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Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Stomachs: A Comprehensive Guide

Dog eating natural food from a bowl

Written by The Halo Team

July 27, 2023

Digestive issues are common in dogs. Sometimes, they’re triggered by specific events, like eating table scraps or getting into the garbage. At other times, it might be a sudden change in diet because the pet store was out of your usual brand of dog food. For dogs with chronic GI issues, many seemingly harmless ingredients can cause an upset stomach.

Fortunately, dog foods with ingredients less likely to trigger a GI issue in a sensitive stomach are available. These foods may help soothe an upset stomach and keep your dog’s digestive system on track. With so many foods on the market, it may be hard to choose.

It’s important to note that if you ever notice blood in your pet’s vomit or diarrhea, you should contact your vet immediately. For milder cases, a change in diet may be enough to help your pet.

Understanding Canine Digestive Issues

An upset stomach is one of the most common reasons pet owners seek veterinary care. The outward symptoms are almost always accompanied by pain and discomfort, which can cause your pet to stop eating altogether.

The following sensitive stomach issues are the usual ones you might notice.

  • Diarrhea is caused by organ dysfunction, eating spoiled food, parasites, and infections and is characterized by loose, watery, and frequent bowel movements.
  • Gas in the digestive system is caused by either swallowing air as your pet eats or from the natural gut bacteria in the colon that breaks down food.
  • Constipation is due to dehydration or a lack of fluids, exercise, or fiber in the diet. Sometimes, your pet can become constipated from swallowing a toy or something else indigestible.
  • Vomiting is caused by forceful contractions in the stomach. Your pet may vomit froth, food, or liquids. Before vomiting, your pet may lick its lips, swallow repeatedly or salivate.
  • Gastroenteritis is a temporary illness caused by inflammation in the digestive system. It’s caused by eating spoiled food or something poisonous, sudden changes in diet, infections, or parasites. It shows many symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, and lack of appetite.

Causes of Sensitive Stomachs in Dogs

Understanding the underlying cause of a sensitive stomach is instrumental in getting your dog the right treatment. These are some conditions that require medications and monitoring.

  • Dietary intolerance is caused by an inability to digest specific ingredients properly. The most common culprits are proteins, fiber, and fat.
  • Food allergies can be caused by a number of ingredients. Each time your pet ingests these allergens, a reaction occurs. Common symptoms include GI issues, poor skin, loss of hair, or chronic foot and ear infections.
  • Parasites live and grow in the intestines. The most common intestinal parasites include roundworms, whipworms, giardia, and tapeworms.
  • Stress from travel, separation anxiety, boarding, or changes in the home can cause stomach distress.
  • Pancreatitis can occur in dogs that eat too many fatty foods. When left untreated, severe cases may damage the liver, bile ducts, and gallbladder.
  • Ulcers are caused by sores along the mucus layer of the stomach. Ulcers can cause a lot of pain and can lead to other health problems if left untreated, including liver disease, renal disease, and gastroenteritis.
  • Underlying health conditions, such as Addison’s disease, stomach cancer, diabetes, and kidney or liver problems, can cause canine digestive disorders.

How Diet Can Impact a Dog’s Digestive Health

Your pet’s diet has a direct effect on its overall well-being. Low-quality dog food ingredients fill up your pet fast but may leave it hungry and looking for something else to eat later. A hungry dog is more likely to leave your property unless you have a wireless fence, tether, or a device like the Halo Collar.

The best dog food can lower your dog’s risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and digestive disorders. Dogs also need essential nutrients for optimal brain function, energy, organ function, digestive health, and healthy skin. Additionally, feeding your dog a nutritionally balanced diet may help extend its life and leave it feeling its best physically and mentally.

The right types of foods can increase the level of good bacteria in the gut, which can improve digestion, even in dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Fresh, plant-based ingredients like broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens also contain prebiotic fiber that decreases inflammation and promotes a healthy gut.
In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend a daily supplement for your pet to ensure it’s getting the right mix of nutrients.

Adorable Akita Inu puppies eating from feeding bowls indoors

Key Ingredients to Look for in Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

The right blend of foods, along with healthy eating habits, helps contribute to better digestive health in your dog. Also, some ingredients are easier to digest than others.

