Man’s best friend is called so for a good reason. Whether tiny cuddle bugs, big adventure partners or just wonderful all-around family companions, all sizes, temperaments, and breeds of dogs have lots (and lots!) of fans.
Why wouldn’t they? Dogs are great. So of course we want to do everything we can to give them long, happy, healthy lives.
There are many facets of health and wellbeing for your pooch, but today we’re talking specifically about common stomach issues for dogs and their gut health. Because, just like you, a large part of your dog’s overall health directly correlates to the quality of their gut health. Also, similar to humans, digestive issues can stem from external issues or be signs that there’s an underlying internal problem.
Possible Symptoms of Stomach Issues in Dogs
Because dogs can’t tell us how they’re feeling, it’s important to know what to look for in relation to possible symptoms of stomach upset. Understanding what’s normal with regard to your pup’s eating habits, behavior, and demeanor are all important pieces of information to establish a baseline for deciding if there’s a problem. And if there is, what your best course of action should be.
Some common symptoms that may indicate digestive issues in your dog:
- Gas and constipation
- Weight loss
- Disinterest in food
The above are all fairly common for a dog to experience throughout life and don’t always mean there’s a serious problem to worry about. But chronic symptoms, like vomiting often or a big change in appetite leading to weight loss, are important to take note of and discuss with your vet.
Signs of an emergency that require immediate medical attention:
- Excessive shaking or panting
- Severe dehydration
- Dry heaving
- Vomiting liquids
- Distended abdomen / Signs of bloat
“Bloating” aka Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a severe condition that occurs when trapped gas causes your dog’s stomach to stretch and twist unnaturally. This can do a myriad of harmful things, including cutting off blood supply to other critical organs, internal bleeding, rupture, and death.
Dogs are resilient creatures, but if you see yours exhibiting any of the above, please get them medical attention ASAP.
So, what are some common causes of stomach issues in dogs?
1. Eating things they shouldn’t
“What’s in your mouth?”
“What are you eating!?”
These are phrases all dog owners have probably said a time or two (or two hundred) before. No matter the breed, it sometimes seems that a universal part of pet ownership is being vigilant about curbing a dog’s inexplicable skill of finding the exact thing they absolutely should not be putting in their mouths… and putting it in their mouths. You know, things that are decidedly not food at best and downright poisonous at worst.
Of course this isn’t the case for all dogs and many grow out of this stage, but it’s so common that it’s worth talking about first and foremost. Because a big cause of all sorts of digestive issues for dogs is eating things they shouldn’t, from the errant dirty sock to a piece of broken chew toy to sneaking something left out on the counter.
Even when your dog isn’t sneaking something, there can be issues. Namely, us. The owners.
Look, we know it's tempting to treat your pup to some seemingly harmless and tasty “people” food, like leftovers from meal prep or table scraps from dinner. But please be aware that doing this can sometimes end up as serious tummy troubles (like obstructions or intestinal damage) for your furry best friend. Many people know chocolate is a no-go for dogs, but so are grapes and garlic! Chicken bones are also dangerous for dogs, as they’re small enough to be choking hazards.
Of course, toxic cleaners are a good idea to keep out of reach from your dog’s curious mouth, but human medications can be harmful, too. Even medications prescribed to your pooch, like antibiotics, can throw off their gut health and lead to digestive upset.
In general, the best course of action here is making sure your pup doesn’t eat anything they’re not supposed to, sticking to a diet of food made for dogs, and double-checking with your vet for the rest.
2. Inflammatory digestive conditions
Unfortunately, some dogs are born with or develop food allergies and intolerances as they age. Allergies like this, if unrecognized and untreated, can result in several conditions due to unchecked inflammation, including IBD and Gastritis.
Short for “Inflammatory Bowel Disease,” IBD is similar to the human counterpart condition, IBS (“Irritable Bowel Syndrome”). And like IBS, IBD in dogs is a chronic condition that manifests in a variety of symptoms that suggest a problematic inflammation of the digestive tract.
While vomiting is not an unusual occurrence in a dog’s life, if vomiting occurs frequently and in conjunction with other symptoms, your pooch may be afflicted with gastritis–a damaged intestinal lining. Gastritis can be acute (short term) or chronic (over a long time).
Yep, just like in people, stress can create digestive issues in your pooch. A common symptom of stress is diarrhea, often seen as a response to travel, boarding, or even big changes at home. If this happens to your dog, it may be worth a chat with your vet to discuss preventative measures.
4. Abrupt Diet Changes
Introducing a new food can surprise a dog's digestive system (not in a nice way) and lead to stomach issues.
Some obstructions can come from blockages caused by an internal issue and not necessarily something ingested. Intussusception, a condition where the intestine “telescopes” into itself, is an example of an obstruction not caused by eating something.
6. Cancer and Disease
While rare, stomach pain and upset are often the first signs of digestive cancers and disease in dogs
What can you do to help prevent your dog from having stomach issues?
Reminder: if you’re ever concerned for your pup’s stomach health, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet for advice. Because it never hurts to get an expert medical opinion (and may even save your dog’s life!) but harm could come from ignoring a problem.
That said, here are some simple at-home things you can try if you suspect your dog’s having some digestive issues.
Sometimes vets recommend fasting for up to 24 hours to help your dog rid themselves of whatever food’s currently troubling their system. If you decide to try this, make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water and consult with your vet on the correct amount of time to fast. This is very, very, very important as 24 hours may be too long for some dogs, especially smaller breeds.
Slow Introduction of New Foods
Even food that’s good for dogs can be a problem if introduced to their diet too quickly. That’s why experts recommend slowly introducing new food to your dog’s diet over a few weeks to help avoid digestive issues. If you’ve been trying to get Fido on a new diet, but there are signs of tummy troubles, ease off a bit and try introducing the new food slowly.
Short Term Bland Diet
If your dog really seems bothered by something, it may be worth trying a bland diet. This diet, usually of brown or white rice and unseasoned chicken breast, is usually given to the afflicted dog for a few days. Doing this can help dogs dealing with different digestive issues because it helps remove irritating substances from their system while also helping it reset and rebalance.
If your dog responds well to the bland diet, continue with it for 4-5 days before slowly mixing their regular food into the chicken and rice mixture. If they’re still responding well, continue slowly integrating more of their regular food and less of the chicken and rice mixture until it’s phased out entirely.
Supporting your dog’s gut health
The most important way to help your dog’s digestive issues? Support their gut health. Beyond the right diet (eating the right things and not eating the wrong things), helping alleviate your dog’s digestive issues and stomach upset actually starts at the source. That is, at their gut. Because remember: just like in humans, a dog’s gut is connected to many critical facets and functions that are integral to overall health and wellbeing.
So it stands to reason that when gut health is restored in your pooch, all the parts connected to gut health and function–digestion, immune response, kidney function, even allergies!–are improved. (And the inverse is also true: if their gut health isn’t so healthy, everything else connected to it can suffer.)
That’s why we created ION* Gut Support For Pets. While ION* is not intended to treat any conditions or disease states, it is unlike any other supplement, scientifically proven to restore your dog's gut health at a cellular level.
ION* Gut Support For Pets is an easy-to-use liquid supplement that’s rich in bacterial metabolites. But unlike probiotics, ION* doesn’t add bacteria to your dog’s system. Instead, ION* works via redox signaling to naturally strengthen the tight junctions in your dog’s gut, so the functions it’s responsible for can, well, function at their best.
Whether you’re looking for a way to ease stomach issues or just help your pooch stay healthy, try ION* Gut Support For Pets today. (Your furry best friend will thank you!)