I do not have kids, but my friends that do tell me there is nothing worse than when their kids are sick. I read their posts on Facebook and Twitter and their desperation (especially if it’s their first child) is palpable as they try to seek out the best, quickest, and most efficient remedy to stop their child from feeling pain. I, as a dog-mom, may not know the heartache of a child being sick, but I do know the frustration and helplessness I feel when my pit-boxer Henry is sick. Like babies and small children, dogs cannot explain what is wrong, where it hurts, or what ridiculous thing they may have put in their mouths so helping them proves to be all the more difficult.
What can you do? First, buy pet insurance before your dog gets sick so you know you can afford any treatment he needs. And then...
Consider her symptoms
Just because she can’t tell you her stomach is the culprit, she may still try to show you.
Is she vomiting? Henry has an obsession with lotion. He licks my legs after showers and has an affinity for lotion bottles on countertops. If I see a bottle knocked over, I know vomit piles are on the way.
Does she have diarrhea?
Is she skipping meals? Dogs love food so if her favorite room is the kitchen and her favorite channel is FoodNetwork (like my pup), she may be avoiding food because it’s causing her pain.
Is she lethargic?
Is she dehydrated? CanineJournal.com helps assess whether or not your dog is dehydrated: "If you lift the lip of your dog, the gums should be coated with a shiny wet film. If not, then he or she may be dehydrated. To check the skin to see if your dog is dehydrated, squeeze the skin behind the neck as if you were going to pick your dog up as his or her mother would. Release the skin. If the skin stays in the pinched position, your dog is dehydrated."
Is she passing gas? According to Animal Planet, dogs can have flatulence from gulping air when they eat, eating too fast, or suffering from a gastrointestinal (GI) illness.
Make some changes
After considering symptoms, think about what he has been doing (or you have been doing, people-food-feeder!) or eating that could cause these symptoms and make some changes.
If his symptoms are recent or sporadic, try feeding him chicken and rice, canned pumpkin, or a probiotic like yogurt. These will help to sooth his stomach. (Animal Planet and CanineJournal.com also suggest feeding him grass as a natural remedy for an upset stomach, but they do warn that the grass blades may tickle the stomach lining and cause your dog to vomit.) You can also try moistening his dry dog food to aid in digestion.
Avoid giving her treats or feeding her people food from the table. I know, I know, this one is especially hard, but it’s harder cleaning up vomit and diarrhea and knowing your dog’s mess and pain is possibly your fault.
Avoid dog foods with ingredients known to cause allergies or sickness in dogs like wheat, beef, dairy, eggs, and chicken (at least until your vet can help you narrow down a specific allergy or illness).
Go to the vet to rule out parasites or diseases and to get a better idea of what his digestive problem may be. By talking to your vet and allowing him to examine your pup (physical examination, blood work, fecal sample), he can help figure out if your dog is struggling with non-dietary problems.
Switch the food he’s eating to one better formulated for sensitive stomachs. PetMD suggests foods that are hydrolyzed and hypoallergenic and available by prescription only, specifically ones that are highly digestible, contain supplements that promote a healthy GI tract, and have undergone rigorous testing to ensure that cross-contamination has not occurred during the manufacturing process. However, if you feel you can’t afford to maintain a hydrolyzed diet for the long-haul (they can be pricey), but you do feel your pup needs a long-term change, buy dog foods that swap out grains with high-quality proteins like venison and duck (instead of beef and chicken), complex carbohydrates, and fibers from vegetables; avoid ones with fillers, high fat content, and low-quality ingredients like corn and soy.
6 dog foods for sensitive stomachs
Here are six dog foods that are highly-rated and highly-recommended (most with at least 4.5 stars on Amazon!) to help soothe Fido’s sensitive stomach. Most importantly, these foods will not only help him get back on track digestively, but keep him there.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Dog Food – This dog food is recommended for adult dogs with sensitive stomachs and sensitive skin. Chock full of natural, high-quality ingredients, omegas, and vitamins, Hill’s helps provide better digestibility and a healthier coat and immune system.
Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula – This dog food boasts nutrient-rich salmon as the primary source of protein and rice and oatmeal for easy digestion. Due to its absence of low-quality ingredients like corn, soy, and wheat, Purina Pro helps promote a healthy immune system.
Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Formula – Wellness is known for creating good dog food and tops most lists of which brands to buy. Like the others, this particular product caters to dogs with food allergies or sensitivities and doesn’t contain fillers, grains, or artificial additives.
AvoDerm Natural Chicken Meal & Brown Rice – In addition to having high-quality ingredients, this dog food also has low fat content which can help aid your pup’s digestion. Its main protein is chicken meal, and the fat content comes from good sources of fat like avocado, flaxseed, and herring meal.
Holistic Select – This dog food is like that friend in your group who makes sure everyone is okay at the bar and gets home safely at night. Holistic wants your pup to have total body health and synergy and believes that wholeness begins with digestive health. By delivering guaranteed levels of digestive enzymes and botanicals, prebiotics, probiotics, and natural fibers, Holistic helps your dog transcend, err, get better.
Blue Buffalo Basics - Like Wellness, Blue Buffalo consistently gets great reviews (I know you’ve seen the commercials), and this particular dog food caters specifically to dogs with sensitive stomachs because it tries to help target your dog’s allergy. This is a "limited ingredient" product - it has one protein and one carbohydrate - so while it may bore your dog, if his tummy hurts after eating a bowl, there’s a good chance he is allergic to one or both of its ingredients.
Image: Ed Schipul