What to do if your dog has an upset stomach

What to do if your dog has an upset stomach

It’s not nice to see a poorly pooch. They walk around the house slowly, with a sadder-than-sad expression and you can’t help but feel really sorry for them. And unlike humans, dogs can’t tell us exactly what’s making them feel so ill, or if they’re feeling any pain.

However, if your dog has an upset stomach, you’ll find out about it quickly.

It’s not the most pleasant subject to discuss, but if your dog’s digestive system is upset then their body is likely to reject food, causing your pooch to vomit or have a bout of diarrhoea.

Before we take a look at the possible causes and treatments of an upset tummy in canines, now’s a good time to check your dog is covered in case an illness or accident results in a trip to the vets.

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So, what can cause an upset stomach in dogs?

A dog with an upset stomach laying on a bed outside

There are a number of potential reasons why your dog might be suffering from tummy troubles, writes the Telegraph, but the most common cause is scavenging.

It’s said that dogs ‘eat first and ask questions later’, which often lands them in a spot of bother.

When they chow down on something they really shouldn’t, it usually causes their digestive system to become inflamed – i.e. red and irritated. Inflammation of the stomach makes the muscles contract and leads to vomiting, while inflammation of the intestines usually causes diarrhoea.

Aside from scavenging behaviour, diet, viruses, bacteria, parasites and allergic reactions can also turn your mutt’s tummy.


When should you go to the vet?

A small dog being inspected by a vet

Both diarrhoea and vomiting are pretty common, and they can develop into something serious, but this isn’t to say all dogs who display signs of a poorly tummy need to be rushed to the vet.

In some cases, mild problems will improve by themselves with some simple tricks.

If your canine is sick or has diarrhoea but it’s a one off, you should be able to nurse them back to full health yourself.

However, there are some instances where you’ll need to take your pooch to the vet immediately – these are:


  • If your hound suffers regular and recurring bouts of retching, vomiting or diarrhoea over several hours.
  • If your dog seems in pain or becomes depressed.
  • If the abdomen seems physically swollen.
  • If you notice blood in the diarrhoea or vomit.
  • If your dog continues to vomit or have diarrhoea over the course of 24 hours.


Blue Cross adds that you should visit the vet as soon as possible if your pooch all of a sudden displays one or more of the symptoms of so-called gastroenteritis – which include vomiting, diarrhoea, a painful tummy or loss of appetite.

It’s a sobering statement, but in serious cases gastroenteritis can lead to death, with young pups especially at risk.


What will happen if you go to the vets?

A dog on a vets table being inspected with its owners surrounding

If you suspect that your poor pooch is suffering from gastroenteritis and take them to a vet, they’ll most likely conduct a full examination.

They’ll want to talk with you about how your dog has been over the last few days so they can try and determine whether or not they’re eaten something unusual or whether another factor may have caused the illness.

If your vet thinks your dog might have haemorrhagic gastroenteritis – a more serious illness with symptoms including blood in your pup’s poop or vomit – then there’s a good chance they’ll want to do additional tests like blood tests or X-rays.


How is gastroenteritis treated?

This depends on what your vet determines is the cause of your pooch’s upset tummy.

You’ll usually be given medication to stop your dog’s vomiting and/or diarrhoea, and be advised to follow a strict and bland diet until their stomach returns to normal.

Expanding on this, the Telegraph writes that the first and simplest response to dogs with an upset tummy is to start a brief fast (your pooch might refuse food anyway).

It used to be suggested that dogs should fast for a full 24 hours, but 12 hours is usually enough.

You should still give your dog water (or salt/sugar rehydration fluid purchased from the vet) in small quantities.

Food should only be reintroduced once the digestive tract is fully recovered, or when the frequency of diarrhoea has lessened.

A sick puppy laying down outside

After the short fast, the bland diet should be given to your dog for 24 to 48 hours in small quantities, two or three times a day for two or three days.

When you think that your dog’s tummy has settled, you can reintroduce their usual food gradually by mixing half or it with half of the bland diet for the first day.

In serious cases, your canine could be treated with an intravenous drip (which will help to rehydrate them) and they may be put in isolation to stop germs spreading to other dogs.

Most cases can be cured in several days, but it’s really important to keep a close eye on your furry companion.

If they don’t seem to be making a recovery or their condition worsens, speak with your vet immediately.


What can you do to prevent an upset stomach?

A dog sitting at a table with an owner preparing fresh food

While it’s impossible to keep tabs on our pets 24/7, there are certain things you can do that will help to cut the risk of your pooch getting sick.

Here are some of them:


  • Discourage your dog from scavenging. If they have a bad habit of eating things they shouldn’t, think about training them to use a muzzle.
  • If you’re thinking about changing your dog’s diet, do so slowly by introducing the new food a little at a time. This will give your dog’s digestive system time to adjust, reducing the chance of any upset.
  • Make sure your pooch’s vaccinations are up to date so that they don’t develop severe conditions like parvovirus, which impacts your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Worming medication should by up to date, too.


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