What To Give A Dog With An Upset Stomach

Unwell puppy sleeps
Fasting is the quickest way to resolve an upset stomach.

What to give a dog with upset stomach and what to give a dog with diarrhea are questions that confront every dog owner sooner or later.

Here’s the thing.

If a dog has diarrhea …or a dog is vomiting ..or a dog is not feeling well, you do not want to be feeding him. At all. Anything. Period.

What you do want to do is let him sleep, and rest his gut. Which means you want to fast him for at least 24 hours. Ideally, fast him for at least 24 hours after the symptoms stop.

Just make sure water is available. If he’s throwing up or has diarrhea, keep him drinking so he doesn’t get dehydrated.

How to make a dog drink water?

I’ve used a syringe that you can get at the pharmacy. Fill it with water and dribble it slowly into the side of your dog’s mouth. I’ve also gotten Shiva to drink by just pouring water into my cupped hands and then encouraging him to lap at it.

How to treat dog diarrhea or dog vomiting

We humans always want to “do something” to “fix it”. The very question of “what to give a dog with upset stomach” presupposes there is some magic potion or treatment or remedy we can administer. Home remedies for a dog with diarrhea abound. We desperately want to “make” our pups better.

But I want to invite you to consider a different approach.

The medical model views symptoms as signs of disease. But they’re also signs of healing, and in fact they are the healing itself, already in progress.

What do I mean?

I mean that if your dog has diarrhea it’s because your dog needs to have diarrhea.

What causes diarrhea in dogs?

Diarrhea is the body’s mechanism for quickly emptying the gut. (See how feeding a sick dog works against the body?)

The body creates diarrhea in response to poisoning or toxins of one kind or another. It floods the digestive tract with water to rapidly flush out the toxic material.

The bottom line is you don’t have to know why the body does what it does. You just have to not interfere with the process.

Can you give imodium to dogs?

I’ve seen people recommend imodium to stop dog diarrhea. Can you give a dog imodium for diarrhea?

Please don’t.

The problem with giving a drug that stops the diarrhea is you’re actually thwarting the body’s efforts to heal by getting out whatever is causing the problem. The drug will suppress the symptom but it is doing nothing to heal the actual cause. In fact, it’s likely doing the opposite by keeping within the body whatever toxins the diarrhea would have cleared. This is the last thing you want to do.

By giving medication to an already stressed system you’re also introducing one more toxin that the body then has to work to process and eliminate.

Instead, keep it simple. Make sure your dog has plenty of opportunities to go potty, keep him hydrated and encourage sleep. Work with the body, not against. But take a hands off approach wherever you can.

Often the best thing we can do… is nothing at all.

Hold off on the impulse to intervene or bundle your pet off to the vet. We don’t run to the doctor every time we have an off day and nor should you put your dog through the stress of unnecessary vet visits.

Of course if pup continues to be unwell, or deteriorates, reevaluate. You always have the option of seeking veterinary advice. Bloat and bowel obstructions are both absolute emergencies, so if you think that’s what you’re dealing with — get to a vet, fast. Surgery may be the only option in a life or death situation.

But for the average bout of dog diarrhea or dog vomiting, just give your pup some rest and some time.

No force feeding

I’ve seen a couple of owners in the past few days trying to make sick dogs eat.

More than 1000 people every month google “how to get a dog to eat”.

Don’t do this.

A dog refusing to eat should be respected.

If your dog won’t eat, listen to what his body is telling you. He is fasting himself. Don’t try to override your dog’s instincts.

Fasting works. Your dog will eat when he’s ready. Dogs in the wild can go weeks and weeks without food. Domestic dogs usually have significant fat reserves so could theoretically go much longer. Nothing bad will happen to your dog if he doesn’t eat for a few days. The illness will pass much faster if you let his body concentrate its energy on healing, rather than digestion.

If you must feed something, make it something easily digestible, like fruit. Bananas would be an ok option. Fruit is also very hydrating, if you’re concerned your dog is not drinking but will take banana.

If your dog is sleeping, do not wake him up to try to feed him or even to make him drink. Ever heard the expression let sleeping dogs lie? Let your pup be, give him space and keep a quiet home around him while he gets well. He is working on healing.

Chicken and rice is a terrible bland diet for dogs

God knows why vets recommend chicken and rice as their go-to “bland diet”. Maybe because it’s better than kibble?

Is chicken and rice good for dogs? Not even close.

For all sorts of reasons, rice is not good food for dogs, even when they’re well. Your dog would be better off resting his gut entirely than eat this. Cooked chicken is probably less of a problem, but it has to be said that cooked anything is not optimal food for dogs.

The other problem with feeding chicken and rice is the combination itself.

Here’s why

Consuming meat and carbohydrate together is not how dogs naturally eat.

The pet food industry claims stuffing every ingredient known to man into the one food is a “balanced diet”. But in nature balance is achieved over time, never in one meal.

Wolves consume only one type of food per sitting. Usually, it’s a meat feast. When prey is scarce and they graze on fruit, it’s in a separate sitting, on a different day. As the Voyageurs Wolf Project discovered, wolves in northern Minnesota eat 80 per cent blueberries for a whole month at the height of summer.

