Dogs can have an upset stomach and start vomiting or having diarrhea for what seems like no reason. Maybe the dog got into the neighbor’s garbage or started a new dog food that doesn’t agree with his stomach. The most common cause of canine stomach upset is gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining and intestines. The cause of that inflammation isn’t always readily apparent. However, as long as your adult dog is otherwise healthy, home remedies may settle his stomach. If there’s no improvement or symptoms worsen after the first 24 to 48 hours, it’s time to call the veterinarian for more serious interventions.
Simple Home Remedies for a Dog with an Upset Stomach
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Human or dog, an upset stomach typically reveals itself in one of two ways—vomiting and/or diarrhea. The two symptoms can be handled together or separately if only one presents. If your dog is an adult and is otherwise healthy, it’s usually safe to try home remedies before a trip to the veterinarian.
Home Remedy for a Dog That’s Vomiting
If the dog vomits more than once and seems to not feel well, withhold food (but not water) for 12 to 24 hours. You don’t want the dog to get dehydrated. Watch for other symptoms of illness, like lethargy or abdominal pain. If the dog doesn’t show any other symptoms and acts normally, slowly reintroduce his normal diet after the 12- to 24-hour waiting period.
It’s important to note that sometimes dogs eat grass, sticks, or non-toxic plants that cause them to vomit. In these cases, they usually vomit and return to their normal happy selves almost immediately. These instances are generally not a cause of concern. However, you’ll still want to keep an eye on the dog in case any more symptoms appear.
Home Remedies for a Dog with Diarrhea
Diarrhea is a little different. Don’t withhold food or water. Again, it’s important for the dog to stay hydrated. However, many commercial dog foods are high in fats, which are difficult to digest. 1 Rather than withholding food, switch to a gentle, bland diet. An easily digested mix of white rice with boiled white meat like chicken offers a simple but temporary option. A ratio of five parts rice to one part chicken works well. Make sure the chicken does not have skin or bones in it.
Start with small meals, four to six of them per day, to see how the dog handles the new diet. If the dog does well on the bland diet, start feeding him fewer meals of increasing volume over four to five days. Gradually return your dog to his regular diet after stools have returned to their normal color and consistency. You can do that by mixing a small portion of regular dog food with a bland meal. Continue to increase the amount of regular food for a week or so until the dog is back on its regular diet.
You can also help your dog by using over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication.2 These medications usually have kaolin or pectin in them to absorb extra fluid in the intestines. They can also calm the intestines, reducing movement. You can also try probiotic supplements. These supplements help regulate and normalize the balance of good bacteria in the dog’s intestines.3 4
If your dog becomes lethargic and weak, he could be suffering from dehydration. Lack of water can also decrease blood flow to the intestines, further slowing recovery. With either vomiting or diarrhea, it’s important to keep the dog hydrated. However, it might be necessary to limit water intake to small portions because water alone can trigger more vomiting.
When Is It Time to Call the Veterinarian?
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While home remedies are quite effective, sometimes they’re not enough, nor are they always appropriate for the dog’s age or medical condition. For example, puppies are more susceptible to the effects of dehydration. Senior dogs are also at greater risk for complications, as are dogs with chronic diseases or serious health conditions. These dog populations may have a compromised immune system or simply don’t have the physical reserves to maintain their health even with a mild case of vomiting or diarrhea. In any of these cases, call the veterinarian for advice on how best to proceed.
No matter the dog’s age, if he shows any of the following symptoms in addition to vomiting or diarrhea, call the veterinarian5:
- Blood in the vomit or stool
- Abdominal pain
- Watery diarrhea
- Dry heaving
The veterinarian will take a thorough history and perform a physical exam. If the cause of the stomach upset isn’t forthcoming, she may also order blood work, fecal analysis, and urinalysis. Sometimes the problem can persist, requiring x-rays, specialized laboratory tests, an ultrasound, or surgery.
The goal is to identify and treat the cause of the stomach upset. However, in the meantime, the veterinarian may prescribe anti-emetics, prescription antidiarrheal medications, or provide IV fluids or medications. If the vomiting and diarrhea continue, the dog may require nutrition through an IV as well.
An upset stomach may sound alarming, but the problem often resolves on its own. Garbage, plants, or even items from around the house, if ingested, can cause stomach upset for a while. Keep a close eye on your dog, and make sure he’s drinking. If symptoms don’t get better after 24 to 48 hours, call the veterinarian. Be ready to list any other symptoms, the type of food the dog eats, and any medications you’ve given him. With the help of a veterinarian, you can come to a treatment plan that will get your dog back on his feet.
- Cave N. Dietary approach to gastrointestinal disorders–Acute gastroenteritis. World Small Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings. Published 2010. Accessed March 20, 2021.
- Washabau RJ. Antidiarrheal agents. Canine and Feline Gastroenterology. 2013: 445-449. doi: 10.1016/B978-1-4160-3661-6.00034-1
- Herstad HK, Nesheim BB, L’Abee-Lund T, Skancke E. Effects of a probiotic intervention in acute canine gastroenteritis – a controlled clinical trial. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2010; 51(1): 34-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.2009.00853.x
- Jensen AP and Bjornvad CR. Clinical effect of probiotics in prevention or treatment of gastrointestinal disease in dogs: A systemic review. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2019; 33(5): 1849-1864. doi: 10.1111/jvim.15554
- Defarges A, Blois SL, Hall EJ, Gibson TWG, Mitchell KD. Disorders of the stomach and intestines. Merckvetmanual.com Updated May 2018. Accessed April 21, 2021.