Dog Upset Stomach: Causes and Natural Treatments

Almost every pup parent will have to nurse their dog through tummy troubles at some point. Dogs tend not to discriminate when it comes to snacking on questionable substances, and sometimes their reactions warrant true concern.

But beyond chowing on chocolate or days-old roadkill - yum! - other issues can upset your dog’s stomach. We’ll discuss what could be causing the digestive discomfort and what you can do to help your dog naturally. But first, let’s talk about emergency situations.

When to Visit a Holistic Veterinarian

Even the most cautious pup parents can’t control every situation, which means you need to know not only which substances to keep out of your dog’s reach, but what to do if your dog manages to eat one of them.

If you know or suspect your dog has eaten or drank something toxic, you should visit a trusted veterinarian as soon as possible. Items that are toxic to dogs include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Acetomeniphen
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener contained in some brands of chewing gum, peanut butter, toothpaste, breath mints, candies, and chewable vitamins)
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Avocados
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Cooked chicken bones
  • Baker’s yeast or uncooked bread dough
  • Sugar
  • Most human medications

If you don’t know the cause of the upset stomach, keep an eye on the symptoms. Vomiting, bloating, loss of appetite, and/or diarrhea that doesn’t subside after 48 hours is cause for a vet visit. You should also make an appointment if your dog collapses or seems faint, if you see blood in bodily fluids, or if the frequency of vomiting or diarrhea increases.

If your dog is in immediate danger, don’t risk experimenting with online advice; get your pup to a professional!

Other Causes of Upset Stomach in Dogs

Stomach symptoms can’t always be attributed to a forbidden snack. Here are a few other issues that could lead to an upset stomach, which we’ll discuss in more depth below:

  • Stress
  • Food allergies
  • Eating too fast
  • Changing diet
  • Leaky gut
  • Pancreatitis

Have you ever gotten an upset stomach when you felt nervous about something? Dogs can react the same way. If something in their environment causes stress, that stress can manifest in physiological symptoms. For example, when your dog gets home from boarding, they might vomit or have diarrhea. This doesn’t mean they’ve contracted a sketchy kennel virus or parasite - it’s more likely they’re reacting to the stress of environmental changes they don’t understand. If there’s an obvious cause of stress, all you can do it try to minimize it by providing them a safe environment and familiar routine.

If that’s not the case, it may be possible your dog is suffering from food allergies. Dog food allergies are not uncommon; many processed foods contain ingredients that can irritate your dog’s digestive system. Grains like wheat and rice are too commonly used as filler despite lacking substantial nutritional benefits for dogs. Other common potential allergens include soy, dairy, eggs, beef, chicken, and lamb. If your dog has food allergies, look for other symptoms besides an upset stomach; there will often be some dermatological symptoms like inflammation and itching. Chronic ear problems, hair loss, and respiratory issues may also be evident.

Of course, the problem could be a lot simpler than that. If your dog wolfs down food like a wild animal, that alone could be causing digestive issues. Eating too fast can cause your dog to spit up or vomit soon after a meal. Gulping down too much air while eating can lead to bloating. This is also known as gastric dilation volvulus, and it can be dangerous, causing a dog’s stomach to rupture under extreme circumstances.

While we’re discussing more serious conditions, persistent gastrointestinal symptoms could signify that your dog has a leaky gut, meaning the intestinal lining becomes damaged and allows food particles and waste to leak out of its proper channels and into the bloodstream. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, and fatigue are signs that your dog’s symptoms are not circumstantial.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. Digestive enzymes that normally only activate when they make it further through the digestive process jump the gun and become active within the pancreas, which causes pain and swelling. Dogs that eat plenty of table scraps or root through the garbage for treats are more likely to develop pancreatitis. Symptoms include abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, lethargy, restlessness, and dry heaving.

If you’ve recently changed your dog’s food and didn’t introduce the new food gradually, your dog may simply be reacting to the sudden change. Since dogs typically eat a consistent diet, switching up the ingredients can cause a shock to the digestive system.

How to Naturally Treat Your Dog’s Upset Stomach

If your dog’s symptoms are mild, you may be able to address them with gentle home remedies that will soothe tummy turmoil. Even if your dog has been diagnosed with something more serious, you can take a holistic approach to care that will help heal the gut. Sometimes a way out of a tough medical situation is to acknowledge that every choice you make for your pup has consequences, and that a thoughtful approach to pet parenting can make a world of difference.