  • High-quality proteins, including those found in eggs, chicken, beef, and lamb, are all taken from muscle. Organ meats like kidneys, liver, and heart are harder to digest and are often used as filler in lower-quality foods.
  • Foods high in fiber are also essential for your pet’s digestive health. Fiber may help treat conditions like irritable bowel and constipation. This ingredient appears as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Some pets may be sensitive to fiber, so not all pets can tolerate these ingredients.
  • Probiotics are found in many natural dog foods. They help fight infection and assist in digestion, which makes it easier for your pet to absorb vitamins and minerals. Probiotics also reduce gut inflammation, which is essential for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, you should avoid these ingredients:

  • Foods high in fat can lead to urinary crystals and increased weight. High-fat foods include table scraps like butter, oil, meat drippings, and meat scraps.
  • Artificial ingredients like corn syrup, food coloring, rendered fat and propylene glycol can be hard to digest, especially in pets with digestive issues.
  • Some grains, including corn, brewers rice, wheat, and soy, should be avoided for pets with sensitivities.

Review of the Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Stomachs

A dog with a sensitive stomach should be fed high-quality dog food that promotes healthy digestion and contains essential nutrients. Your veterinarian can offer advice on the best dog food to boost your dog’s immune system and settle a delicate digestive system.

Canidae Grain-Free Pure Dry Dog Food

Canidae is a hypoallergenic, grain-free dog food free from many ingredients that cause stomach distress in pets, including artificial preservatives, colors, and ingredients. The top five ingredients in the Pure Lamb and Pea formula are lamb, chicken meal, turkey meal, sweet potatoes, and peas. It’s only available for adult dogs, including senior dogs.

Instinct Raw Boost Gut Health Dry Dog Food

This grain-free, limited-ingredient dog food is made from freeze-dried raw protein, which is great for a sensitive stomach. Not only is a raw diet easier to digest, but it may also help with weight management, improve dental hygiene and promote healthy skin. The downside to feeding raw is that raw food may contain bacteria and parasites that lead to infection. Also, Instinct Raw Boost tends to be more expensive than regular kibble.

Go! Sensitivities Limited Ingredient Diet

The first ingredient in the Go! Sensitivities Limited Ingredient Diet, dog food formula, is protein. It’s grain-free and contains prebiotics, fiber, and omega oils that can soothe a dog’s digestive tract and itchy skin. Go! Sensitivities is also available through all life stages. Like other limited-ingredient dog foods, it can be pricey.

Hill’s Prescription Diet I/D Digestive Care Wet Dog Food

Hill’s Prescription Diet is one of the top foods recommended by vets for dogs with digestive issues. It includes the ActivBiome+ ingredient technology, which contains prebiotics to help restore balance within the digestive system. Hill’s Science Diet is easy to digest and available for all life stages. It’s available only with a prescription.

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ Puppy and Adult Dry Recipe

Nulo Freestyle Limited+ uses only salmon and salmon meal as its protein sources, which is ideal for dogs that have problems digesting chicken, eggs, and other protein sources. The ingredients provide energy and support a healthy immune system. It’s available through all life stages but is also pricey.

Feeding Tips for Dogs With Sensitive Stomachs

For sudden bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, try withholding dog food for at least 24 hours to give the sensitive stomach time to settle. Then begin feeding small amounts of bland foods, including boiled chicken, rice, and steamed pumpkin. You can also try adding a liquid or powder probiotic to your dog’s meals to help improve digestion.

Avoid overfilling a sensitive stomach by offering smaller, more frequent meals. For dogs that tend to gulp their food, select a slow-feeding bowl to prevent the amount of air they swallow.

According to the American Kennel Club, if you decide to switch to a new dog food, it’s essential to do this gradually over the course of a week.

  • Day one: 25% new formula, 75% old formula
  • Day three: 50% new formula, 50% old formula
  • Day five: 75% new formula, 25% old formula
  • Day seven: 100% new formula

When to Consult a Veterinarian

Sudden sensitive stomach issues tend to fix themselves over the course of a few days and don’t usually require a trip to the veterinarian, especially if your pet is still acting fairly normal and still drinking water. If symptoms last more than 48 hours, you should call for an appointment.

These symptoms can include excessive drooling and salivation, which can indicate your pet has swallowed a foreign object. Other symptoms include lack of interest in dog food or water for more than 24 hours, blood in its vomit or diarrhea and general signs of malaise. Seeking prompt veterinary care in some cases, can mean life or death for your pet.

Key Takeaways

A dog with food sensitivities can struggle with a wide range of health issues, so it’s essential to act quickly to lessen its discomfort. First, schedule an appointment with your vet to rule out any underlying conditions and get recommendations on the type of care needed. If you must change your pet’s diet, choose the right dog food with easy-to-digest ingredients that provide balanced nutrition. Do your homework and find the best food for your pet.

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