An upset stomach and diarrhea, whether in a human or an animal, is a sign that something is not well. Not all signs of discomfort by dogs are related to an upset stomach or diarrhea, but there are some signs to be on the look out if this is the case.
Causes of upset stomach and diarrhea in dogs
Food and Diet : A dog stomach stores and breaks down the food it has just ingested into small particles that will give its body all the energy, nutrients and vitamins it needs to function well. A dog’s intestines are responsible to absorb these small particles and send them throughout the body so each cell in the dog’s body can “eat” and restore its energy supply. So, if your dog has an upset stomach or diarrhea, there is probably something wrong going on either within these organs or with its diet. Dogs are also known to be scavengers, and by that, it means picking up almost anything they can find that smells attractive to them, virtually anywhere (even in the thrash) and eating it. Those are the most common causes of upset stomach and diarrhea in dogs.
If your dog has the habit of eating almost anything and has a upset stomach or diarrhea, it is most likely that it was caused by eating stuff they should not ordinarily eat, like spoiled food, left over food or dangerous human food such as bones, chocolate etc or even non-food items such as plastic, cans, shoes, laces, underwear, toys…you name it.
Sudden changes to your dog’s diet can also cause an upset stomach and diarrhea. Changing a dog’s diet should be gradual so that the dog’s digestive system can get used to the new formula. If your dog has a sensitive stomach or a medical condition, it should be fed a special diet food prescribed by a veterinarian. Not doing so can trigger not only an upset stomach and diarrhea but also other serious health issues as well. The best way to find out if this is just a one-off case of upset stomach and diarrhea or a serious medical condition, is to take the animal to a veterinarian who will examine your pet and discuss with you the best way to treat him/her.
The way a dog eats can also increase the likelihood of it having an upset stomach. Habits such as eating too much, too little or too fast (bolting) are known to contribute to the discomfort.
Food intolerance or allergy to a certain protein can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea in dogs too as it happens to people as well.
Viruses: an upset stomach and diarrhea caused by viral infections are more serious and need immediate attention. Viruses like parvo and corona are particularly notorious for this. Their symptoms can start as any other common upset stomach and diarrhea but worsens in hours and if not treated by a veterinarian the animal can die very quickly. If you dog is not up to date with vaccinations, or if vomiting and diarrhea are severe seek veterinary care immediately.
The dog’s age, immune system and overall condition: This has to do with factors such as the age of the dog (older dogs, convalescing animals and puppies are more likely to have problems with their digestive system), having a sensitive stomach, a weak immune system or any other medical condition requires a special diet and any deviation from it can cause an upset stomach or diarrhea in the dog.
Stress: Just like it happens with us humans, dogs suffering a stressful situation can trigger upset stomachs and diarrhea. Examples of this condition include car trips, fireworks noise and separation from their owner for dogs that are very anxious.
Worms: de-worming your dog is as important as to feeding him a good diet. Parasitism in dogs can cause upset stomachs and diarrhea in dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes.
Symptoms of an upset stomach and diarrhea in dogs
There are some signs you need to watch out for. Note that these signs can be associated with other health problems and only a veterinarian can tell you what to do or what is the right treatment for your pet. Remember, if a dog manifests any of these signs, it is a sign that something is wrong.
- Loss of appetite
- Hearing loud rumblings noises from the dog’s tummy
- Dog producing excessive gas (flatulence)
- Dehydration, especially if it vomits or has diarrhea
- Depression, dullness and a general loss of interest in their surroundings. For the example, a normally playful dog may become quiet.
- Excessive grass eating. Eating some grass is normal for dogs. Grass has a soothing effect on their digestive system and all dogs do that. However, eating excessive grass is a sign that your dog’s digestive system needs some help to function well.
- Loose stools (a dog’s stool should be firm with a shape that is easy to be picked up. It should not be watery or runny) or stools with blood in it (dogs stools must not have any blood in it).
- Different colour stools (a dog’s stool will reflect its diet. If a dog eats carrots or beetroot you will find his stools to be a little orange, however, if your dog only eats dog food, your dog stool should have a dark brown colour. Stools that are yellow, green, red or pitch black are a concern and indicate that an infection is taking place in your dog’s digestive system. Seek veterinary help immediately.
- Frequent vomiting. If it contains blood, white foam/bubbles, yellow coloured bile or pieces of chewed items that should not be in there (such as shoes, plastic etc) it is usually a sign that there is something more serious going on. Seek veterinary help.
- Swelling / Bloating of the abdomen with or without pain on palpation is an emergency situation. Do not wait.
