Your dog can’t talk, but that doesn’t mean he can’t communicate. When he’s vomiting, eating grass, or not touching his favorite kibble, the message he’s conveying is quite clear: he as an upset stomach. What can you do to help him and his digestive system return to normal?
A Look Inside Your Dog’s Stomach
The stomach of a dog is not that different than our own stomachs. Its primary purpose is to store and break down food so that it can be eventually distributed to cells. Typically, most food will leave the stomach within twelve hours of initial entrance.
Obviously, if there’s a disruption to this basic process, your dog will react with symptoms that indicate something is not right. Some of these symptoms are pretty easy to recognize. Other symptoms may not be quite as easily recognizable, especially to novice dog owners.
The Connection Between an Upset Stomach and Grass Eating
You may have caught your dog stopping and munching a little grass while you’re on a walk. If you aren’t used to seeing this, you may find the behavior to be a bit weird if not a little off-putting. However, such behavior is perfectly normal.
A dog will eat grass as a natural method to cleanse out their system and purge their tummy of all impurities. Sometimes, if there is no grass to be found, your pooch may resort to licking the floor or carpeting as a substitute. These behaviors, while not too alarming, should cause you to watch your dog’s dietary habits closely until they stop.
Common Symptoms with a Canine Upset Stomach
While gas eating is a somewhat unique symptom that may be hard for novice dog owners to understand, there are plenty of other symptoms that your pooch can exhibit that sends a very clear message as to what’s going on inside his tummy.
The most prominent signs that a dog can leave involved either end of his digestive system. If your pooch is suddenly depositing diarrhea instead of solid poop in your backyard, his tummy may not be in tip-top shape. He may also be in the throes of a stomach issue if he starts passing a lot of gas – particularly if he’s not known as a gassy breed.
Vomiting is another prominent visual clue regarding your dog’s stomach health. This sign is fairly obvious if he’s throwing up copious amounts of food. However, you may want to take not if your pooch is dry heaving – he could be trying to expulsing food that isn’t there.
Other signs to look for require the use of other senses and/or keen observation on your part. Loss of appetite, salivation, and gurgling or squeaking noises from your pooch’s tummy are all potential signs of stomach discomfort. An increase in your dog retreating to a quiet, secluded place could also be a sign that something’s wrong.
What Causes a Dog’s Upset Stomach?
A dog’s upset stomach can be caused a wide range of issues. Some of these are mild and can be self-corrective. Other issues are on the more serious side and may require a more intensive form of treatment.
The simplest and most common cause of an upset stomach is food related. Your dog’s tummy may have a negative reaction to, say, an ingredient found in that new dog food you got him or a table scrap that accidentally fell from your plate and into his eager mouth.
In this case, the problem is mild and is more or less self-corrective. Most likely, the problem will correct itself within 24 to 48 hours, and he’ll be back to his old self after this time elapses. However, if you notice that he’s still not eating his favorite kibble or pooping runny stools after this time frame, there may be a more severe cause.
One of these particular causes could be the presence of intestinal worms, such as a hookworm or roundworm. These critters are most likely found in puppies and young dogs, but could develop in adult dogs. The parasites could cause a host of issues affecting the dog’s digestive system, ranging from mild to serious.
Digestive issues could also be caused by an ingestion of a foreign object, such as a squeaker from a recently destroyed squeak toy. A non-food object may not break down sufficiently in the stomach to be passed through the dog’s butt; if it stays in the tummy, it could cause great discomfort for your pooch.
Sometimes, your dog’s digestive health could be indicative of an issue that seemingly has little to do with his tummy. For instance, your dog may not be able to properly process food if his liver is swollen. Pancreatic inflammation has also been shown to be an issue that causes digestive disruption.
Your dog could also be suffering from stomach ulcers, which is essentially a hole in the stomach lining. As any human that has dealt with an ulcer can tell you, this is a condition that can be quite painful. In dogs, it could cause secondary issues like gastrointestinal bleeding.
The most severe cause of a canine upset stomach is cancer. Tumors that develop in the stomach make eating particularly painful, but keep in mind that other forms of cancer are known to curb appetite. If you even faintly suspect the presence of cancer, don’t dilly-dally – take your pooch to the vet immediately.
What Can I do to Help?
The most immediate course of action you can take when you notice your dog suffering from an upset stomach is to not overreact. Remember, his tummy ache could simply be caused by eating something that didn’t agree with him. Monitor his behavior for a day or two to see if the problem corrects itself.
If the issues persist beyond this time frame, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you can. Your vet will be able to give your pooch a thorough examination which can help pinpoint – or rule out – more serious issues that could be the root of your dog’s discomfort.
The treatment that your vet will prescribe to your dog will greatly depend on the cause of the ailment. In the case of serious issues like cancerous tumors of foreign objects lodged in the tummy, you can expect treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery to be recommended.
While your dog is going through his stomach ordeal, it’s important that you keep your pup as hydrated as possible. If your pooch is experiencing diarrhea, this is particularly important, as it may be difficult for him to retain fluids in his system.
You can also switch him to a bland diet for the duration of his stomach issue. A simple mix of rice with a home-cooked protein like chicken and hamburger that has been boiled and skimmed of fat provides your pooch with a highly digestible meal that won’t irritate his tummy. If your dog isn’t a fan of rice, you can always swap it out with potatoes or oatmeal.
While there aren’t necessarily nutritional aspects to the bland diet per se, the bland diet at the very least gets food he’s likely to retain into his system. This will help quell some of the secondary aspects of an upset stomach, including weight loss.
Treating your Dog’s Tummy in the Aftermath of an Upset Stomach
If your pooch’s tummy issues go beyond a temporary problem, it’s important that the road to recovery that he takes is a gradual process. Your vet can help provide you and your dog with a regiment to gently and gradually bring his tummy’s health back up to speed.
If you have decided to give your pooch a bland diet, you won’t want to instantaneously put him back on his original diet. This will put his stomach in a “shock to the system” situation, and he may not be struggle with digestion even if he hadn’t before.
Instead, gently wean him off the bland stuff by introducing his kibble into the bland mix, and gradually upping the percentage of the kibble in the blend over time. This is essentially the same protocol that you’d use if you’re introducing a new type of dog food to your pooch. You should expect this process to take about a week.
This process is especially important if your vet recommends that you introduce an entirely new food to your dog. Fortunately, most dog foods provide clear instruction on how to introduce their kibble into your dog’s diet. Follow these instructions and your vet’s advice to the letter.
Love Your Dog Throughout the Process!
As you help your dog go through his stomach issues, it’s important that you remember to do so in a loving, gentle manner. It’s going to be a messy situation at times – there may be poop and vomit involved – and the extra clean-up may leave you frustrated on occasion. Don’t let affect your relationship.
Your dog will be back on his paws in no time, ready to eat, play, and frolic as normal. Just keep this in mind the next time you find yourself complaining about cleaning up his runny poop. You and your dog will be better for it.