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Dogs are notorious for eating things they aren't supposed to — sometimes, this can lead to an upset stomach. If your dog is otherwise healthy, an occasional upset stomach shouldn't cause concern. But if your dog has serious or frequent gastrointestinal problems, then it's time to seek your veterinarian's help.
Signs That Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach
How do you know if your dog has an upset stomach? Many of the signs are similar to what you experience when your own tummy hurts. Signs include:
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Lack of appetite
- Farting or burping
- Excessive stomach growling
- Having a rigid and hunched posture
- Having their front legs stretched out and tail in the air (prayer posture)
Causes of stomach issues can be internal (inside the stomach) or external (outside the stomach). Internal causes for an upset stomach include dietary indiscretion (a fancy way of saying your dog ate something they shouldn't), food allergies, overeating, ulcers, tumors, parasites and intestinal blockages. External causes include liver or kidney problems, pancreatitis, hormonal issues, brain problems, inner ear problems, cancer, pain, heatstroke and stress.
How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Sensitive Stomach
Some dogs have guts of steel — they can eat just about anything and not get sick. Other dogs will throw up if they nibble something even the least bit different from their regular food.
How do you tell if your dog has just an upset stomach or if they actually have a sensitive stomach? If your dog experiences any of the signs of an upset stomach on a frequent basis (once a month or more), then they may have a sensitive stomach. The causes of a sensitive stomach aren't always easy to figure out, but theories range from food sensitivities and food allergies to changes in bacterial populations in the digestive system, called the gut microbiome.
You can tell if your dog has a sensitive stomach because the signs will be frequent. Signs of a food sensitivity, in addition to those listed above, and may also include skin problems, such as itchy red skin or hair loss, and increased gut sounds.
What to Give a Dog With an Upset Stomach
Treatment for when your dog has an upset stomach depends on the severity of pain and its underlying cause. If a dog has pancreatitis that's causing their upset stomach, for example, their treatment will be different from that for a dog whose upset stomach is a result of a food allergy. If your dog only has mild stomach upset that passes quickly, treatment may not be needed. If you are unsure, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian.
Veterinarians have many options to help pets with upset stomach and some can be given orally or by injection and reduces nausea and stops vomiting. Depending on what your dog is suffering from, the vet may also prescribe antacids, antibiotics, intravenous or subcutaneous fluids or deworming medicine. Some dogs require hospitalization and/or surgery.
Proper Food Can Help
An important part of caring for an upset stomach includes feeding them the right food. Most vets will recommend easy-to-digest food for anywhere from three to 10 days. You can either feed your dog a therapeutic food, or your vet may recommend a homemade recipe.
Fortunately for dogs with upset tummies, there are many options available to help your dog feel better fast. Together with the help of your veterinary team, you can help your pup get over an upset stomach and get back to tail wagging and ball chasing!
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.