Usually, if you can guarantee that your dog has not ingested anything apart from his/her normal diet, you should monitor your dog for the next few hours and see if the signs of discomfort persist. If they do not, or if you think that your dog has eaten anything out of his diet, specially foreign objects, see your veterinary doctor immediately.
Diarrhea, vomiting, swelling of the abdomen and visible signs of pain (like whining or crying when a sensitive part is touched) may indicate something more serious is happening in your dog’s body. If you notice any of those signs or if your dog is not behaving as it should be, take your dog to a veterinary hospital immediately for treatment without delay.
What to do when your dog has diarrhea?
For someone who has never experienced a dog with an upset stomach and diarrhea before, it can be a overwhelming experience. What should I do? When should I take my dog to see a veterinary doctor?
Fast the Dog: The first thing to do with a dog showing visible signs of stomach upset is to withhold food for 12 to 24 hours and observe his behaviour. This is helpful because sometimes the dog’s stomach just needs to rest after an upsetting episode. To know if your dog is getting better, after the fast, you may give it food in very small amounts, especially for the first normal meal it takes. If after eating his first meal, it can hold food in his stomach for the next hour, repeat the process giving your dog a little bit more food until it starts to eat normally again.
Water: Give the dog access to clean drinking water and watch how he drinks. If he drinks less than normal amounts, or too much water than his regular intake, or if he vomits after drinking water, seek veterinary care immediately. Do not wait longer than 12 hours after observing the first symptoms to take your dog to a veterinary hospital, your dog could be dehydrated at this point, specially if it is a puppy or an older animal.
Bland Diet: If your dog goes through the fast and shows no sign of pain, continue treatment by giving it a bland diet for the next 24 hours again. If your dog still looks sick after fasting, or if it vomits or has diarrhea, you should see a veterinarian immediately. Examples of bland diets that you may give to your dog include cooked or boiled rice, cooked white pasta, boiled mashed potatoes, boiled carrots and boiled chicken as they are easily digestible. You may also request from your veterinarian, a special dog canned food that aid recovery from digestive problems.
Gas Relief: One of the common signs of digestive upsets is flatulence (release of excessive gas). If that is the only thing you notice in your dog, then there may not be a serious problem. It has probably been caused by a change in diet or bad feeding habits. Ask your veterinarian what you can give to your dog to help you with this matter. Self medicating your animal can cost him his life as your dog may have other health issues that may get worst with the administration of a non-veterinarian prescribed medication, even if it is over the counter.
I have heard about other options. How about them?
- Probiotics: Probiotics are microscopic bacteria that boost the workings of the immune system and aid digestion in your dog’s body. They are the “good bacteria” that is needed in your dog’s body to keep a health digestive system. Click here for a detailed article on probiotics for dogs.
- Parsley: Feeding your dog fresh parsley leaves also helps reduce the incidence of flatulence.
- Exercise: Sometimes, all your dog needs to be alright once again is just a stroll. How often do you take your dog on a walk? Overweight dogs that are not exercised regularly release more gas. Regular exercise helps reduce flatulence.
- Digestive Enzymes: Digestive Enzymes are proteins that aid digestion and are beneficial for your dog’s health. Amino acids, trace minerals, and digestive enzymes are all part of the Rockwell Pets Pro Natural Multivitamins. Find out more about Natural Multivitamins.
- Healthy Diet: What a dog eats would determine if it releases excessive gas or not. Know that some fruits and vegetables that are okay for humans may not be okay for dogs. Examples of prohibited vegetables and fruits for dogs include garlic, avocados, onions, grapes, pineapple etc. By feeding your dog any of these, may not only cause an upset stomach and too much gas release but also cost your dog his/her life. Consult your veterinarian for an appropriate diet plan for your dog because the needs of each dog is different.
- Feeding habits: How does your dog eat? Does he eat too much, too fast? If he does, then he may be swallowing air along with his food which would cause flatulence. Give your dog food in small amounts. And there are some special food bowls that help a dog eat slower. If you have a fast dog eater at home, you should consider those too.
Note that whatever decision you want to make concerning your dog’s health and his diet should be done in consultation with a veterinarian. Your veterinarian should have the medical history of your dog and will be able to diagnose what is wrong with your pet and prescribe medications and / or recommend the necessary actions and steps needed to improve your pet’s health.
Cases of severe stomach upsets – such as vomit (with or without blood) or diarrhea (with or without blood) – should be reported to your veterinarian immediately.
Finally, you should know that prevention is better than treatment. Try as much as possible to feed your dog the right food and report any problems to your veterinarian as soon as they start.