Having a dog with a sensitive stomach is a mess (literally and figuratively). There’s frequent vomiting, loose stools, days of inappetence, and a generally miserable dog. If your vet has given you the all clear in regards to your dog’s health and these symptoms have been narrowed down to a sensitive stomach, the first step to take is finding a dog food that’s suitable for your dog’s tummy.
Signs of a Sensitive Stomach
How do you know if your dog has a sensitive stomach? First, your vet should do a thorough exam and full blood work to ensure there isn’t a more serious underlying health issue. If there isn’t, then it’s safe to assume your dog’s stomach is simply fussy.
Symptoms of a sensitive stomach include:
- vomiting after eating or at random times throughout the day
- frequent/recurring diarrhea or loose stool
- frequent bouts of not wanting to eat
- poor coat and skin quality
- abdominal pain
When your dog gets this diagnosis, the only thing you can do is to find a dog food that doesn’t upset their obviously sensitive digestive system.
Common Triggers of a Sensitive Stomach
Most people think grain is the biggest trigger in regards to sensitive stomachs, but this isn’t always true. Grain is certainly a common sensitivity, but it isn’t quite as common as people might think.
Common triggers include:
- chicken (the leading food allergy in dogs, actually!)
It can be hard to pinpoint what’s upsetting your dog’s stomach, making it hard to decide what kind of food to choose. A limited ingredient diet is your best bet. A truly limited ingredient food has less than 10 ingredients, although most limited ingredient diets now have five or fewer food ingredients. Since chicken is such a common sensitivity, it’s recommended that all dogs with sensitive stomachs should avoid chicken-based diets. There are plenty of protein choices available that aren’t poultry, including lamb, kangaroo, fish, and even boar. The world is your oyster!
The Best Foods for Sensitive Stomachs
Nutram Ideal Sensitive Skin, Coat and Stomach
Many dog food brands are guilty of saying their food only contains lamb or some sort of fish as the protein source, but when you read the label, you see that chicken meal is often tucked somewhere in the ingredients. If your dog is truly sensitive to chicken, this is going to be a disaster on their stomach even if chicken isn’t the first ingredient. The first ingredient in this particular brand of food is lamb, a protein source that is fairly gentle on troubled tummies. Brown rice is the second ingredient, and it’s a carbohydrate that’s pretty easy to digest. Other ingredients include flaxseed, barley, whole eggs, and salmon oil.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
Unlike the typical limited ingredient diets where it’s made with fish, this food offers a rabbit version, but you can also choose turkey, duck, or lamb and peas. Rabbit is considered a low-sensitivity protein, so it’s worth a shot if other proteins aren’t cutting it. This is a truly limited ingredient diet because aside from the protein source, there are only three other food ingredients: peas, tapioca (a carbohydrate), and canola oil (fatty acids). This is an excellent diet choice for dogs whose stomachs get upset whenever you look at them sideways.
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient
If your dog’s sensitivity lies in grains, then a simple grain-free food is typically sufficient in keeping their digestive troubles at bay. This recipe skips the chicken and opts for turkey. Some dogs who are intolerant of chicken are also intolerant of the closely related turkey and duck, so this might not be a good protein choice if there’s any history of chicken sensitivity. Potatoes are the main carbohydrate source because they’re simple carbohydrates (i.e. easy to digest). The other ingredients include peas, tomato pomace, flaxseed, and canola oil. Dogs that are definitely intolerant of grains with no known protein sensitivity will most likely do really well on this food.
A Word About Homemade Diets
Dogs with picky digestive systems seem like they’d benefit from a controlled, homemade diet, but this is a poor way to provide nutrition. As a human, you are able to eat a variety of foods, but dogs with sensitive stomachs don’t have that luxury, so it’s really hard to balance their nutritional requirements. Dog food (even the brands that make your dog’s stomach erupt) are carefully balanced to provide dogs with adequate and well-rounded nutrition. This process took years of research and recalculations, and it’s pretty tough to recreate that at home. As tempting as it is to give your dog boiled hamburger and rice when he’s miserable, don’t make this a long-term option.
Unfortunately, finding the right food for your dog is a matter of trial and error. You could find the best food for them on the first try, or it could take weeks or even months of trying new foods before you strike gold. Avoiding common sensitivity triggers and choosing limited ingredient foods will help you find the right diet as quickly as possible.