The following article provides information about GI upset in dogs and offers safe home remedies to help alleviate your four-legged friend’s tummy troubles.
Causes of gastrointestinal upset in dogs
Many issues can lead to GI upset in dogs, including:
- Changes in food — Any change in your dog’s food can lead to GI upset.
- Dietary indiscretion — Scavenging food from the trash or eating too much can lead to GI problems.
- Stress and anxiety — Some dogs exhibit GI upset when they are stressed.
- Infection — Viral and bacterial infections can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
- Foreign body ingestion — Ingesting a foreign body can lead to vomiting, retching, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
- Toxin exposure — GI upset is a common toxin exposure sign.
- Food allergies — Food allergies often manifest as itchy, inflamed skin, but GI upset can also occur.
- Parasites — Intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, giardia, and coccidiosis, can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
- Bloat — Gastric dilatation-volvulus (i.e., bloat) can cause unproductive retching.
- Heatstroke — Exposure to excessive temperatures can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
- Cancer — Cancer affecting the GI tract and other organs can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
Situations when your dog needs veterinary attention for gastrointestinal upset
Situations that indicate your dog with a GI upset requires veterinary care include:
- Puppies and senior dogs — Puppies and senior dogs are more susceptible to dehydration and other complications associated with GI upset.
- Other signs — If your dog has other signs, such as lethargy, fever, abdominal pain, abdominal distention, and dehydration, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
- Toxins and foreign bodies — If you know or suspect your dog ingested a foreign body or toxin, seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
- Blood — If your dog has blood in their vomit or diarrhea, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
- Repeated episodes — If your dog has repeated vomiting or diarrhea episodes, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
- Illness — Dogs with a known illness, such as kidney disease, diabetes, and liver disease, should be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine if their condition is worsening.
Safe home remedies for gastrointestinal upset in dogs
If your dog has one vomiting or diarrhea episode but otherwise appears normal, you can likely manage the problem at home. Safe, veterinary-approved home remedies include:
- Fasting — Letting your dog’s GI tract rest by removing their food for 12 to 24 hours can help alleviate their tummy troubles. Fasting is not recommended for puppies, toy-breed dogs, and those who have a known health condition.
- Ice cubes — Keeping your dog hydrated is important when they have GI issues, but drinking too much water can upset their stomach more, so offer ice chips to discourage water gulping. After a couple of hours, if your dog seems to be keeping the ice down, offer a small amount of water, gradually increasing the amount over the next 12 hours.
- Bland diet — After the fasting period, a bland diet is recommended to prevent GI upset from recurring. Options include:
- Pumpkin — Canned pumpkin has a low glycemic index and is absorbed slowly, facilitating digestion. Ensure you purchase 100% canned pumpkin as opposed to pumpkin pie mix, which contains spices and other ingredients that may be contraindicated. Start with a small serving—about 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight.
- Bone broth — Plain chicken bone broth helps prevent dehydration associated with GI upset.
- Rice and chicken — Boiled chicken with plain white rice is also a good bland diet that soothes an upset stomach.
- Gradually reintroduce normal food — After two to three days on a bland diet, gradually reintroduce your dog’s normal food to prevent a GI upset recurrence.
Medications to avoid when your dog has gastrointestinal upset
Many human medications can be dangerous for dogs, and while some are safe for veterinary use, you should always consult your veterinarian before medicating your dog. Specific considerations include:
- Pepto bismol — Pepto bismol can turn your dog’s feces a greenish-black, and because of the dark color, determining whether your dog’s stool contains digested blood can be difficult. In addition, Pepto tablets are radio-opaque on X-rays, and if your dog’s condition doesn’t improve and they need further diagnostics, the tablet can be mistaken as a foreign body.
- Imodium — Some dogs are genetically predisposed to react to medication such as imodium. Breeds at increased risk include collies, collie-type breeds, Australian shepherds, Old English sheepdogs, and Shetland sheepdogs. Imodium is also contraindicated in dogs affected by hypothyroidism, kidney disease, Addison’s disease, head injuries, lung disease, and liver disease. Dogs under 20 pounds are at high risk for overdose, which is another concern.
- Pepcid — Pepcid has potential side effects that include inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea, and drowsiness, and is contraindicated for dogs who take certain medications, such as azole antifungals, cefpodoxime, cefuroxime, cyclosporine, iron salts, cisapride, and fluoxetine.
Tips to prevent gastrointestinal upset in dogs
Not every GI upset episode can be prevented, but these tips can help decrease your dog’s risk:
- Keep garbage in sealed containers to prevent dumpster diving.
- Keep food behind latched doors or in airtight containers to prevent counter surfing.
- Don’t feed your dog table scraps.
- Keep your dog up to date on their vaccinations.
- Provide proper parasite control.
- Change your dog’s food gradually over two weeks to allow their GI system time to adjust.
These veterinary-approved home remedies should help alleviate your dog’s tummy troubles the next time they have a mild case of GI upset.