecessary additives and ultimately, know exactly what your pup is eating.
If you choose to go down this route, ensure you pick a brand which states it’s nutritionally complete and balanced. Usually, good-quality, nutritionally-complete limited dog foods are a great choice for dogs with a sensitive tummy.
Contain good-quality, dog-friendly ingredients
Look for an easily digestible protein such as chicken, lamb, fish or venison along with a good-quality carb such as potatoes, sweet potatoes or rice. Some fibre is necessary too - carrots, peas, green beans and broccoli are a good choice.
When it comes to picking sensitive stomach dog food, there are a number of ingredients you’ll want to avoid, too. Meat-meals, corn, wheat, soy, BHA, BHT, food dyes, rendered fats, gluten, and pea protein.
Contain health-boosting ingredients
There are a number of ingredients and supplements which will help to boost your dog's digestive health. Dog-friendly probiotics, yoghurt, beet pulp and pumpkin are some of the best.
Sensitive stomach dog food: making the switch
“All dogs have sensitive stomachs and do not tolerate switching dog foods very well. Sudden changes in a dog’s diet can and will cause diarrhoea. Once your dog’s digestion is upset, he cannot control himself and will not wait until he is walked in order to relieve himself,” explain Mordecai Siegal and Matthew Margolis, authors of The Good Life: Your Dog’s First Year.
“Remember to change the food in fourths. Place one-fourth of the new food in the bowl with three-fourths of the original food. Every day thereafter, add one-fourth of the new food to one-fourth less of the original food, until, by the fourth day, the dog is eating the new food. This will help avoid stomach problems and unwanted messes.”
Homemade sensitive stomach dog food
It’s often beneficial to make your own sensitive stomach dog food at home. This way, you know exactly what's going into your dog's body and can adapt and alter the recipe easily.
Always consult your vet before implementing a homecooked diet. Depending on your dog’s age and health, they may recommend adding some supplements to their routine to make sure your pup is receiving their daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.
Super simple dog food recipe
As seen in Homemade Dog Treats & Homemade Dog Food by Brittany Boykin. Ingredients
- 2 pounds (1kg) minced chicken
- ½ cup rice
- 1 cup macaroni
- 1 carrot
- ½ cup peas
- 1 tablespoon gravy mix
- 5 cups water
- In a large saucepan, brown the chicken lightly.
- Add the water to the cooked chicken and break up the mince so it doesn’t form clumps.
- Add the rice and pasta.
- Chop the peas and carrots in a food processor so they’re in very small, easily digestible pieces and add them to the chicken.
- Boil the mixture until the rice and pasta are overcooked and have expanded significantly. Stir occasionally to stop the chicken sticking to the bottom.
- In a small cup, mix the gravy mix and a little boiling water to form a smooth paste.
- Pour the gravy mix into the chicken and stir well.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and pour into a sealable container.
- Allow to cool before serving. The mixture will last 3 days in the fridge.
So, there we have it - that's everything you need to know about sensitive stomach dog food! We hope it doesn't take you too long to find a diet which keeps your pup happy, healthy and stomach-upset free!