Nobody likes a stomach ache😓, and that gurgling feeling often leads to even less desirable outcomes.
It's even worse when your fur baby 🐶 is the one with the grumbly gut because it's even more likely to lead to something unpleasant making its way out, be it from the front end or the rear 💩.
Even if you avoid a mess in the house, having to head outside every half hour for an emergency is stressful and worrisome!
Luckily, there are a bunch of ways you can soothe your pupper's 🐕upset stomach.
I've put together a dozen tips you can try, that cover everything from dietary tweaks to natural options and simple DIY care practices, we'll cover a range of approaches to address your dog's upset stomach.
An upset stomach can be caused literally by anything. The whole gamut ranges from stress or anxiety to drinking yummy toilet water, to a mild virus, to eating something they shouldn't have, to eating something toxic to something more serious.
“The most common gastrointestinal issues causing owners to seek veterinary care for their dogs are dietary indiscretion (eating of food that upsets their GI tract), ingestion of a foreign object, intestinal parasites, pancreatitis, and chronic inflammatory intestinal disease (caused by food allergies/intolerance or immune-mediated inflammation).” - Dr. Emily Gould | Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Many of the causes of upset stomach are simple enough to deal with at home and will go away within 48 hours, but a few are more dangerous and might require a trip to the emergency vet.
When to Take Your Dog to the Vet
In general, if an upset stomach doesn’t resolve in 48-72 hours you should take your dog to the vet.
Keep an eye out for bloody diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, dehydration, and your puppy collapsing (and not in the cute clumsy puppy way). These are all signs of parvo and require vet care to make sure your fur baby gets enough fluids and nutrients to fight off the virus.
Check out this 3-minute education video about when to worry and when to go to the vet when you have a puppy with diarrhea by Krista Magnifico, DVM at Jarrettsville Veterinary Center.
For older dogs that are unlikely to have parvo, an upset stomach is a lot more likely to be caused by eating something that upsets their tummy, but in some cases can be more dangerous.
If your fur baby ate a whole jar of peanut butter full of xylitol, a big bar of chocolate you thought they couldn't reach, or some random chemical under the sink, you'll need to take them to the emergency vet to make sure they aren't in danger.
Symptoms you should watch out for include:
Upset stomach signs that last for more than two days.
Unwillingness to eat or drink (especially drink).
Blood in the vomit or stool.
Vomiting or diarrhea more than two or three times, particularly with no signs of abating.
A toy or other non-food object in the vomit or diarrhea. Even if they purge it, it could have done damage internally that needs vet care.
Restlessness that increases over time rather than decreasing.
Generally, you'll be able to tell that there's something wrong beyond just eating an irritating plant or too much of something oily.
If you see any signs above, call your vet and see what they think, and be prepared to bring your fur baby in for an emergency appointment.
“If a pet stops eating, is lethargic, the diarrhea is black or tarry in quality, there is associated vomiting, or the diarrhea doesn’t resolve in 48-72 hours then veterinary care should be sought.” - Dr. Meredith Miller | Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center
Now if you have reasons to suspect your dog has consumed something that could be stuck in their gastrointestinal tract or a toxin, such as a poisonous plant during a walk, then it's very important that you seek medical care immediately.
Case in Point: My new nephew puppy just finished an in-depth two-week training session. One of his main goals was to learn to not eat any random thing he passes on his walks. Well he no sooner gets home after graduation and manages to eat a mushroom before my brother quickly grabbed it out of his mouth. Puppies, am I right?!
Knowing there are many harmful mushrooms he headed straight for the vet, where they induced vomiting. Long story short, the mushroom was non-toxic, but if you’re not sure you should always err on the side of caution.
If your vet recommends a watch a wait approach because the symptoms are mild, but they're clearly unpleasant, you can try some home remedies to try to alleviate that upset stomach and give your fur baby some relief while they work through it.
Here are a dozen different remedies you can try out.
This might seem like a no-brainer as you should always have fresh water available for your pup, but I’ll say it anyway. The number one thing your dog needs when their stomach is upset, especially if they're vomiting, or have diarrhea is water.
