Do you have a dog that has one or more of the following symptoms?
- Intermittent loose stools
- Occasional vomiting
- Excessive flatulence
If so, your dog may have a sensitive stomach.
Some dogs cannot handle a lot of variety in their diet or withstand ingredients that make their digestive systems work a little harder than normal. I’m sure you know people who can wolf down a chili cheese dog with extra onions without any problems and some who can’t. The same variability is found in pet populations (although no dog should be eating a chili cheese dog — with or without extra onions).
If you suspect that your dog might have a sensitive stomach, the first thing to do is to simplify his diet. Cut out all the extras — no table scraps, limit yourself to giving just one type of highly digestible treat (or even better, use his regular food as a treat), and make sure he’s not getting into anything that he shouldn’t be (e.g., the garbage).
Next, take a look at your dog’s food. Foods made from high-quality ingredients tend to be much more digestible than lower quality products. Does your dog’s food contain too much fat? Fat is more difficult to digest than carbohydrates and proteins, so a diet that contains a moderate level of fat (approximately 15 percent) is ideal. Certain types of fiber can also promote digestive health. Look for a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, like beet pulp. Vitamins and minerals, especially those with antioxidant qualities, can also improve digestive function, so make sure your dog’s food contains appropriate levels of vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, and selenium.
If you think that your dog’s current diet could be playing a role in his tummy troubles, switch to a different food that meets the criteria listed above. Of course, you still need to make sure that your dog is getting the balanced nutrition he or she needs. Use the MyBowl tool to evaluate any new diet that you are considering. When you make a switch, do so gradually. Take about a week to mix increasing amounts of the new food in with decreasing amounts of the old.
If your dog’s symptoms are more than just mild and intermittent, or switching to a highly-digestible food doesn’t improve the situation, talk to your veterinarian. More serious conditions, like a food allergy or inflammatory bowel disease, can have symptoms that are similar to those seen in dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: Joop Snijder jr. / via Shutterstock