This works because fruit digests much faster than meat.

Proponents of the practice of food combining (like the founder of the natural hygiene movement Herbert Shelton) say fruit eaten with meat, or soon after a meat meal, will get stuck behind the meat in the alimentary canal and ferment. This fermentation, they say, produces toxins that aren’t produced when fruit moves efficiently through the dog’s system. Their logic follows that, over time, continually eating this way produces an accumulation of toxins or wastes, which eventually give rise to all manner of disease.

Regardless of whether you buy into the principles of food combining, “mono meals” are the way dogs ate for literally one million years during their evolution. It’s the way the dog’s closest free-living relative, the wolf, still eats today.

If it’s correct that feeding a jumbled up meal to a dog is not conducive to optimal digestion, it’s an even worse idea when the pup is unwell or already in digestive distress.

So, if not chicken and rice, what is the best bland diet for a dog?

What to give dog for upset stomach? Pumpkin for dogs for diarrhea

If you must feed something to a sick dog, a better choice is plain, mashed pumpkin. Pumpkin for diarrhea in dogs is an often-used remedy and, of all the options commonly bandied about, this would be the best bland diet for diarrhea in dogs.

Pumpkin for dogs with diarrhea will firm the stool. But — like the other “remedies” — it does nothing to address the underlying cause.

Ideally, resist the impulse to feed a sick dog. Fast them and then, when they’re better, start feeding them properly and you’ll have a better chance of avoiding future illness.

Avoid metronidazole (flagyl) if you possibly can

Beware this commonly prescribed antibiotic.

It has been known to cause brain inflammation.

Flagyl for dogs is best avoided. But certainly do not give it to pups with any history of neurological weaknesses.

Just because your vet prescribes it does not mean it’s safe for your dog. Our experience with flagyl is outlined in this piece. Do your own research and explore less risky options.

In any case, metronidazole for dog diarrhea (or any antibiotic for dog diarrhea) is usually unnecessary as the problem with pass on its own.

Probiotics

I’ve used them in the past and they did appear to help, but it could have also just been a coincidence, as the body naturally moved through the problem. These days I would tend not to micromanage gut health. A diet based around raw meaty bones — and avoidance of antibiotics and chemical wormers/flea and tick preventives — will do all you need to create good bacteria.

Digestive enzymes

As far as interventions go, this one will do less harm than most. Just make sure you don’t stay on the enzymes, as you don’t want the body to become dependent on them. You want the pancreas to be naturally producing all the enzymes your dog needs to digest food. I’ve used enzymes for a week at a time and then come off them. Find a reputable brand with no additives.

Slippery elm for dogs and psyllium husk

I have used both of these at different times before my understanding evolved. They do help to firm up a dog’s poop and they did not cause any obvious problems for my dog.

Psyllium works by bulking out the stool.

Slippery elm contains mucilage which is said to soothe the alimentary canal. Be aware though that it can also interfere with the absorption of any medications your dog is taking (and food). You don’t want to make a habit of giving this stuff.

The trouble with both these remedies (and with remedies in general) is they do nothing to address the underlying cause of the loose stool. They’re just masking the symptoms.

It’s like kicking a rug over a hole in the floor. It might cover up the problem but the broken floorboards are still there underneath and at some point they have to be repaired unless you want to come a cropper.

What to give a dog with upset stomach is not really the question. Often true healing is less about adding anything, and more about taking away the cause. Which usually comes down to a poor quality diet. Fix the diet and you will see gut issues resolve. It may take some time.

Green banana?

I told you I’d heard some out there suggestions for what to give a dog with upset stomach. Green banana is a novel remedy for dog with upset stomach.

A dog owner recently told me it firms up loose bowel motions.

But before you reach for the fruit bowl, consider this.

Green is the opposite of how you want to feed banana to your dog: ripe to overripe with lots of brown spots. I get that the purposes here are not nutritional, but still. In general unripe fruits are not meant to be eaten — by dogs or humans. I would be wary of feeding green banana.

In conclusion: How to feed a dog properly

So your dog’s diarrhea or upset belly has passed. Excellent. Next time you’ll know right away what to give a dog for upset stomach and vomiting.

Now for a fresh start. Use this opportunity to start your dog on a raw, fresh, species-appropriate food and get him on a path to better all-round health.

If the lived experience of raw feeding dog owners is not enough for you, check out the science. This study of boxer dogs found raw meat diets cultivate healthier microbiomes in dogs’ guts. Given the connection between gut health and general vitality, this is no small thing.

Please note: I am not a vet. This article reflects my own experiences with my dog. It is not intended to replace medical advice.

You can learn more about how to feed a dog optimally in these articles:

Can dogs eat chicken bones?

Raw feeding a dog, demystified

Further reading

Godawful: What prednisone does to your dog’s body

Bloat is scary. Don’t panic. Do this

12 tips for successful apartment living with a dog

Dog sunburn: Is it even a thing?