Understanding your dog's gastrointestinal and digestive health

Your dog's gastrointestinal health helps to support the rest of their body by properly digesting food, making sure they extract the nutrients needed to support their body and overall health. 

English Cocker Spaniel black and white

Gastrointestinal and digestive upsets in dogs can disrupt the function of the stomach and intestines. This can be linked to a number of illnesses, including gastroenteritis and colitis. Many gastrointestinal and digestive illnesses can lessen a dog's ability to absorb the necessary nutrients they would usually get from their diet. These nutrients normally help a dog stay fit and healthy, so if they are not being digested or absorbed properly it may cause other problems and affect their overall health.  

Gastrointestinal issues can arise in a number of different ways, so it's good to be aware of your dog's eating, digestive and poop habits. If you suspect your dog could be suffering from a gastrointestinal issue, it's important to speak to a veterinarian as soon as possible so they can diagnose it and discuss management options.

What are the most common digestive issues in dogs?

Dog diarrhea

If a dog has diarrhea, this could be due to any number of causes, from a mild illness to an urgent health issue.


Pancreatitis in dogs is serious. Causes vary, but a high-fat diet may trigger this inflammatory disease. If you notice your dog has a loss of appetite, is vomiting, or has abdominal pain, contact your veterinarian.


Dietary indiscretion, parasites, and stress can cause colitis in dogs – inflammation in the large intestine that causes a dog to frequently produce small amounts of diarrhea.


Inflammation of the stomach and intestines that typically causes vomiting and diarrhea. Gastroenteritis in dogs can be a sign of many different conditions – both mild and severe.


Constipation is painful and can be a symptom of an underlying health condition. If you notice your dog straining to defecate and they produce hard, dry stools, contact your veterinarian.

What is the difference between an acute and chronic digestive issue?

A gastrointestinal illness may be acute, appearing suddenly and deteriorating rapidly, or chronic, appearing intermittently or for a long period of time.

Whether a gastrointestinal condition is acute or chronic may influence the dog’s signs and the management they require. In some cases, their long-term nutritional needs may also be affected.

Black and white English Cocker Spaniel eating from a red bowl

The importance of tailored nutrition

Treatment for a gastrointestinal illness will depend upon your dog’s circumstances and medical conditions but it will frequently involve a change to their diet.

Here are some examples of when your veterinarian may recommend a dietary change.

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Scientists have yet to identify the cause of pancreatitis in dogs, but fatty foods can be a trigger for some dogs. Your veterinarian may advise switching to a highly digestible, low-fat diet to help reduce the risk of recurrence.

Learn more about pancreatitis.



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 After a dog has experienced a bout of gastroenteritis, they require a highly digestible diet to give their gastrointestinal tract time to recover.

One homemade remedy has historically been chicken and rice, but that doesn't have all the nutrients your dog needs to support their recovery, and so your veterinarian may recommend a commercial diet that’s highly digestible as well as nutritionally complete and balanced as an alternative.
Illustration of intestines


Dogs that suffer from colitis tend to have sensitive digestive systems. Your veterinarian will work with you to find a highly digestible diet with an appropriate balance of fibres and in some cases, low allergenicity which will work for your individual pet.




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A high-fibre diet is often used to help dogs with constipation as soluble fibres allow undigested food to absorb more water, which helps it to pass more easily through the digestive system. 

Learn what your dog's poop may look like if they're constipated



A diet change may be temporary in the case of an acute condition, or it may be long-term if the disease is more chronic. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best solution for your pet.

If you do decide to change your dog’s diet once their signs have subsided and your veterinarian has confirmed this is fine, you should make the change slowly and continue to support their health with a premium formula - such as Digestive Care or Breed Health Nutrition diet.

Gastrointestinal low fat product packshot for dogs

Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry diet benefits

If your dog is suffering from a gastrointestinal illness, ask your veterinarian if the Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low Fat formula is suitable to meet your dog's individual health needs.

1. For dogs with digestive issues, this veterinary-exclusive formula contains easily digestible nutrients to help reduce the load on the gastrointestinal tract.  

2. Provides a low-fat content for dogs who are intolerant of higher fat levels. 

3. The omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA support digestive health while an enriched blend of antioxidants supports a healthy immune system.

4. It is a highly palatable formula to encourage eating in dogs with a decreased appetite due to a gastrointestinal health issue.

5. It contains a carefully balanced fibre blend and appropriate energy levels,  supporting weight management, despite restricting fat.

Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry diet

Learn more about supporting gastrointestinal health with Royal Canin diets

Ask your veterinarian if any of these products are suitable for your dog.

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Packshot of two Royal Canin digestive care dog products

Digestive Care diets

Available in wet and dry for small, medium and large dogs, Royal Canin's Digestive Care diets have been tailored to support sensitive stomachs and promote optimal stool quality.

Digestive Care diets
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Gastrointestinal diets

Formulated for dogs with long- or short-term digestive sensitivities, Royal Canin's Gastrointestinal diets, available as wet and dry, are enriched with a blend of soluble and insoluble fibres to help support regular intestinal motility for dogs.

Gastrointestinal diets