HEALTH & CARE

Dog Upset Stomach: A Solvable Digestive Problem

Dog with upset stomach
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

People who love dogs and who have one as a pet often experience unpleasant situations that are heartbreaking, worrying and time-consuming. Such an experience is often generated by dog upset stomach, an affection that occurs in every dog at least once in its lifetime. Among the digestive problems that dogs have is diarrhea, which manifests through the elimination of an abnormal fluid or a semi-liquid stool. A dog affected by diarrhea can poop a smelly and watery stool that could sometimes be combined with blood as well.

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Diarrhea is not a disease, but it signals that something is not right with a dog’s intestines. It occurs most often due to improper feeding. For example, if your dog eats something it’s not used with, it will probably get diarrhea.

As a dog owner, you shouldn’t panic if your dog gets diarrhea. However, you should be extra careful with it and take it outside a lot often than usual. Just as a person affected by diarrhea, a dog has to defecate often when its stomach is upset. It would be more convenient to go out with your sick pup than to spend the day cleaning the carpet. If your pooch’s upset stomach doesn’t improve in 2 days, you should consider taking it to the vet for a clinical examination and a series of tests.

Upset dog tummy

Dogs often experience short episodes of diarrhea, which can make any owner alarmed. Fortunately, acute diarrhea can be held under control at home, without the need of medical treatment. However, chronic diarrhea that lasts more than 2 days and it is accompanied by dehydration and other visible effects needs medical attention.

What is diarrhea in dogs?

Diarrhea is the rapid movement of the ingested material through the intestines that results in one or more of the following complications: increased frequency of the bowel movements, watery and more often stools. It is characterized by the elimination of feces with a watery consistency during short intervals of time. It can be present as a clinical symptom in a large number of diseases.

That’s why further investigations are necessary in case it doesn’t go away in 2 days. The further investigations should conclude which part of the digestive tract is affected, what exactly caused it and if it can do damage to other organs.

Dog in bed with stomach problem

The presumptive diagnosis is established based on a few symptoms, namely blood in stool, pyrexia, an abnormal coloration of the gums, feeling unwell, discomfort or abdominal pain, vomiting or the ingestion of potentially toxic substances.

Determining the cause of a dog’s upset stomach is essential in order to establish an appropriate treatment. A veterinarian usually combines the information received from the dog owner with the results of the clinical examination and the test results too. You should make an appointment with a specialist if you notice the following symptoms:

  • your dog’s poop is black, hardened and it also contains blood;
  • you suspect that your dog has ingested poison or something toxic;
  • your dog has a fever or it looks depressed;
  • your dog’s gums are pale or yellow;
  • your dog is young and not vaccinated;
  • your dog seems to be in pain;
  • your dog vomits

In case you will end up seeing the vet, you should know that he or she will ask questions about your dog’s medical history, vaccines, diet, medication, as well as about how often it gets in contact with other dogs, how easy it can access toxic substances or if there is toxic waste in the areas when you take it out for walks. Also, he or she will measure your pooch’s temperature, heart rate, breathing and its dehydration level.

In addition, a specialist palpates a dog’s abdomen before recommending a fecal exam. This exam is needed in order to check if your doggy is infested with certain parasites such as stomach worms or giardia. If the canine patient is suspected of having a bacterial infection, then it would be sensitive. The viral disorders need another set of fecal tests. Radiographs are only recommended if the canine patient is suspected of having a tumor, an anatomical malformation or foreign bodies trapped inside it. An ultrasound or a barium test may also be helpful in establishing a diagnosis.

However, if you do notice some blood, you should definitely check out this article on bloody diarrhea in dogs to know what you should do.

What causes diarrhea in dogs?

A very common cause of acute diarrhea in dogs is their diet. A sudden change in a pooch’s diet, eating too much or eating bad quality foods, garbage and rotting food could lead to diarrhea. An acute type of diarrhea is common, not serious, mild, accompanied by vomiting and it tends to go away in approximately 2 days.

In addition, the ingestion of toxic substances, such as organophosphates, heavy metals, toxic substances from houseplants and drugs might create intestinal problems in case of any canine specimen. Be aware of lactulose, acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, most antibiotics and others. A dog that eats these drugs will most probably vomit besides defecating often.

Toxic foods dogs

Upset stomach can also be caused by kidney diseases, liver problems, pancreatic and other systemic changes. In addition, there are also parasitic causes that are very common in young pups. The internal parasites that can affect a dog are: the roundworms, which are the most common ones. Puppies younger than 6 months might have mild diarrhea, vomit, feel an abdominal discomfort, have distended abdomen and feel bloated too.

