Nobody likes having an upset stomach, but when your dog is having a bout of gastrointestinal distress, the entire family is miserable. It never fails that your dog will end up emptying the contents of their stomach on your bed, carpet, or shoes at some point. While a day of occasional vomiting or diarrhea usually isn’t cause for concern, you might be tempted to give your dog some medication to protect your carpet and help them feel better. Before you start administering Pepto Bismol or Imodium, however, you should exercise caution. While it’s okay for humans to glug down that unnaturally pink concoction, the same can’t be said for dogs.
Giving Dogs Antidiarrheals For An Upset Stomach
If you’ve had a dog with diarrhea, you know it’s a stressful day or so. The urgency in which diarrhea hits a dog is astounding; one minute they’re sound asleep, and then they’re scrambling to get to the door before it’s too late. And forget getting any sleep! You’re going to be sleeping with one eye open to get them outside every 20 minutes. The good news is there are over-the- counter medications that are considered safe for your dog. There aren’t currently any human antidiarrheals that are FDA approved for dogs, but veterinarians recommend a handful of human products for off-label use.
Immodium for Dogs (Single Symptom)
Immodium is the most recommended because it has minimal side effects. It comes in capsule or liquid form, and proper dosing depends on your veterinarian’s recommendation (see dosing and more here). Imodium reduces or eliminates diarrhea because it decreases the motility of the intestines. Increased motility leads to frequent diarrhea, and the medication slows this process down. Diarrhea is typically caused by some kind of toxin. Whether it’s a deadly toxin or one that simply causes diarrhea depends on what your dog has eaten. Imodium only works against minor toxins to reduce the secretions causing diarrhea. It’s important to note Imodium should never be used in patients who consumed a dangerous toxin like human NSAIDs or mushrooms. The last thing you want is to stop the body’s way of eliminating the toxin.
Our recommended Immodium is below, note that it is important to purchase the single symptom form as the multi-symptom form is not recommended for dogs.
Pepto Bismol is safe in some instances, but it shouldn’t be administered unless your vet has given the okay. First, some off-brands of bismuth subsalicyclate contain other ingredients, so reading the label is incredibly important. The dosage recommended for humans is not appropriate for dogs, so never deviate from your vet’s recommendation. The right dose is calculated by your dog’s weight, overall health, and the severity of their diarrhea. Dogs should never take Pepto Bismol for longer than 24 to 48 hours. At that point, if the diarrhea hasn’t resolved with medications and a bland diet, there’s likely a problem that requires further investigation and medical treatment. Pepto Bismol should never be given to nursing or pregnant dogs
Drugs for Vomiting (Anti-Emetics) Dogs
Ah, dog vomit. Surely you’ve seen your dog rush for the door, stop six inches short of the hardwood or tile floor, and vomit directly on the carpet. Consider it Murphy’s Law of dog ownership. There is a wide variety of reasons why your dog is vomiting. They could have eaten something unsavory in the backyard or get motion sickness whenever you put them in the car. If your dog is vomiting for more than 24 hours, it’s important to get them to their vet to ensure there isn’t something more serious than a case of a sour stomach going on. If your dog has seen their vet and they give their approval, there are a few medications you can give to your dog to stop vomiting or prevent it.
Twenty percent of dogs suffer from chronic motion sickness. Puppies are especially prone to car sickness, but they eventually outgrow it. Some dogs don’t ever outgrow it, and it’s a slightly nerve-wracking process loading your dog into the car. Benadryl has an off-label use to help prevent motion sickness. It does have a sedative effect, so don’t be alarmed if your dog becomes quite sleepy after a dose.
Metoclopramide (Reglan) is prescribed by veterinarians to treat chronic vomiting. The drug works to speed up the emptying of the upper digestive tract so there isn’t time for the contents to be expelled through vomiting. If your dog is vomiting so often that they’re only producing small amounts of bile, then your vet will probably recommend this medication. It is also given to dogs going through chemotherapy because it crosses the blood-brain barrier to block the signal that causes nausea. It’s available in pill form and an oral liquid.
Cerenia is fairly new to the veterinary industry, but it has been a game changer in treating dogs with chronic motion sickness. It’s the first FDA-approved drug to effectively treat acute vomiting in dogs (and cats) and prevent motion sickness. It comes as both an injectable and a pill. The injectable is used in-clinic only to treat vomiting in dogs two months of age or older. Capsules are approved to treat motion sickness and acute vomiting in dogs four months of age and older. Many owners prefer Cerenia to off-label drugs because it has no sedative effect and one dose works for 24 hours. Benadryl, Dramamine, and herbal supplements have to be given multiple times a day and have a heavy sedative effect on many dogs. Cerenia is available by prescription only.
Antacids for Dogs
Antacids are recommended for more than reflux (heartburn). Antacids are administered for the treatment of ulcers and reflux and to protect the GI tract when a dog is taking certain medications.
Famotidine is the safest and most frequently recommended by vets. Dogs with stomach ulcers get great relief because the drug blocks the receptors that produce excessive stomach acid. Blocking these H-2 receptors gives the ulcer time to heal without becoming irritated or exacerbated by the acid. It’s also prescribed to treat gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) and a few different types of reflux. Hospitalized dogs are sometimes famotidine to line the stomach if they’re being given drugs that can create stomach ulcers.
Home Remedies for Your Dogs Stomach
Sometimes your dog doesn’t feel well but they aren’t having any diarrhea and they aren’t vomiting. In these cases, home remedies are often best. Imodium is a good drug to treat a sour stomach if home remedies aren’t doing the trick. It’s still ideal to talk to your vet about whether it’s needed or not; sometimes an upset stomach without many symptoms is treatable with home care.
A bland diet is the first step in helping your dog fight mild diarrhea and vomiting. Vets typically recommend withholding their normal food and offering boiled chicken and rice. This diet is bland enough to give the GI tract time to recover without digesting a more complex food. Bland food should be given for at least 72 hours or until they’re vomit- and diarrhea-free for at least 36 hours. While this is a more conservative recommendation, it’s better to be over-cautious than upset your dog’s digestive system and have to start all over again.
Pumpkin is also a natural remedy, and it seems to be just as effective as anti-diarrheal medications. Pumpkin is loaded with fiber and absorbs excess liquid in the intestines. Mix plain canned pumpkin (don’t buy pumpkin pie filling loaded with spices and sugar) with their bland diet and you should see a vast improvement within 24 hours. How much your dog gets depends on their size, so double check with their vet. Too much pumpkin will have the opposite effect and loosen the stools.
Probiotics are another natural treatment option. Probiotics are the good bacteria found in the gut that are essential for a healthy digestive system. You can find probiotics in yogurt or as a dietary supplement. There are probiotics made for dogs, but you can safely give human probiotics for a cheaper price. If you opt to give them yogurt, purchase plain yogurt with no added sugar or flavoring. For a big punch, mix yogurt with canned pumpkin. The fiber of the pumpkin combined with the probiotics in the yogurt will really help with diarrhea.
Human medications for diarrhea and vomiting are generally safe for dogs, but that doesn’t eliminate the necessity of having your dog examined by your vet. What might seem like a simple bout of GI upset can sometimes be something more insidious like a bowel obstruction or a bacterial infection that’s only cleared up by antibiotics.