How To Tell If Dogs Stomach is Upset and What to Do
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Stomach upset or gastric issues in your dog can display unpleasant symptoms that are often all too apparent. While all kinds of pups are susceptible to stomach issues from time to time, there are signs that you should be on the lookout for that indicate a more serious gastric problem.
However, when it comes to treating your dog’s upset stomach, the severity of the symptoms should help determine what to do about it.
Why Do Dogs Get Upset Stomachs?
Dogs get upset stomachs just like humans do and for the same reasons. Your dog might eat something they should not or maybe eat too fast and then go outside and run around. Some pups are more prone to medical conditions than others. Common culprits like parasites, gas build-up, bacteria, or constipation can upset your dog’s stomach. In addition to those, these may also cause upset stomachs in dogs:
Bloating – Bloating can be caused by a severe condition in your dog. A dog’s stomach can stretch from trapped gas which is called Gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). This happens when your dog’s stomach twists when it is stretched and the blood supply is blocked off from other internal organs, causing a medical emergency for your dog.
Ulcers – Dogs can get ulcers in their stomach when the lining is damaged. Ulcers can be the result of inflammation, medicines, or anything else that might damage their stomach lining.
Bowel disease – Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a condition that humans suffer from also. Your dog’s bowels can become inflamed for no apparent reason. This causes them to display symptoms that are similar to many other conditions.
Malabsorption – Malabsorption is when your dog may not be able to digest its food correctly. It is a difficult condition to diagnose because the symptoms are very similar to other conditions. It’s typically caused by a deficiency in enzymes released by the pancreas.
Motion sickness – Dogs can get motion sickness from unfamiliar motions. Sometimes taking your dog for a car ride or rocking them in a chair, can upset their stomach if they are not used to it.
Gas – Gas naturally builds up in your dog’s body when they digest their food. If they cannot pass the gas for some reason, it can increase and cause pain.
Constipation – Constipation is also a condition that dogs share with humans. If they are constipated, their stool backs up along with the gas that is created and causes discomfort or pain in the stomach.
Inflammation & obstruction – Dogs are known to eat things that might not be good for them. They often ingest human foods with spices, toys, or any number of things that are not good for them. If your dog eats something they should not, it can cause inflammation in the lining of their stomach. If an object that your dog eats gets caught in their intestines, they will not be able to digest food.
Gastrointestinal obstructions – Some gastrointestinal obstructions can occur in dogs that are not even caused by something they ate. For example, intussusception is a condition when one part of the bowel slides into the next, much like the pieces of a telescope.
Cancer – Digestive system cancer is a term used for any cancer that can form in your dog’s stomach or intestine. This is a rare condition, but stomach pain is one of the first signs.
Parvovirus – Parvovirus is a very contagious virus that dogs can pass to each other through direct contact with each other, feces, or people.
Signs Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach
The most difficult part of knowing when your dog has an upset stomach is that they can not tell you directly. You have to pay close attention to your dog’s body language and behaviors. While some behaviors like vomiting and diarrhea are more obvious, others require owners to be more alert.
Here are some signs that your dog’s stomach may be upset:
- Vomiting and diarrhea – These are the most obvious and immediate signs of an upset stomach in your pup. Repeated vomiting or diarrhea can have serious health effects resulting from dehydration.
- Bad breath -While dog breath is known for not smelling good, the acidic smelling breath may be a sign of stomach acid build-up.
- Excess gas – If your dog has a lot of gas or is burping more than usual, that indicates the gas is building up in their stomach.
- Swollen or distended stomach – Bloating or swelling of the abdominal cavity can also indicate gas build-up. A belly that is bloated to the point of feeling hard or tight is considered a serious medical emergency.
- Gulping, gagging, and lip-smacking – These three signs suggest that your dog is struggling with nausea. They may be fighting to hold back an urge to vomit.
- Weight loss – If you notice your dog’s appetite decreasing, or if they begin to lose weight unexpectedly, this may be due to stomach discomfort. Continued loss of appetite warrants a visit to your vet.
- Acting lethargic or uncomfortable – A dog acting lethargic may be trying to reduce discomfort. They may also stay in a bent up or tense position, similar to how humans will clutch their stomachs. Your dog may also start stretching its front paws out repeatedly in a doggie bow.
Treatment for Upset Stomach in Dogs
You must speak with your veterinarian before considering any home remedies to help with your pup’s stomach issues. If your veterinarian recommends an at-home treatment, here are a few treatments to try.
- Fasting – When your dog’s stomach is trying to get rid of something, it can be helpful to stop ingesting more into their stomach for 12-24 hours. If the gastrointestinal (GI) system is having a tough time, you do not want it to digest things. Fasting may seem simple enough, but it’s important to speak with your veterinarian first because some dogs, normally small breeds or those with prior health conditions, cannot tolerate fasting as well as others. If your veterinarian does recommend fasting, it is important to know if they want you to start a bland diet after the fasting period is complete and what that includes.
- Ice cubes – When your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, they need to stay hydrated. Providing too much water may make their stomach even more upset. Monitoring your dog’s water intake and discouraging gulping is important. Give your dog ice chips to help encourage drinking. If your dog can keep down small quantities of water or ice chips, you can slowly increase the amount and how often you are offering the water and ice.
- Bland diet – After your dog has fasted for 12-24 hours, is not vomiting, and can keep down liquids, then it may be time to try a bland diet. Gradually increase the amount of food you give your dog, starting with a tablespoon and waiting two hours. If your dog can keep that down, continue to increase the amount of food to 1/2 – 1 cup of bland diet every three or four hours. Once your dog seems to be doing better, you can gradually add in his or her regular food until he is eating 100% of his regular diet again. This bland diet includes:
Boiled rice (75%)
Cooked white chicken meat (no skin or bones) or extra-lean hamburger (25%)
Do not add any oils, fats, or spices to the bland diet.
- Canned pumpkin – When fighting indigestion and upset stomach in dogs, 100% canned pumpkin is preferred by holistic veterinarians. It has a low glycemic index, so it slowly absorbs, which helps with upset stomach and digestion. Make sure to get 100% canned pumpkin, and not pumpkin pie mix, because you don’t want to feed your dog spices and other ingredients. Check that there are no ingredients listed other than just pumpkin. Smaller dogs (approximately 5 pounds) can be fed one-half teaspoon of canned pumpkin, while larger dogs (approximately 75 pounds) can be fed 1 tablespoon.
- Bone broth – Bone broth is very healing for dogs’ stomachs. Simmer meat (on the bone) with apple cider vinegar and water in a crockpot. It will take about a day to make bone broth, so it’s best to make it ahead and freeze it. Be sure to skim off any fat before freezing.
- Probiotics – Once your dog can eat and seems to be feeling better, you can consider giving them unsweetened, plain yogurt. Yogurt has probiotics or you can even try a dog probiotic, such as FortiFlora, Prostora, or Provable. Probiotics contain living gut-friendly bacteria found naturally in the digestive tract. The goal of ingesting probiotics is to prevent gastrointestinal problems and boost your dog’s immune system.
An upset stomach in dogs can be triggered by several issues like eating something that is not digestible or unhealthy, intestinal obstruction, motion sickness, and even cancer. If your dog is showing severe signs of discomfort such as repeated, frequent vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, or lethargy, contact your local emergency veterinary hospital immediately.