Why do dogs get upset stomachs?

Most dogs experience an upset stomach on occasions. The symptoms can range from lethargy and unwillingness to eat, to vomiting and diarrhoea. This sort of sickness can last a few hours or extend to a few days. If it does extend beyond 24 hours you should seek your vet's advice.

Fortunately, in most instances the cause of your dog’s upset stomach is likely to be something they ate that they shouldn’t have. Dogs are naturally inquisitive and mouthing or sniffing unusual objects is often the way they find out about new things. This inevitably leads to the ingestion of germs and bacteria via touch, chewing or consumption of the object. Most of the time, if your dog is fit and well and has developed a robust digestion and strong immune system as a puppy, these incidents will cause them little, if any, ill effects.

Keeping Your Dog's Digestion Healthy

A dog’s digestive system is significantly different from ours. As dogs vary considerably in size they need nutrition that is not only tailored to their life stage, but also their breed size. Having evolved from carnivores, like the wolf, their digestive tract is relatively much shorter than ours too; about six times their body length. This means that they need a diet that is easily digested in the 7-10 hours it takes a meal to pass through their body. Looking after your dog’s digestion will help them maintain optimal body condition and support a long and active life.

The best food you can give your dog is a high quality dog food specifically tailored to meet their nutritional needs. Look out for a food which also contains ingredients like antioxidants (such as vitamin E and C), prebiotics, and teeth cleaning minerals.

Highly Digestible Foods

Some fibre is recommended to encourage colon health, but dogs are scavenging carnivores so have a digestive system most suited to animal protein and fats. Feeding a diet that is rich in high quality animal protein supports effective digestion, helping them to stay in optimal body condition.

If a food contains a higher proportion of ingredients that can't be digested by your dog, these will be fermented in the gut and can lead to gas, loose stools and occasionally diarrhoea. High quality dog foods are specifically tailored to achieve a high level of digestibility.

Fibre to Aid Digestion

A natural fibre such as beet pulp will support your dog's gut health and digestion by moving food through the intestines. Prebiotic fibre, like FOS (fructooligosaccharides) promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria, similar to those found in some yoghurts for human consumption, helping maintain the natural balance of the gut and supporting a healthy immune system.

Try to ensure that your dog's food doesn't contain too much fibre, it shouldn't exceed 5% as this can limit the digestion of other nutrients. Firm and consistent stools are a clear sign of digestive health.

Reward With Treats Appropriately

Excessive or inappropriate treats can upset and harm your dog. Introducing other elements as part of their diet or as a treat can send their digestive systems into overload or shut down with similarly unpleasant results.

Milk can be detrimental and chocolate is toxic for your dog. Many commercially available treats are loaded with calories and could soon lead to weight gain. Most dogs are happy with a kibble or two from their regular diet when accompanied by the word treat!

Keep it Simple

Our watchword for keeping your dog’s digestion healthy and them happy is ‘regular’. Unlike us, they do not crave variety in their food; they will show the same energetic enthusiasm for the same meal day in and day out. Feed them consistently - regular amounts, of the same high quality diet, at the same time and they’re far less likely to experience stomach problems as, like an efficient engine, their digestive system is perfectly capable of running on the regular fuel source it was designed for.