Signs Your Dog’s Stomach is Upset

Dog Health Recent July 3, 2024
Signs Your Dog's Stomach is Upset
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Signs Your Dog’s Stomach is Upset

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Signs Your Dog's Stomach is Upset

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 experience upset stomachs due to eating inappropriate food or fast food, and some are more susceptible to medical conditions like parasites, gas buildup, bacteria, or constipation. Other common causes include consuming unhealthy food, going outside, and running around.

  • 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 stomachs when the lining is damaged. Ulcers can be the result of inflammation, medicines, or anything else that might damage the stomach lining.
  • Bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a condition that humans also suffer from. Your dog’s bowels can become inflamed for no apparent reason. This causes them to display symptoms that are similar to those of 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 those of 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 and 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 eat, 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 on 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 cannot tell you directly. You have to pay close attention to your dog’s body language and behavior. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Bad breath: While dog breath is known for not smelling good, the acidic-smelling breath may be a sign of stomach acid buildup.
  3. 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.
  4. Swollen or distended stomach: Bloating or swelling of the abdominal cavity can also indicate gas buildup. A belly that is bloated to the point of feeling hard or tight is considered a serious medical emergency.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 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: Fasting can help your dog’s stomach clear out waste for 12–24 hours to prevent the gastrointestinal system from digesting. However, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian before fasting, as some dogs, especially small breeds or those with health issues, may not tolerate fasting. If your veterinarian recommends fasting, it’s essential to know if they suggest starting a bland diet after the fasting period.
  • Ice cubes: When your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea, it’s crucial to maintain their hydration levels. Over-watering can cause stomach upset. Monitor their water intake and discourage gulping. Offer ice chips to encourage drinking. Gradually increase the amount and frequency of water and ice, starting with small amounts and gradually increasing the frequency.
  • Bland diet: After your dog has fasted for 12–24 hours, is not vomiting, and can keep down liquids, consider a bland diet. Gradually increase the amount of food, starting with a tablespoon and waiting two hours. If the dog can keep it down, increase it to 1/2–1 cup every three or four hours. Once the dog is doing better, gradually add their regular food until they eat 100% of their regular diet again. Avoid adding oils, fats, or spices to a bland diet.
  • Canned pumpkin: Holistic veterinarians recommend 100% canned pumpkin for treating indigestion and upset stomachs in dogs due to its low glycemic index and slow absorption. Avoid using pumpkin pie mix, as it contains spices and other ingredients. Smaller dogs should be fed half a teaspoon, while larger dogs should be fed 1 tablespoon. Ensure the pumpkin is free from other ingredients.
  • 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: After your dog eats and feels better, consider giving them unsweetened yogurt with probiotics or a dog probiotic like FortiFlora, Prostora, or Provable. Probiotics contain gut-friendly bacteria found naturally in the digestive tract, aiming to prevent gastrointestinal issues and boost the dog’s immune system.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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