First, you’ll want to help alleviate the symptoms and make your dog as comfortable as possible. If they’re vomiting or have diarrhea, don’t try to force them to eat or drink, or you may add to the problem. Let them get everything out of their system (unless it persists for more than a day or two) before trying to force anything down their throat. Make sure you provide fresh water for when it’s time so they don’t get dehydrated. When you think they may be ready to eat, prepare a simple, homemade meal, such as boiled chicken and rice, sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Give your pup a comfortable place away from commotion so they can rest and recover. If they’re not interested in water or can’t keep it down, try a handful of ice cubes every few hours. This can help fend off dehydration without further upsetting the stomach.

When your dog can eat again, you can facilitate a swift recovery by administering Wondercide’s DETOX (pure bentonite clay) along with a plain, healthy meal. This powerful natural detoxifying agent aids proper digestion, enhances liver and kidney function, and protects the body by pulling harmful particles out of the bloodstream. It will also help soothe the discomfort of acute stomach symptoms. Think of it like Tums for dogs, but without undesirable ingredients like artificial sweeteners and corn starch.

While your dog is recovering, you may want to evaluate diet. Even if you don’t suspect your dog has food allergies, a wholesome, natural diet will boost the immune system and keep the gut healthy. If you plan to switch to a healthier food, make sure to not make a sudden change, as this can worsen digestive problems. Wait until your dog’s symptoms have abated and try mixing a little of the new food with the old for several days before switching over completely.

If your dog scarfs down meals, don’t worry - there are plenty of slow feeders out there, and many of them are as affordable as regular dog bowls. Some are like puzzles that your dog has to solve to retrieve the food, which will also provide some mental stimulation for bored, rambunctious pups.

Another reason to feed your dog a healthy, well-rounded diet is that it could help curb the hurried eating. If the food isn’t nutritionally substantial, your dog will need more of it to feel full, which can lead to that intense hunger that results in rapid eating.

If you do suspect your dog has food allergies, you’ll want to try an elimination diet, which involves cutting out all of the potential irritants and preparing a homemade (and usually raw) diet for a few weeks to see if the symptoms clear up. You may want a holistic vet’s advice on this to make sure you’re executing it correctly as you add back in potential irritants one by one and wait to see if symptoms return. Make sure you don’t give your dog any treats or table scraps as this could tamper with the results.

Here are a few other quick tips for preventing or alleviating upset stomach:

  • Try digestive and immune support for dogs containing neem bark powder, a natural and organic ingredient that can help bolster the immune system and healthy digestion.
  • Canned pumpkin can help with indigestion, but make sure you get pure pumpkin and nothing that contains other flavors or spices.
  • Use skin tonic spray for skin irritation caused by food allergies or the accompanying licking, nibbling, and scratching.
  • Keep all of your medications out of reach. Even medicine in a purse or backpack can pose a danger to your dog if you toss it on the floor without thinking.
  • Only use trash cans with lids that close, or keep your trash in the pantry or a cabinet. Just a few hours alone with the wrong kind of food waste or other garbage can be life threatening for your pet.
  • If you have kids, be clear about what they can and can’t feed the family pup. While it’s fun to give your dog a special treat, it’s not exactly a treat to deal with stomach trouble or have to make a trip to the vet. Communicate with guests about what your dog can’t eat.
  • Make sure the flea and tick control you use in your yard and home is safe for your dog (and you). Dogs often eat grass when suffering from an upset stomach, and you don’t want yours to be munching on grass covered in chemical pesticides. Use a natural flea and tick spray for yard so you don’t have to worry. The plant-based ingredients aren’t harmful to your pup or to beneficial insects.
  • Be patient with your dog during recovery from upset stomach and symptoms. While it may be difficult to watch your pup suffer, trying to force food or water or even cuddles may just make them feel worse. Let the sickness run its course before you jump into action with remedies.
  • If your dog tends to gulp down anything that looks interesting on walks, you may want to talk to a trainer about teaching your dog a command, such as “leave it.” Sometimes trying to take the forbidden thing away from your dog only makes them want it more and eat it faster.
  • Go the extra mile and make sure you have an emergency veterinarian selected in case your regular vet isn’t open in the wee hours. Keep their number and address in an accessible place. Stomach issues can go from uncomfortable to dangerous very quickly, and you may need to act within minutes to make sure your dog gets effective treatment.

Even after you solve your dog’s current symptoms, you’ll want to think about what you can do to prevent the same problem from arising in the future. A wholesome diet, constant access to fresh water, minimal stress, and safe distance from anything potentially toxic will help keep your pup from experiencing harrowing tummy turmoil in the future.

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