How to Soothe a Puppy With an Upset Stomach


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When you have an upset stomach, chances are you know what to do and when to seek medical care. But if you have a puppy with an upset stomach, it may not feel quite so straightforward. What's causing the issue, and how can you help them feel better fast? Understanding what to look for can help you get your puppy the care they need.

Read on to discover common causes and signs of an upset stomach in puppies, when to consult your veterinarian and how to encourage puppy gut health and healthy digestion.

baby dog sleeping on her blanket

Why Puppy Gut Health Matters

Science has come a long way in understanding how a healthy gut microbiome impacts dogs' overall well-being. The microbiome refers to microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microscopic living things that reside within your dog's gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Bacteria are the most studied aspect of the microbiome, and researchers are uncovering all sorts of ways they support full-body health.

For one, the GI tract (specifically the small and large intestines) contains a large part of the immune system. This system relies on a healthy gut microbiome to function properly.

The gut microbiome also plays an essential role in:

  • Healthy digestion

  • Skin health

  • Metabolism

  • Hormone health

  • Inflammation regulation

  • Weight management

  • Brain health

Intestinal dysbiosis refers to when your puppy's microbiome is out of balance, and it's linked to a range of diseases.

Signs of a Puppy With an Upset Stomach

If you observe signs of an upset stomach, take your puppy in to your veterinarian for an exam. They can identify the issue and recommend treatment.

A puppy with an upset GI tract often exhibits fairly obvious signs they're not feeling well, including:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea or soft stool

  • Poor appetite

  • Drooling or licking lips (from nausea)

  • Low energy

Causes of Upset Stomach in Puppies

Digestive issues or general stomach upset in dogs and puppies can have many causes, including (but not limited to):

  • Intestinal parasites, such as worms or coccidia

  • Intestinal viruses, such as parvovirus or distemper

  • Stress (e.g., from introducing a new family member or rehoming)

  • Abrupt changes in food

  • Eating something they shouldn't, such as chocolate, garbage or high-fat foods

  • Adverse reaction to spoiled food

  • Eating too fast

  • Food allergies (rare)

  • Severe intestinal inflammation

  • Bloat

All of these conditions can also cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome, which exacerbates the issue.

When to See a Veterinarian

If your puppy shows any signs of an upset stomach, monitor them closely. Signs you should see your veterinarian right away include (but aren't limited to):

  • More than one episode of vomiting or diarrhea

  • Bloody stool or vomit (or foreign material in stool or vomit)

  • Weight loss

  • Refusing to eat for longer than four to six hours

This list is not comprehensive, so reach out to your veterinarian any time you're concerned about a change in your puppy's usual routine or behavior. Some causes of upset stomach signs can be potentially life-threatening.

If you see your puppy eat something they shouldn't or suspect they might have, seek immediate veterinary care. If your regular veterinarian is unavailable, call or go to your local emergency veterinary hospital. You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435.

puppy eating from his bowl

How to Help a Puppy With an Upset Stomach

If your puppy isn't feeling well, you want to help them feel better as soon as possible. Start by getting a diagnosis from your veterinarian. Understanding the cause of the issue is crucial to proper treatment. In more straightforward cases, however, they may suggest you take a few steps at home to help your puppy recover.

Note: Never give your puppy an over-the-counter stomach medicine made for humans without your veterinarian's supervision or advice. This can make the issue worse.

Take It Slow

For vomiting and soft stool, withhold food for a couple of hours to give your puppy's stomach and intestines a rest. Then, offer a few bites of food and see how they do. While this can work for most puppies, it's not recommended for toy breed puppies. Toy breed puppies can develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if they don't eat every few hours.

Offer Nutritional Support

Your veterinarian may recommend a specific food for your puppy that is highly palatable, low in fat and easily digestible.

Consider a Puzzle Bowl

If your puppy's upset stomach is due to eating too quickly, try using a food puzzle bowl or, if you're feeding them wet food, spread it out on a tray.

Follow Your Veterinarian's Advice

For example, your veterinarian may recommend a high-quality probiotic formulated for dogs to help boost beneficial bacteria and restore your puppy's gut microbiome.

Taking Preventive Measures at Home

Upset stomachs are normal now and then, but you can take steps to help prevent them. For one, if you have to change your puppy's food, always do so gradually over a week by mixing small amounts of the new food in with the old food. Consider providing your puppy with a complete and balanced food intended for their life stage and formulated to support gut health with prebiotic fiber — your veterinarian can help you narrow down your options.

Keep garbage cans sealed, lock away any potentially toxic items and avoid feeding your puppy table scraps. Puppies require a delicate balance of nutrients to thrive, and pizza crust isn't part of that equation.

Last but not least, take your puppy in for regular veterinarian visits, including vaccines and parasite prevention. This is an important part of keeping your puppy's gut health in excellent shape. If you have a puppy with an upset stomach that doesn't seem to be improving on its own, trust your gut and seek veterinary care. Part of showing your love is seeking the professional care your puppy deserves.

Contributor Bio

Dr. Sarah Wooten

Dr. Sarah Wooten

Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.