Do you know someone who can eat just about anything and put away food like it’s their job? You probably also know someone who’s much more selective about what they eat because certain foods simply don’t agree with them.
Dogs are the same way. Although most dogs will happily gobble up whatever kind of food is presented to them, not all ingredients are easily digested by every dog.
As you can imagine, the term “sensitive stomach” is a broad one. Sometimes, it has to do with the food your dog eats, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Let’s take a closer look at the potential causes of a sensitive stomach, how to tell if your dog is in discomfort, and what kind of dog food for sensitive stomachs you can choose to help them feel better.
What Causes a Sensitive Stomach?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all reason that a sensitive stomach occurs in dogs. The truth is that a variety of things might make your pooch’s tummy feel bad.
One possibility is that you’re feeding your dog too many treats or table scraps. It’s the same as if you were to eat too much rich, fatty food at once — it just won’t make you feel good. And with dogs, it’s even more dangerous, because too much fat can lead to more serious problems.
It’s also possible that your dog is ingesting trash in an attempt to find tasty morsels. Or your dog could be exhibiting a condition known as pica, which causes a dog to crave and ingest non-food items like dirt, socks, batteries, coins, rocks, or just about anything else you can think of.
There’s one cause of a sensitive stomach in adult dogs that is more common than all the rest, though: A food allergy or food intolerance.
Dogs can become allergic to a certain ingredient in their food at any life stage. And the digestive system can be sensitive to more than one ingredient at once. Most of the time, a dog’s stomach is sensitive to the protein source in food, but other ingredients can also be the culprit. Common offenders include:
- Dairy products
Wheat and other common grains like rye and barley are now seen as some of the most common ingredients that can cause digestive issues. As a result, wheat-free dog foods are more popular than ever. We’ll learn more about these kinds of dog foods below.
What Are the Symptoms of a Sensitive Stomach?
It’s not always easy to know when your dog is feeling uncomfortable because of an upset stomach. But if you pay close attention, you can spot some telltale signs and address the problem.
Let’s face it — just about all of our canine companions get a little gassy now and then. But excessive or frequent flatulence can indicate digestive problems. Most of the time, excessive gas is directly related to your dog’s diet.
Loss of Appetite
If your dog shuns his or her food for an extended period of time, something’s not right. A sensitive digestive system could be to blame. You’ll want to let your veterinarian know if your dog has stopped eating normally.
Vomiting is one of the most common signs of food sensitivities. Of course, it can also be caused by any number of other health problems. But if you notice your dog vomiting shortly after they eat their food, food intolerance or allergy could be the cause. Inform your vet as soon as you see persistent vomiting.
Loose stools, otherwise known as diarrhea, can occur every now and then, and it’s not something to worry about right away. But if Fido’s diarrhea problem persists, something is wrong. And food sensitivities are some of the most common causes of diarrhea in dogs.
Weight loss is another common symptom among dogs with tummy sensitivities and digestive issues. If your dog is starting to lose weight, the problem might be serious — consult your veterinarian for help.
What Pet Food Should I Feed My Dog If He or She Has a Sensitive Stomach?
A quick search on Amazon will provide you with plenty of dog foods — dry dog food, wet food, and everything in between — that are designed to help with a sensitive stomach.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon & Rice Formula, Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Diet, various offerings from Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin’s Gastrointestinal Low Fat food are just some of the readily available options.
But just because dog food comes from a brand name or has a fancy title doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your furry friend. So, what should you be looking for when choosing dog food for sensitive stomachs?
When you’re scanning the dog food aisle at your local supermarket or pet store, opt for a kibble or wet dog food that contains:
- Limited ingredients. Dogs with sensitive stomachs often benefit from limited-ingredient diets (LID). They’re just what they sound like — diets that contain only a few ingredients, making it less likely that your dog will experience a bad reaction to something in their food. If you know the precise ingredient that doesn’t agree with your dog, you can select a limited-ingredient formula that doesn’t contain that particular component.
- High-quality, whole-food ingredients. Choose food that contains a natural balance of high-quality natural ingredients with no artificial preservatives or flavors. Look for foods without animal by-products — for instance, choose food with “lamb” rather than “lamb meal” and “chicken” instead of “chicken meal.” You’ll also want to choose food with additional vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support a healthy immune system and good digestive health.
- Easily digestible ingredients. Certain ingredients are easier on the digestive tract than others. Choose a formula with easy-to-digest ingredients like sweet potato, brown rice, chicken, or lamb (assuming one or more of those ingredients aren’t the cause of your dog’s food sensitivities).
- Probiotics. It’s a good idea to select a sensitive-stomach dog food that contains probiotics, which promote the proper microbial balance in the digestive system. You might also consider giving your dog a probiotic supplement for additional gut health benefits.
- No wheat. Many dogs with sensitive stomachs don’t do well with wheat, so following a wheat-free diet that replaces wheat with ingredients such as lentils and potatoes may be a good choice for your pooch. Consult your veterinarian to find out whether or not a wheat-free formula might be helpful for your dog’s sensitive digestion.
Beyond what’s for sale on the supermarket shelves, dog owners have another choice for a pooch with serious food allergies, a food intolerance, or a notoriously sensitive stomach: A prescription diet.
Visit your veterinarian to ask if a prescription diet — only available with the approval and guidance of a vet — is the right choice for your dog.
The Bottom Line: The Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach Problems
Aside from issues like eating garbage or being fed far too many treats, the ingredients in dog food are often the cause of sensitive stomach problems for dogs. Dogs can respond poorly to a number of ingredients, including animal proteins like beef, chicken, or fish, as well as wheat and even dairy products.
Switching up your dog’s diet is often the solution to these problems. Your pup might benefit from limited-ingredient dog food, or a wheat-free option. In more serious cases, a prescription diet given by your veterinarian might be the answer.
While there’s no single best dog food for sensitive stomachs, working closely with your vet to select a dry food or canned dog food that agrees with your pet is the best course of action. Once your pet starts eating their new food, they can get back to feeling like themselves in no time. For more insights into your dog’s nutrition and health, visit the Pet Honesty blog.