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Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

What is the Best Food for a Dog with a Sensitive Stomach?

May 22, 2015 / (1) comments

Does your dog sometimes skip meals or occasionally vomit and have diarrhea for no apparent reason? Does everything return to normal with little in the way of treatment only for the symptoms to return at a later date? If so, your dog probably has a sensitive stomach.

 

Of course, “sensitive stomach” is not an official diagnosis. I think that most of these dogs actually have an undiagnosed disease (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease) or food intolerance/allergy that disrupts the normal function of the gastrointestinal tract. Conditions like these require complex diagnostic procedures to diagnose, however. Many owners are happy to forgo these tests and a definitive diagnosis so long as they can find a food that will reduce the frequency and severity of their dog’s symptoms.

 

The first step should always be to have a veterinarian perform a health history, physical, and fecal examination on your dog. These procedures are inexpensive, non-invasive, and go a long ways towards ensuring that you are not overlooking the fact that your dog is suffering from a condition that requires non-dietary treatment.

 

Once your veterinarian has said that your dog appears to be healthy except for intermittent GI signs, the next step is to determine if a change in diet will have the desired effect. My favorite “go to” food for cases like these is a hydrolyzed, hypoallergenic diet. Several manufacturers produce this type of food, but they are all quite similar:

  • They are highly digestible.
  • The primary protein source has been broken down into tiny fragments to prevent the dog’s immune system from recognizing them as potential allergens.
  • Ingredients that are responsible for most adverse food reactions are not included. Routine and vigorous testing confirms that cross-contamination has not occurred during the manufacturing process.
  • They contain supplements that promote a healthy GI tract.
  • They are available by prescription only.

 

Feed one of these foods and nothing else but water for a month or two. If all your dog’s GI troubles disappear you can now safely say that “something” about your dog’s previous diet was to blame for his symptoms.

 

You now have a choice to make. You can try to find another food that your dog’s GI system will tolerate or continue to feed the hydrolyzed diet. Many owners balk at this second alternative due to expense (hydrolyzed diets are pricey) and ingredient lists that read like something out of a chemistry experiment. But when nothing else will control a dog’s symptoms, the long-term feeding of a hydrolyzed diet is a reasonable option. My boxer has eaten one exclusively for over four years due to severe inflammatory bowel disease and is thriving.

 

If you do want to try feeding your dog something different, I recommend either a novel protein diet (e.g., duck and potato or venison and pea) or a highly digestible diet. Some varieties are only available through veterinarians and benefit from tighter quality-control measures than do over-the-counter foods. Try a prescription food first and if it works, look for a similar over-the-counter product to switch to next. If at any time your dog’s clinical signs return, go back to the last food that held them at bay. Feed only that until your dog is healthy again before trying something different.

 

If your dog’s symptoms are more than just mild and intermittent or if a change in diet doesn’t help, make sure to talk to your veterinarian. 

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

 

Image: vdovin_vn / Shutterstock

 

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Log Book
    05/22/2015 09:38pm

    I keep a log of what my critters have eaten that day and any GI problems. For instance, if Fluffy ate Fancy Feast Seafood and vomited sometime later, I'd have a note in my log book about the seafood and the vomiting.

    My Owen loves all kinds of fish and seafood. Unfortunately, it bounces right back up. It only took a couple of days to figure that out because the vomiting was almost immediate. Plus, the couple of times he's managed to get into Josie's food (trying anything to get her to eat and seafood seems to be the answer), there are piles of vomit everywhere.

    Yes, I go through a lot of paper towels.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.


 
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