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Health and wellbeing

​How to prevent an upset stomach in your dog

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Upset stomachs are something all dogs will experience in their lifetime, but there are plenty of ways for you to support their digestive health and prevent them suffering from this issue too often.

Every dog may occasionally suffer from an upset stomach, but your dog's age, breed, size, and lifestyle may make it more prone to this issue than most. Luckily, there are ways you can help prevent an upset stomach and maintain a healthy digestive system in your pet at each stage in their life.

Your dog's digestion

The healthy functioning of the digestive system in your dog is crucial in making sure they are absorbing all the nutrients they need from their food. The huge surface area of the small intestine is covered in cells which aid in absorbing vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, along with the largest number of immune cells in the body. The whole gastrointestinal tract is home to microflora; bacteria that help support a healthy digestive environment and are directly affected by the food your dog eats.

What are the symptoms of an upset stomach in dogs?

If your dog has an upset stomach, they may suffer from diarrhea—soft and unformed stools—as well as vomiting. They may also express discomfort or have bloating or distention around their abdomen. Chronic digestive problems are also accompanied by symptoms such as weight loss and a lackluster coat.

Preventing upset stomachs in puppies

Puppies are particularly prone to upset stomachs and diarrhea. Their digestive system is not yet fully matured and so any new foods they're given can cause a disturbance in the microflora of their gut. They also have an "immunity gap', where the puppy's immune system is no longer protected by antibodies gained from their mother via suckling, but they have yet to produce their own antibodies effectively. An upset stomach in puppies under three weeks old can also indicate more serious illnesses, which can be fatal.

You can support your puppy's digestive health by giving it an appropriate food and avoiding changing its food too quickly. Their bed should be kept at the right temperature to avoid the transmission of viruses, and you should get your puppies vaccinated when advised to do so by your vet.

Adult Jack Russell standing indoors eating from a large bowl.

Preventing upset stomachs in adult dogs

Adult dogs have more robust digestive systems than puppies, but they still may suffer from upset stomachs. In particular, larger breed dogs such as German Shepherds, Great Danes and English Setters are predisposed to stomach problems. This is because their digestive tract makes up less of their body weight than in small breeds; just 3% compared to 7% in smaller dogs. The result is their digestive system has to work harder to digest and absorb food, which can be strenuous.

The best way to prevent an upset stomach in your adult dog is to feed it a nutritionally balanced diet which includes high-quality, easily digestible proteins as well as components like fermentable fibers which promote the development of "beneficial bacteria'. Human food isn't suitable for dogs; it's difficult for them to digest and can cause stomach upsets, particularly if it is high in sugar or fat.

Preventing an upset stomach in mature dogs

As your dog ages, their ability to properly digest their food can lessen, and they may struggle to chew effectively as their teeth become weaker. Improperly chewed food, or gulping down too much in one go, can then cause vomiting. Their nutritional needs also change as they age and, if they suffer from any chronic illnesses, these can have an impact on the effective functioning of their digestive system.

To make sure your older dog doesn't suffer from an upset stomach, give them a food which is designed for their breed and age, with the right size kibble or pieces so it's easy for them to grip. This will encourage them to chew their food and prevent the digestive system from being overwhelmed. You can also feed them over several small meals to lessen the impact on their digestive system and improve digestibility.

Providing your pet with a good diet that's right for their age, breed and lifestyle is one of the simplest ways to help prevent stomach upsets. However, if you notice any significant changes in your dog's eating behavior, make sure to visit your vet as these can be indicators of underlying health problems.

  • Digestive health

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