Just like people, dogs can have times when their digestive tracts are upset. They may vomit, have diarrhea, lose their appetite or have abdominal discomfort or gas.
Because a number of medical conditions (such as a food allergy, pancreatitis, internal parasites, toxins or a gastrointestinal obstruction) can cause those signs and symptoms, it’s important to have your dog examined by your veterinarian before changing their diet.
Knowing the cause of a sensitive stomach is the first step
If your veterinarian has ruled out other medical causes, it could be that your dog has a food intolerance or an abnormal response to an ingredient in the food. Unlike a food allergy, which involves the immune system, a food intolerance just means that something in the diet doesn’t agree with your dog, whether it’s a flavoring, a spice or a preservative. It could also mean that your dog doesn’t have the enzymes to digest a particular protein, such as the rare gluten sensitivity seen in some Irish setters.
Your dog may also develop digestive issues if their diet is abruptly changed or if they eat out of the garbage. This can upset the natural balance of bacteria in the digestive tract, allowing harmful bacteria to outnumber the beneficial ones, resulting in vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Choosing a new diet
While dietary intolerance and food allergies can have similar signs, the latter is relatively uncommon and tends to also manifest in dermatological signs, such as itchy skin. Typically, these dogs have an allergic reaction to a protein in the diet, so they need a therapeutic food with a unique protein source they haven’t been exposed to in the past, or a hydrolyzed protein that has been broken into such small pieces that it isn’t recognized by the immune system.
The dietary requirements for dogs with food intolerances aren’t as strict. Although it can be difficult to identify the ingredient that is upsetting your dog’s digestive tract, changing their diet may help resolve their signs. Your veterinarian can recommend a diet that’s right for your dog, such as Diamond CARE Sensitive Stomach Formula for Adult Dogs. Typically, diets like these are designed to be easily digestible, contain a limited number of ingredients to reduce the chance of upset and may include probiotics to help restore the balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
Make a gradual change
Because any sudden change in diet can upset your dog’s digestive tract, you should make the switch to a new diet gradually, over the course of 10 to 14 days. Start by feeding three parts of the current diet mixed with one part of the new diet. Over the next few days, gradually mix in more of the new diet and less of the current diet until your dog is eating only the new diet at the end of the transition period.
Hopefully, your dog will be back to their old self in no time. If not, see your veterinarian. Occasionally, dogs may need additional probiotics or antibiotics to help get their digestive tracts back to normal.