Dehydration is very dangerous for dogs, and it can happen a lot faster than you might think. Extended dehydration can lead to organ damage and, in extreme cases, even death.
Offering your fur baby some water is a good first step, but they may not be interested in it or won't be able to keep it down if they lap up too much at once. A decent solution is to give them ice chips a little at a time.
The cold helps soothe the stomach, and the ice being solid gives them a different mechanism to consume it rather than lapping it up, which can help them keep it down.
When dehydration is a primary concern, it's not just about the water itself. Dehydration throws off the body's balance of electrolytes and nutrients, which means your fur baby will need something to restore them.
If your first thought is "Gatorade," you're on the right track, but not quite where you need to be. Instead, head to the children's food aisle at your nearest store and grab a bottle of unflavored Pedialyte.
Pedialyte was originally designed for children as something inoffensive and tasty enough to give to a child who is feeling ill and doesn't want to drink plain water or some medicated supplement.
It's packed with electrolytes and nutrients to help hydrate and restore the body better than water alone can. Well, people quickly discovered that it works great for a lot more than just sick kids, so they have a dozen different sub-products these days, like a sport version, an organic version, and advanced medicated versions.
You'll want to grab a standard Pedialyte (double-check to make sure the ingredients list is safe, but it should be) and give it to your fur baby in small sips and in small quantities.
While there are no scientific studies today advocating for its use in dogs, if they can keep it down, it's a good way to encourage hydration.
One word of caution here is that Pedialyte contains sodium and sugar which, depending on your dog’s overall health condition may be harmful. The temporary use of Pedialyte in a relatively healthy and young dog will be less risky than in an older and not so healthy one. So, keep this in mind.
“Patients with vomiting, moderate to severe dehydration, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or other diseases that make your pet sensitive to sodium or sugar intake should definitely avoid Pedialyte.” – Dr. Monica Tarantino DVM
If your fur baby is vomiting, expelling diarrhea, or both, it can feel bad to take food away from them. After all, they're already losing a lot of nutrition, so they're probably hungry and miserable.
Unfortunately, giving them food can irritate an already inflamed gastrointestinal tract, which can exacerbate the issue.
It's even worse if they scarf down some dry food too quickly and immediately toss it back up, irritating their throat even more in the process.
A brief fast can help their bodies purge whatever is causing them trouble and allow the GI tract to settle and heal.
For younger or smaller dogs (not puppies), you generally don’t want to go more than 12 hours without food; for older or larger dogs, you can go as much as 24 hours.
“Sometimes, adding to the stomach will only make things worse, so fasting is another possible remedy for a dog’s upset stomach. Before fasting, though, you need to make sure that it’s safe for your dog. Every breed is different, and smaller dogs may not tolerate fasting as well as others.” - Care First Animal Hospital
An important feature of a food fast is to ensure your pup is still drinking water. Sips of Pedialyte or a bit of natural organic (xylitol-free) maple syrup can help keep their blood sugar up without being as irritating as food.
Bone broth is a very nutritious and nurturing liquid, sort of like chicken soup is for us people when we're sick.
You can find it at the grocery store alongside the other kinds of broth, or you can make some yourself, though making it yourself will take a whole day, so it's not a fast emergency solution.
A word of caution: Garlic and onions are toxic to dogs, and they are found in many store-bought broths. Be sure to check the ingredients to ensure they aren’t included.
Although some online retailers may already sell bone broth for dogs, it may take a day or two to arrive once you order. So, you may end up having to stop by your grocery store to look for alternatives.
If you don’t find a ready-made option at the grocery store that is ingredient-safe to give your dog you may have to make it yourself.
How to Make Bone Broth For your Dog
While it may take time, it’s not difficult to make. Simply get some bone-in meat (usually chicken works best, but beef also works) and put it in a deep pot.
Add enough water to cover it and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to help break down the collagen in the bones. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 8-12 hours, occasionally skimming off the fat. The resulting broth will be simple and basic and can be frozen to last for half a year.
