Updated: Oct 2, 2019
As a dog owner there will come a point and time where you have to deal with one (or all) of the Big 3. This is not a “This Is Us” reference, rather it is the three most common digestive issues you will likely encounter with your dog-diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. None of these are pretty or pleasant, but certainly something that is just part of having babies and dogs. Sadly, we do not escape these even as adults!
There are many reasons that dogs may experience digestive upset. Some can be monitored and treated at home and others can be a sign of something much more serious. If there is ever a doubt or if the condition worsens over 24 hours, then take your dog to a veterinarian immediately.
The first approach in dealing with any of the Big 3 is quite common sense and that is to simply try to determine what may be causing it. Did your dog get into the garbage? Was he/she outside by themselves and ate something off the ground? Is your dog stressed over a recent storm, loud noise, or being in a new situation?
Ingestion of something (unfortunately not necessarily a food item) and stress tend to be the biggest contributors to the day-to day digestive issues in dogs. There are some general approaches we can take:
Quality dog food
Ensuring your dog is eating quality dog food is important. Some pups can be more sensitive than others and knowing your dog’s tolerance for food can be a great help. Some dogs benefit from certain specific diets such as grain free and limited ingredient food. In all cases, protein meal or grain should not be the first ingredient.
Supplementing your dog’s diet with probiotics can also be of help. You can do this on a regular basis or situationally if he/she is experiencing digestive upset.
Recognizing and reducing the stress your pup may be under is also important. Often, digestive issues may follow a day or two following the stressful event. Minimizing the time left alone, giving comforting places to sleep, keeping a favorite toy and adjusting their environment (light, sound, stimulation) are all ways to help your baby feel more settled.
Ensure they are not getting into anything
Cat boxes are favorite treasure hunting spots for dogs. They have a sixth sense of where that box is and go to great (and creative) lengths of getting to it. They are also very partial to the contents in the box. This is where things can go off the rails, so restricting access to a cat box is important. Both the box “contents” and litter can be harmful and cause digestive problems.
Also securing the garbage can is key so your pup does not ingest non-digestible things such as plastic or bones or eat more than a stomach worth’s of whatever you have had over the last few days.
Make dietary changes slowly
Should you wish to switch your dog over to a different food, it is important to do so slowly to prevent potential digestion problems. The first 1-3 days should be ¼ the new food to ¾ of the old food. Then, then the next 1-3 days ½ and ½, then ¾ to ¼, and then entirely new food. This allows your pup’s gut to get used to new ingredients rather than an abrupt adjustment which can lead to an upset tummy.
No people food
This can be a tough one because it can be hard to resist those gorgeous little faces giving you the look as if they have not had a morsel of food in over a week. People food is not good for them, no matter how much guilting they try to do to you. Resist the urge and give them their food only.
So, what do you do if you are now in the throes of one of the Big 3 of digestive issues? Let’s look at some at simple, at-home approaches you can consider for each one.
A caveat to the following information is that if there is worsening of symptoms or you do not see improvement in the symptoms with your at-home approaches within 24 hours, then it is time to see your vet.
You wake up and realize that something has gone awry and your pup has an acute case of runny butt. (Good times). What now?
Give broths or liquids only for 12-24 hours to let the digestive system rest
Then begin to feed several small meals instead of large ones
Use minimal ingredients in food, such as chicken and rice
Use of herbal tea – 1-2 tablespoons in food for 2-3 weeks or add to water:
1. Chamomile tea (do not give to dogs with ragweed allergies, pregnant or elderly dogs, or prior to surgical procedure due to blood thinning properties) particularly good if diarrhea is due to stress
2. Peppermint or ginger tea as above
** TEAS AND BROTH MUST BE COOLED PRIOR TO GIVEN TO YOUR DOG**
Slippery elm paste-powder or capsule, mix with water to make a slurry, ½ to 1 teaspoon and add to food
Marshmallow root powder-1/2 teaspoon in wet food or over dry food when mixed with water
Canned, organic pumpkin-1 to 4 tablespoons give alone or with food. It doesn’t take much so use only a little bit to start. This is my favorite option, as I have had very good success with it and it starts to work quickly
If at any time your dog has bloody diarrhea, take him/her to the veterinarian immediately!
Now, you taking your dog for a walk and he is straining and nothing is happening. Or you realize that nothing has happened for several days. It is time to get things safely moving!
Canned pumpkin-again, this is my favorite go-to and yes, it can be used for either too much or not enough digestive activity
Increase fiber- fiber is an important factor is activating the digestive tract. Adding small amounts of fruits and veggies (i.e., cooked green beans can be given as treat) can be an easy way to get more fiber in your pup’s diet
Psyllium powder- this is another great source of fiber and can also be mixed into the food. Add ½ teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight to food, 1-2 times per day. (This can also be helpful anal gland issues as well!)
Increase exercise- getting your pup moving will also get his bowels moving, so doing some extra light walking should be added as well
Consistent feedings- feeding your dog on a regular, consistent schedule can also help his digestive system stay regular
Encourage fluids- with improved hydration comes improved digestive movement
Avoid dairy- dogs do not encounter dairy in their ancestral diet and their systems generally do not do well with it, so it is best of avoid altogether
Ginger and broth- mix ¼ tablespoon of ginger and ½ cup of chicken or beef broth, let cool. This can be added to the food or given by itself
There is no better alarm clock than a dog working to upchuck his last meal in the middle of the night. It is not only extremely unpleasant to clean up, but it is also worrisome for our baby’s well-being. So, how can we help settle those little bellies and save our carpets as well?
Identify source- this may seem obvious, but finding and removing a food or material they have access to can stop the cycle and often things will take care of themselves. Again, things like cat litter, garbage, plants that have been sprayed with chemicals, pieces of cloth or plastic from chewed toys, etc.
Raise the bowl or use a slow bowl- flat faced dogs often struggle with issues of breathing due to both the size of their nostrils or throat. Raising the food bowl can help given them more space in the airway while they are eating. This can also decrease the amount of air they ingest which can promote vomiting
Feed smaller meals that are spread out- keeping an even amount of food in your dog’s system can help stop chronic vomiting rather than having large amounts at a time, fewer times per day
Add teas in food: peppermint, ginger, fennel, chamomile, or catnip tea all have properties to soothe your dog’s digestive system, decrease nausea and bloating, and curb vomiting. This can be added to the food as described above
Encourage fluids- vomiting can contribute to dehydration, so you want to ensure that your pup gets plenty of fluids while recovering
There can be a variety of reasons that your dog experiences digestive issues and they can often if can be addressed with some easy, at-home remedies. These simple tips and tricks can be a great help to our little ones. Try them out and we hope your pup is feeling back to himself in no time!