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Most puppies are born infested with roundworms. Therefore, the internal antiparasitic treatment should be done 2 weeks after birth. Diarrhea in dogs can also be caused by another type of worms called the hook worms. The clinical signs include diarrhea, anemia and dermatitis. The treatment for these worms is similar with the one for roundworms. Dogs can also get infested with Taenia or Dipylidium caninum by ingesting fleas that already carry Dipylidium eggs. The treatment is similar, but the medication is different.

As said above, giardia is a possible cause of upset stomach as well. It is a protozoon and among its clinical signs are acute diarrheas that look discolored and watery, bloody stools, weight loss and so on. Besides protozoa, there are bacteria. The latter are found in the gastrointestinal tract of a dog. If the number of pathogenic species increases, then a dog gets diarrhea. These bacteria produce cytotoxins that affect the intestinal cells of a pooch and enterotoxins that stimulate the intestinal secretion.

Next, they attach to the intestine’s linings and cause their destruction. Finally, they invade and destroy the intestinal epithelium. The most common pathogenic bacteria are Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium spp., Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Yersinia. All these bacteria can only be treated with antibiotics. Each bacterium responds to the treatment with certain antibiotics. Not all respond to the same medicine. It goes without saying that only blood tests and other types of examinations can show that a pup suffers from upset stomach because of bacteria.

To learn what else can make your dog’s stomach upset, you should read up more in this great article on diarrhea in dogs.

What are the treatments for common diarrhea?

Common diarrhea in dogs is the one caused by food. What to give a dog with upset stomach that has already eaten too much? The treatment for this type of affection doesn’t have immediate effects and it spreads on multiple days. Also, the owner’s involvement is needed because the dog needs more attention, cooked meals and more often walks.

Overall, the treatment is not difficult or too tiring and it should not include the administration of medication unless a specialist recommends that particularly. Supplements are not included in the medication category and they are strongly recommended in case they are needed.

First of all, you shouldn’t feed your dog for the first 12 to 36 hours after it manifests signs of upset stomach and, implicitly, diarrhea. However, keep in mind to give it plenty of water to drink. This pause from eating ensures the elimination of any food that is already inside your pooch’s digestive system and makes it feel sick.

Make sure to always put fresh water inside its water bowl because it can get seriously dehydrated because of diarrhea and in case it vomits as well. Watch it carefully and trick it into drinking water even if it doesn’t want to. Giving it ice cubes to chew might be a solution.

Intolerance for food

Second of all, after your beloved pet has defecated multiple times and at least 24 hours have passed, you can begin to feed it with solid cheese, cooked rice, cooked chicken or turkey without bones or skin, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes or boiled pumpkin. These ingredients are light and they can ensure your dog’s necessary of nutrients and energy without irritating its stomach once again. You can feed your pooch with these foods until its symptoms go away. To see what foods are best, check out this article on dog food for sensitive stomachs.

Also, you can cook for it a soup with vegetables, rice and meat. Glucose dissolved in water and diluted tomato sauce could make wonders as well. This helps regenerate a part of the lost nutrients, such as potassium, sodium and fluids. Moreover, do not use large portions. Feed your dog 4 to 5 times a day with small portions of cooked meals. Do not leave the food that it doesn’t eat inside its bowl because it can alter and it can worsen its diarrhea.

You should gradually increase the amount of food until your pooch’s poop gets back to its initial consistency. During this period, you should not give it normal dog food.

Third of all, you shouldn’t forget that there are supplements for your dog. Just as people, dogs have different kind of supplements ready to come in handy when needed. They help a dog recover a lot faster and ease its symptoms in case of a disease.

Help your dog with upset stomach

For example, there is a species of elm, called Ulmus Rubra that soothes the intestinal mucosa of a dog. Besides that, L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps improve the efficacy of the intestinal cells. These two supplements are adjuvants in the treatment for a dog’s upset stomach. Because they are all natural, getting a prescription from a veterinarian is not needed. The addition of probiotic supplements in your dog’s food and water is recommended too.

You can purchase them from veterinary clinics and health food stores. They are good for keeping a pooch’s stomach populated with beneficial bacteria that improves its digestion. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the most common of probiotics. This product may help protect against future episodes of diarrhea as well.

Forth of all, eliminate any other snack, treat or reward that you normally give to your beloved pet during a normal day. All the members of your family should be aware of your dog’s condition and they should not feed it with anything.

Also, you should be the one taking your pooch out every time. Try to keep the walks short and always look at the consistency of its stools. A little physical activity promotes bowel regulation, so it is part of its treatment. Do not neglect this aspect thinking that moving around the house is enough because it definitely isn’t. Cleaning after your doggy might not be your favorite thing to do, but this contributes to the restoration of its health, so you should do it dearly.