The "Bland Food" diet is a specific food mixture you can give your fur baby that is nutritious enough to keep them going but so bland and inoffensive that it's pretty much guaranteed to stay down.
If your fur baby manages to vomit this up, it's a sure sign you should take them to the vet ASAP.
What is the Bland Food diet?
It generally means two ingredients: white rice and white meat chicken. Cook the chicken until it's done, and boil the white rice until it's soft and fluffy.
You want about one part meat to two or three parts rice. Chop up the chicken, mix it all together, and give your fur baby a tablespoon or two of it at a time. If they can keep that down, they're probably on the mend.
Now, if you are lucky enough to have a dog that is allergic to chicken (which is a real thing!) you can also make it with ground turkey, ground beef, egg and even low-fat cottage cheese.
In terms of the carbohydrate , it doesn’t have to be rice. You can also use plain pasta or white potato.
Just make sure to avoid adding salt, any oils, fats, or spices to either the rice or the chicken when you cook them. Those can irritate an upset stomach and go against the point of the diet being bland.
Make sure not to feed your dog this diet for more than 3-4 days. When your pet begins to feel better you, feel free to start mixing in some of their regular food with the bland diet for a couple of days before switching back to just their normal kibble.
If the issue has not gotten better or completely resolved after 3-4 days, you should see your vet.
Probiotics are foods that contain bacteria, but they're helpful bacteria rather than harmful.
These bacteria are already present in your fur baby's digestive system, but they can get overrun by bad bacteria when they're ill or even just get disrupted by antibiotics and other medications or changes in diet.
The easiest way to give your fur baby some probiotics is with plain, unflavored, unsweetened yogurt.
Alternatively, there are a handful of canine probiotic foods, like FortiFlora and Visbiome, which you can find in pet supply stores and online. Always consult with your vet before giving probiotics to your dog.
Regular use of probiotics can be a wonderful thing for your dog. Now, as we like to caution every pet parent out there: Not all dog probiotics are created equal. Refrain from going on @m@z0n or any other large online retailer and buying the first “best seller” or “vet recommended” probiotic for your dog.
We can’t warn pet parents enough about letting these labels influence their purchase decisions. If you are a regular reader of our blog, you know to be aware that the pet industry has been infested with unscrupulous sellers and bad actors that have mastered the art of deception when it comes to stripping you of your money at the expense of your dog’s happiness and wellbeing.
Before making any rushed decisions, you should educate yourself about probiotics for dogs. Also, do your research and due diligence about both the product and most importantly the seller.
“The most widely known probiotics are the live cultures found in yogurt, but they are also available as nutritional supplements. Labels should include an expiration date, the exact species, the number of microorganisms in the product and a guarantee for the number of live organisms. The manufacturer should be able to provide support for the efficacy of the product, preferably a study by an external, accredited researcher.” - Cornell Richard P. Riney Canine Health Center
FortiFlora also works for cats. I have personally used it for my IBD kitties during acute bouts of diarrhea. And while I’ve experienced mixed results it has made a difference.
How long does it take for probiotics to stop diarrhea in dogs?
The short answer is it depends. The long one is that some probiotics work faster than others. You can expect improvement from as soon as 2-3 days to weeks. But again, when used to stop your dog’s diarrhea, you should bring your dog to the vet if the issue is not resolved within 3 days max.
7: Other Plain Foods
There are a variety of different plain foods you can try giving to your fur baby to see if they stay down – these should all be limited in quantity as they aren’t a balanced meal. Pretty much anything bland and free of spices and fats can do well.
You can try canned pumpkin, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, or bananas as simple alternatives.
Pumpkin is a great option for a pup with diarrhea, just make sure it’s plain pumpkin and not the stuff you’d use to make a pie.
“Plain, canned pumpkin is the healthiest choice for your dog. Both fresh and canned pumpkin are good sources of nutrients and fiber, but canned pumpkin contains a higher concentration of fiber and nutrients compared to fresh pumpkin. However, canned pumpkin with added salt, spices, sugar, or other additives can irritate your dog’s stomach further, counteracting the beneficial effects of the pumpkin.” - American Kennel Club
How Fast Does Pumpkin Help with Diarrhea?
