What To Do When Your Dog Has An Upset Stomach
Understand the signs and symptoms of stomach upset so you can help your pup find relief.
Notice that your dog is turning their nose up at food and heading to the backyard to eat grass? Odds are they’re not looking for some backyard salad — these behaviors are often a pretty good indication that your dog has an upset stomach.
Pet parents will likely agree that there are few things worse than seeing your dog feeling sick, and a dog with an upset stomach is surely no exception.
If symptoms are mild, and you’re confident that an emergency trip to the vet isn’t a necessity, there are some things you can do at home to help your dog find relief from stomach upset.
Before you go rooting through your pantry for those natural home remedies or over the counter treatments, let’s dive into the signs, symptoms, and possible causes for your dog’s stomach upset — and when you should skip the at-home cures and head to the vet instead.
Signs of tummy trouble
Surprisingly, it’s not always immediately obvious when your dog has an upset stomach. So what signs and symptoms should you be looking out for?
- - If your pup is usually eager to — or at least habitually prone to — eating, skipping a meal or disinterest in food could be your first clue to stomach upset
- - While this isn't abnormal behavior, when you’re suspecting that your dog might have an upset stomach an increased interest in eating grass could be present (they do this in an effort to help their digestion!)
Strange stomach sounds
- - When is stomach gurgling cause for concern? According to Care.com, “Stomach gurgling is only concerning if it is accompanied by other clinical signs. If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, Fox says, he or she should be examined by a veterinarian: vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, drooling, regurgitation”
- - Pay attention to how your pup’s stomach is sounding. If it’s making unusual or particularly loud gurgling noises take note. Stomach gurgling could be a sign of indigestion and/or that something has upset your dog’s stomach
- - According to Pet MD, “If your dog’s air-licking comes with vomiting, diarrhea, or a decreased appetite, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.”
- - This is certainly a more odd sight to see — so it should be fairly noticeable when your pup starts this behavior! It’s been said that “lip smacking” can be a sign of nausea, and if this behavior is present with others on this list (like eating grass, and stomach gurgling) you can chalk it up to stomach upset, too.
- - If your dog is running for the door and having loose movements that could be categorized as diarrhea, that’s a surefire sign of tummy trouble. Be sure to keep an eye on frequency, as diarrhea can increase risk of dehydration, and keep an eye on color, too — if blood is present it could be indicative of a more serious problem
- - Believe it or not, there are quite a few color and texture varieties of dog vomit, each associated with their own causes and potential concerns. According to Pet MD, here are some colors/descriptions of vomit you should know (and be able to identify and describe to your vet if necessary): yellow vomit, white foamy vomit, clear liquid vomit, mucus-like slimy vomit, bloody vomit (red or pink), brown vomit, green vomit.
- - Much like diarrhea, vomiting can also cause dehydration, and you want to be paying attention to a few things here: frequency, consistency, color, and possible presence of blood.
Was it something they ate?
Finding the possible cause for stomach upset is key to helping your dog find the relief they’re looking for.
Sometimes it’s easy enough to uncover — they tried a new treat they’ve never had before, or maybe a new food. Maybe that long car ride made them particularly nauseous, or perhaps they got into the garbage and ate something they shouldn’t have. It could even be a result or side effect of a new medicine they’re on.
Nailing down a potential cause can be helpful in getting your dog the proper treatment they need to start feeling better. Sometimes treatment is as simple as an over the counter remedy, like Pepto Bismol, or just offering a gentle-on-the-stomach food option to help things move along — or settle down, depending on the symptoms that are present.
Relief might be in your kitchen pantry
What can you give a dog for an upset stomach? Sometimes the best treatments are ones that are accessible right from your kitchen! Vets will often recommend certain food items that you’ll likely have at home to help your dog find relief from stomach upset. Introducing tasty, but bland foods can help relieve diarrhea, soothe an upset stomach, and get your pup eating again after they’ve shown disinterest in their regular food.
These foods are most commonly recommended by vets for dogs struggling with symptoms of stomach upset:
Chicken and rice
- As AKC.org notes, “Chicken and rice are prime ingredients in many dog foods, and these mild foods sit well on upset canine stomachs. Plus, this bland meal is easy to prepare.” As you would when cooking for yourself, make sure your chicken is thoroughly cooked! Also, avoid adding butters, oils, etc. Keeping this as mild as possible is key — boiled chicken is often the easiest, mildest option.
- Struggling to get your dog to eat their normal food when they’re dealing with an upset stomach? You’re not alone. So many pet parents deal withthis struggle, and often just getting some food back in your pup’s belly can help that start to feel better. “Shredded chicken is easy on upset stomachs and acts as a huge eating incentive for dogs with decreased appetites,” according to AKC.org.
- Full of great nutrients, including fiber, canned pumpkin is a neutral item to feed your dog when they’re dealing with stomach upset — and because of its fiber content it can be especially helpful if your dog is struggling with constipation. A helpful reminder from PetMD, “Make sure to get 100% canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix, as you don’t want to feed your dog spices and other ingredients.”
- If your dog is showing signs of stomach upset, you’re likely seeing them avoid both food and water. If they are drinking water, there’s a good chance they may be quickly vomiting it back up. Many vets actually recommend offering your dog ice cubes as a gentle way to help them rehydrate after dealing with dehydrating symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.
What about other over the counter treatment options like Pepto Bismol and probiotics?
- You might be surprised to learn that you can give your dog Pepto Bismol for stomach upset! Still, it’s important to check with your vet first, and ensure that you are giving your dog the proper, safe dosage.
- The American Kennel Club offers great insight into how/when to give your dog Pepto Bismol, here’s a quick tip from the article, “The recommended dosage is 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds, according to Dr. Klein. It can be offered to the dog every 6-to-8 hours, but if your dog still has diarrhea after a few doses, stop the medication and call your veterinarian.”
- While you can give dogs human probiotics, there are actually plenty of dog-specific probiotic brands out there that provide better benefits for your pups gut health (because it’s made specifically with their bellies in mind!).
- - Additionally, before you introduce a probiotic into your dog's diet, check with your vet first to make sure this is the best course of action. Probiotics can sometimes cause stomach upset and seeing as that’s what you’re trying to cure and prevent, it’s important to make sure your dog won’t have this kind of adverse reaction to the supplement!
Time to call the vet
Whether you’ve tried the at home remedies and saw no improvement, or you're worried by the severe symptoms your dog is displaying, trust your instincts when you feel it is time to call the vet.
- If you’re noticing blood in your dog's vomit or diarrhea, call the vet.
- If your dog is increasing in frequency of vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, call the vet.
- If your dog’s symptoms have changed drastically, call the vet.
- If you suspect a foreign object could be responsible for your dog's stomach upset, call the vet.
- If you’re just not sure how to proceed when your dog isn’t feeling well, call the vet.
Truly, there is no wrong time to seek out medical help if you’re not sure how to help your pet find relief, or if you’re struggling to pinpoint the cause of your dog’s stomach upset. Your vet is there to help your pet — and you!
Your vet can recommend medicine options that you may not otherwise have access to (a.k.a something stronger or better suited for your pet than an over the counter option), they can help recommend the best food options for your dog, and your vet can also run tests to help you determine the root cause of your dog’s stomach troubles if you’re struggling to find answers.
As a pet parent, we know your ultimate goal is always to keep your dog happy and healthy. When sudden alarming symptoms present themselves it can be a scary ordeal for both your pet and you. While it is so helpful to have insight and information at the ready so that you can do all that you can to help your pup get back to feeling well, remember that your vet is your best resource for finding your pet relief.