Do you suspect your dog has a sensitive stomach?
Do you wonder if your canine companion would benefit from a food formulated specifically for dogs with sensitive digestive systems?
Do you wonder what makes a sensitive stomach formula — well, you know — a good food for a dog with a sensitive stomach?
And with all of the choices available, do you wonder “How the heck do I know which dog food to buy for my dog?”
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone.
Here’s what you should consider when choosing a food for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Sometimes, food triggers stomach sensitivity
Several characteristics of a particular dog food can contribute to indigestion, a medical condition in which digestion is upset in some way. Common dietary causes include:
- Ingredient quality
- Protein source
- Fat content
- Fiber source and/or level
Highly digestible, high-quality ingredients are key
Dogs with sensitive stomachs need food that’s easy for them to digest. Sensitive stomach dog foods are formulated to be highly digestible, with a limited number of carefully selected, high-quality ingredients. The result is a food that’s easy for your dog’s digestive system to process.
Determining the quality of the ingredients used in a dog food is tricky. Regulations don’t permit pet food manufacturers to put any information about the quality or grade of an ingredient as part of the ingredient list that’s found on a food’s label. Since dog foods made from high-quality ingredients tend to be more digestible than those made from lower-quality ingredients, you can try contacting the manufacturer for digestibility information.
Protein ingredients can pose issues
Just like people, dogs can react negatively to certain foods or food ingredients. These adverse food reactions may result from food allergy or food intolerance. Protein in food ingredients can cause food allergies, which aren’t common in dogs. Proteins can also trigger food intolerances, which are more common than allergies and occur when a dog has trouble digesting a particular ingredient.
Although many of the common protein sources used in dog foods are similar in digestibility, some protein ingredients seem to be easier for some dogs’ digestive systems to process. Sensitive stomach formulas feature highly digestible protein sources such as egg product, lamb, salmon or hydrolyzed proteins (e.g., salmon, soy or chicken). Hydrolyzed proteins are the result of breaking down large proteins into small pieces to prevent the dog’s immune system from recognizing them as potential allergens.
So if you’re looking to switch your dog’s food, try switching to one with a different protein source. If your dog’s food is based on chicken, try feeding a food with lamb, salmon or whitefish as its primary protein ingredient.
Too much fat can make food harder to digest
Some dogs develop GI issues because their diet contains more fat than their digestive systems can handle. Fat metabolism requires several steps, which is why some nutritionists say fat is more difficult to digest than carbohydrates and protein. A sensitive stomach dog food should contain a moderate level of fat, or about 12 to 15 percent (on a dry matter basis). The guaranteed analysis, which can be found on dog food packages, must list the minimum crude fat in the food, so be sure to check it.
Some dogs with diarrhea may benefit from a diet with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in addition to the essential long-chain fatty acids that are important to a dog’s nutrition. Although there’s a limit to how much can be fed, MCTs are more easily digested and help ease the fat-processing workload of the enterocytes, the cells that line the intestinal tract.
Dietary fiber helps manage GI issues
For dogs with GI issues, the traditional approach is to recommend low-fiber foods (5 percent or less on a dry matter basis) to promote digestive system health. Dietary fiber isn’t considered an essential nutrient for dogs, but it does encourage growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon, promote regular bowel movements and regulate colon pH.
Fiber-containing ingredients should provide a balance of soluble and insoluble fibers. Good, balanced sources of soluble and insoluble fibers include beet pulp, tomato pomace, psyllium seed husk, pea fiber and flaxseed, among others.
Other ingredients to consider
Easily digested carbohydrate-providing ingredients such as rice and properly processed potatoes are recommended for sensitive stomach formulas. Carbohydrates are an important energy source for all body cells, including working muscles.
In addition to prebiotic fiber, some sensitive stomach formulas include probiotics to help restore the beneficial balance of bacteria in the GI tract and improve digestive function. You’ll find them listed in the ingredients list by names like dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product or dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product.
Consider switching to a dog food that’s made for sensitive stomachs
Talk with your veterinarian about whether you should switch your dog with a sensitive stomach to a food that’s specifically formulated for digestive issues, such as Diamond CARE Sensitive Stomach Formula for Adult Dogs. Be aware, too, that each dog has unique needs, which means no single diet will be appropriate for all dogs with sensitive stomachs. Finding the right food for your dog may require a little time and patience, but the reward will be worth it for you and your dog.