It depends. The cause of the diarrhea, its severity, and how much pumpkin you give your pup are some of the factors that will determine how fast your pup recovers from an upset stomach. On average you can expect to see signs of improvement from 4 - 6 hours to 24 - 48 hours.
8: Slippery Elm Bark
Slippery Elm, also known as Indian Elm, Red Elm, Moose Elm, Sweet Elm, Orme, or Ulmus Fulva, is a tree with bark that feels slippery on the inside due to a chemical it contains.
It's been a soothing remedy for sore throats for centuries because that same chemical causes increased mucous production, helping to coat the throat.
When you give some to your dog, it will have the same effect, stimulating the production of mucous that helps coat and line their GI tract and protect it from whatever is causing irritation.
As we always like to recommend, make sure to talk to your vet first before giving any kind of herbal supplement, though, and be on the lookout for unpleasant side effects.
Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea! That's the jingle many of us remember from commercials a couple of decades ago (actually I just saw one recently), and that smooth, vaguely chalky, pink sludge has been a staple of medicine cabinets ever since. Well, it's an effective remedy for people, but did you know it can work for dogs as well?
Word of caution here: While Pepto isn't approved for use in dogs, many vets and pet owners know it can be effective when given properly – and by that I mean under a veterinarian's guidance.
You’ll find mixed opinions all over the internet regarding the safety of Pepto for your dog, so always work under the supervision of your vet.
Here is what the manufacturer of Pepto says on their website regarding whether it is ok to give your Pepto to your pet:
“Pepto Bismol is for humans. Consult with your veterinarian for treatment.” - Pepto Bismol
Too much or over a period that is too long can do more harm than good. Your vet will also know any preexisting conditions or medications they are taking that may not make Pepto a suitable option for your pup.
10: Keep Away from the Lawn
Dogs (and cats) have an inherent drive to eat grass.
Some pet parents tend to think that eating grass is a sign that their dog is feeling sick. But some studies have shown that none of these beliefs are true.
Regardless of the reason, one thing is almost guaranteed to be true, though, the lawn is very likely to be unsafe to eat.
Lawncare chemicals, runoff, and other nastiness can all be anywhere from irritating to toxic, and the last thing your dog needs is something to further irritate them.
Bottom line, always keep your pup from eating grass, especially if they have an upset stomach.
11: Low-Stress Environment
One occasional cause of vomiting and an upset stomach is stress and anxiety. If you've been through a lot and your fur baby is having a bad time, it might be worthwhile to bring them somewhere familiar or keep them at home for a while, so they can decompress and relax.
Yes, some dogs have anxiety, and if you notice a pattern of digestive issues when you go to crowded areas, or when you leave town, you should talk to your vet about ways to prevent or reduce the stress.
CBD for dogs has proven to be great for helping with situational anxiety. Of course, you shouldn't try it with the goal of stopping an upset stomach – as it may not work for that – but rather as a preventative approach or future anxiety related stomach episodes.
So, if you notice any correlation between diarrhea episodes and situational anxiety in your dog, CBD might help.
If you are anything like me, you’d try any natural and holistic available approaches to help your dog before resorting to traditional methods.
As your fur baby gets over whatever was irritating them, you can start to go back to giving them regular food, but you want to introduce it slowly.
You should never try to go from a liquid or bland diet to regular food overnight; instead, gradually reintroduce it by about 15-20% of their food each day.
Hopefully, these remedies will help your furry companion feel better! Remember if the home remedies don’t clear up the issue in 24 to 48 hours, it’s time to give your vet a call. Sometimes their intervention is what’s needed to get your pup back on the right track.
Do you have a personal favorite remedy you use with your pup? How quickly did it work? Be sure to let me know in the comments section down below! I'd love to hear what you think!
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K Marie Alto
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer (https://www.amazon.com/author/kmariealto), and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 45K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).