It’s not uncommon for dog owners to see their pup experiencing stomach discomfort. But just because a dog stomach ache may be normal, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. If you take the right action, you could help ease your pet’s discomfort.
Here are a few signs your pup is having stomach pain, some potential causes of those stomach issues, and some things you can do to help your dog feel better.
What are the Symptoms of Abdominal Pain in Dogs?
Now, there are several ways a dog’s behavior can clue you in to potential digestive problems, like:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Your pup may also eat grass more often than normal if they have an upset stomach.1
Of all the symptoms of abdominal problems, diarrhea is the biggest tip-off.
Diarrhea could be due to a bacterial infection in the stomach and intestines. In some instances, it means that a dog’s body isn’t doing a good job of absorbing nutrients from the food they’re eating.2
Pay close attention if your pup is suffering from diarrhea regularly. While diarrhea is normal every once in a while, if it happens often, that could be a sign of stomach issues. It could also lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous for your pup.3
Changes in Stool
Another sign of digestive issues is a sudden change in your dog’s stool. This could mean changes in the consistency, color, or frequency of the stool.
The biggest red alert will be stool that looks black or tar-like. This could signal a problem in the stomach lining. Blood in the stool may result.4 If your pup strains when going, something could be wrong in the area of the rectum.5
What Causes Stomach Pain in Dogs?
Pet parents will sometimes see changes in their dog’s behavior, such as whining or pacing. This can sometimes mean your pup is in pain. Here are a few of the possible reasons why this may be happening.
This is an issue that often results in vomiting that produces a yellow substance known as bile. Some other symptoms of gastroenteritis are diarrhea, or gagging and dry heaving after a meal.. Pet owners may also notice their pup gagging or dry heaving after a meal.
If you try to pick up your pup near the abdomen or handle your dog around the stomach, they may resist.
One final symptom of gastroenteritis is lethargy, so if you notice your dog isn’t as playful as usual — or if you see any of these other symptoms — make sure to contact your vet right away.6
Parasites are organisms that aren’t supposed to be in your dog’s GI tract, but find a way in. These are sometimes the cause of stomach issues in dogs, and can cause serious health complications.
There are a few ways parasites can enter your dog’s system. First, your dog may have eaten something that was infested with worm eggs. Your dog also may have eaten another dog’s poop (yes, it’s gross, but it happens). Yes, it’s gross, but dogs will sometimes eat another dog’s poop. From there, eggs from the infected poop may pass on to the digestive tract.7
Parasites can make your dog feel lethargic, and they can also lead to serious diseases — so it’s important to have your dog checked by their vet if you suspect they may have parasites. A lot of factors determine how a parasite will affect your dog — such as their age, health status, and the type of food they eat.
This is one of, if not the most, serious situations a pet parent can face. Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach gets stretched and then rotates. A twisted stomach is an emergency, requiring immediate treatment.
When the stomach twists, that cuts off blood supply to the organ. If bloat isn’t addressed quickly, the results may be fatal. A vet will typically work to remove gas that has accumulated in the stomach. Once they determine the dog’s heart is stable, they’ll perform surgery.
There are a few factors that are thought to contribute to bloat, though no one’s really sure what causes it. If a dog swallows too much air or exercises heavily too soon after eating, that could play a role. Deep-chested dogs, such as St. Bernards and Great Danes, are thought to be at a higher risk.8
Peritonitis is an infection. It occurs when something punctures or ruptures the stomach and intestines. It could be due to an ulcer or the splintering of a bone that your pup has eaten.
Symptoms of peritonitis include lethargy, vomiting and a swollen abdomen. In many instances, medications address the infection as well as relieve pain. Surgery may also be needed.9
5. Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s disease develops when a dog’s body produces too much of a hormone known as cortisol. It typically affects dogs that are 6 years of age or older. Excessive eating, drinking, and panting are possible signs of Cushing’s disease.
There are medications that can address this disease, but surgery is sometimes needed. Make sure to visit your vet if you see these symptoms in your dog, so they can determine the best treatment.10
If you’ve never heard of this condition, you’re definitely not alone — it’s not very common. Ascites occurs when too much fluid accumulates in the stomach. This leads to abdominal swelling. If your pup has a serious health issue, such as kidney, heart, or liver problems, they may be at a higher risk.11
7. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or EPI, occurs when a dog’s pancreas can’t produce enough enzymes. Enzymes are vital to your dog’s well-being since they help them digest substances such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
When EPI occurs, your pup’s system can’t absorb the nutrients they need. That can lead to loss of appetite and weight loss.