The diarrhea produced by parasites or bacteria must be treated in different ways and always under the strict supervision of a specialist. More specifically, in the presence of intestinal parasites, deworming is the only solution. This is a process that must be repeated once or several more times over weeks or even months. Your contribution to curing this affection would be to remove the parasite eggs from your dog’s environment if that is possible.

You can find out more about how to keep your pooch’s environment clean as soon as the vet identifies the parasite that populates its stomach or intestines. In case of bacteria, the treatment consists of antibiotics. They may also be prescribed if a canine specimen’s intestine was damaged, thereby enabling the bacteria to pass from its intestine into its blood stream. Such migration can cause serious illness and even sepsis.

In some cases, medication is administered in order to reduce motility, which means to slow down the movement speed of food in a dog’s intestine. This medication is strictly forbidden in case a dog ingested a toxin or it suffers from a bacterial infection, so it is vital to be correctly diagnosed.

What is the Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

You might have heard about the Irritable Bowel Syndrome in people, but you must know that dogs can get it too. It is an episodic affection characterized by the appearance of soft feces and mucus and its causes are unknown. In both humans and dogs, it is associated with stress, probably because of a neurovegetative mechanism. The colonic response to stress factors can be variable, resulting in two situations, namely constipation or diarrhea. It occurs most commonly in temperamental dogs, as well as in shy and nervous dogs.

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Canine specimens that are forced to change their living conditions, lifestyle, being separated from their owners or feeling antipathy towards another animal or man tend to have symptoms of an upset stomach.

Inflammatory bowel disease infographic

Those dogs that have the irritable bowel syndrome do not respond to the normal treatment of diarrhea caused by food. The treatment of this syndrome consists of the administration of drugs, a changed diet and the elimination of the stressful factor. Sedatives and tranquilizers are also used in case the dog is too stressed and it cannot be calmed down.

Which are the conclusions?

A dog with an upset stomach might have eaten something that wasn’t beneficial to its stomach or intestines, but, on the other hand, it might suffer from so many other diseases that are scary. Although a simple case of diarrhea is not something you should worry about, since you definitely had more than one so far, it might only be a symptom to a much more complicated and serious affection.

The needed steps that you have to take from the moment you see your dog defecate watery stools is to apply the food treatment and, if that is ineffective for more than 2 days, to take your beloved pet to the veterinarian. As seen, there are so many factors that can generate diarrhea in dogs that it would be aberrant for you to figure it out by yourself without having medical knowledge.

A specialist knows exactly what to look for and it has the right tools to do so. A clinical examination and some tests can quickly eliminate your negative thoughts, or if it is something serious, then you can begin the treatment right away. You and your dog’s veterinarian should be best friends because he or she is often the only person who can guarantee the truthfulness of a certain diagnosis.

The irritable bowel syndrome is just one example of a disease that it hard to diagnose by an amateur dog owner or that is easy to mistaken with diarrhea. Situations like this one happen a lot and they affect a dog to a greater extent than a dog owner with just good intentions.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Daniella Roberts

    Don’t forget that dogs are naturally curious creatures and tend to munch on most plant. That being said, make sure you don’t have any house or garden plants that are known to be toxic for dogs. My neighbor has Aloe Vera and her dog ate a bit and started vomiting. All is well, though, they were able to get her to the vet on time.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      This is another factor that should be remembered by pet parents. You can keep a spotless house, but the things it can eat outside is definitely out of your control.

  • Hilary Reddy

    I agree with you, there are some house pets that are really lethal to our doggie friends. Best be vigilant to keep our dogs healthy and diarrhea-free. :)

    • Wyatt Robinson

      There is this pet compatibility that needs to be taken into consideration. While a home with lots of pets is great, they should be compatible with each other to avoid injuries and illnesses.

  • Amy Chase

    So we were prone to promptly getting our dog to the vet even though our pooch was later proven to be just sensitive at times (no terrible disease, just an imbalance of stomach bacteria). So we later were given a guideline if we have to get our pooch to the vet. If they show blood in their stool, paling gums, loss of appetite or fever; by all rights we should get them to the vet. But if our dear pooch would give the occasional soft stool or bout of diarrhea, we just give him copious water and a bland diet. That’s how we dealt with it so far. Hope this helped someone!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Great tips, Amy! Some dogs, while not really breed-specific on this case, are prone to have a sensitive stomach. We have to make sure that the food and water supply are not compromised to avoid harboring parasites and contaminants that can irritate the stomach.

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