If the pancreas isn’t working correctly, that can also lead to problems with a dog’s blood sugar levels. EPI symptoms usually include chronic diarrhea and occasional vomiting. There are medications available that can address the problem. A diet low in fat could also help.12
8. Stomach Obstruction
A lot of odd things can find their way into your dog’s mouth. Most dogs eat grass, of course, but a lot of them will make just about anything they can find into a meal. In some instances, a foreign body can harm the stomach and intestines. This can lead to:
- Vomiting after eating
- Weight loss
If the blockage in the large intestine is too large, this can be a serious problem that will need surgery.
Once the obstruction is identified and removed, you’ll need to closely watch your pup once they get back home. Your pet will need to get a great deal of rest, and you’ll probably have to feed them a bland diet for a few days. Eventually, they can resume a regular diet.13
Can Dog Food Cause Stomach Issues in Canines?
The food you give your dog is extremely important to their health, because certain foods can lead to stomach problems and intestinal discomfort. For instance, some dogs have food allergies to certain ingredients in their diet. These allergies can contribute to abdominal issues.14
Dog Food Can Sometimes Lead to Problems
Some dogs have sensitive stomachs, so they can’t quite handle certain components in their food. Sof your pet has ongoing stomach issues, their food might be partly to blame.
For example, your pup might have a hard time digesting the type of protein in their food, or a tolerance to beef. If your vet recommends a food change, switch to a food that has chicken or fish as the main ingredient.
If your pup is on a diet that has too much fat, their gastrointestinal tract might not be able to process it properly. This is another case where changing your pet’s food might be the answer – as long as your vet agrees.15
Finding the Best Food for Your Pup
Choosing a brand of food for your pet can sometimes seem like a daunting task – there are so many choices! There’s very little scientific research when it comes to which brand is best. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your vet.
Your veterinarian will very likely have a great deal of experience when it comes to dog food. After all, vets treat a wide variety of dogs, and those dogs eat a wide range of foods, so they will have a good idea of which brands will be best for your dog’s health.
Now, there are a lot of different brands of dog food, but how do you find the one that will be the best for sustaining your dog’s health?
Look a little closer at the label to make sure you’re making the best possible choice.
Is the main protein source something your dog can handle? For example, if beef is at the top of the ingredients, but your pup has a hard time digesting it, look for a different type of food.
Talk to your vet about the best food for your pup. He or she will know your dog just about as well as you do. Also, do some research into what brands may be best for your dog’s specific breed. If the manufacturers make claims about the quality of their food, look online for studies to back them up.
Moving Your Pet to a New Food
Pet owners should never immediately switch a dog (or cat, or any other type of pet, for that matter) to a new diet. It should be a gradual process. Otherwise, any stomach problems your pet is experiencing could get worse. Or your pet might simply refuse to eat.
There are a lot of different ways to transition a dog to new food. One way is to mix about 10 or 20 percent of the new food with the old one at each meal. Then, over the next 10 days or so, gradually introduce more of the new and less of the old.
Of course, you should talk to your vet about the best way to go about making the transition.
Which Home Remedies Work for Canine Digestive Issues?
If your dog isn’t displaying any serious symptoms, but you suspect they may have a slight stomach ache, you may be able to help them out with a few tricks right at home.
One way to help soothe an upset tummy is to try bone broth, because it provides important nutrients and can help with dehydration. But the best part? You can easily make this at home.
First, you’ll need a whole chicken — bones, and everything. Put it in a slow cooker with water (just enough to submerge the chicken), and let it simmer for several hours.
Once the meat separates from the bones, keep simmering the bones for about a day. That should allow plenty of time for minerals and other nutrients to mix into the water. Save the meat for later use. You can use it in a soup or make chicken tacos.
Of course, you won’t want to wait until your pet is sick to try this, since it takes so long. Plan ahead and make the broth so it will be ready when your pup needs it. Skim off the fat, put the broth in an ice tray, and leave it in the freezer.16
This herb helps to reduce digestive discomfort and irritation — as well as help with the elimination of waste. It can help dogs suffering from constipation and those experiencing diarrhea. Your vet can best recommend where to find it and how to give it to your pet.17
Be Alert, But Don’t Panic
You should always be on the lookout for signs of a stomach issue that might be affecting your dog. There are obvious symptoms, such as vomiting blood, that require an immediate trip to the vet. You will also need to seek immediate help if you think your pet has eaten something they weren’t supposed to.
On the other hand, there are signs that might be subtle. If symptoms don’t subside within a day, or they seem to be getting worse, get your pet medical help as soon as you can.
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