Choosing the Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach Issues

By: Chewy EditorialUpdated:

Choosing the Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach Issues
Photo: Chewy Studios

Choosing the Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach Issues

Like people, dogs can have sensitive stomachs. The signs usually are hard to miss:

  • vomiting,
  • loose stools,
  • flatulence,
  • decreased appetite
  • skin rashes

Luckily, by being knowledgeable of your pup’s eating habits and switching over to the best dog food for sensitive stomach issues, you may be able to give your pup relief. Here’s what to consider if you’re the parent of a pupper who seems to have tummy troubles.

The Best Dog Foods for Upset Stomachs

There are many qualities in dog food that can bother some dogs. For example, insufficient fiber, too much fat, a specific protein or something else can upset a dog’s sensitive stomach.

When searching for a food that might help relieve your dog’s discomfort, you’ll have to start reading labels carefully. The good news is that just like there isn’t only one right food for you if you have, say, lactose intolerance, there isn’t only one perfect food for your dog. The type that your neighbor swears is the best dog food for a sensitive stomach may not be the best one for your dog’s sensitive stomach. You’ll find a wide range of potential options to look into:

  • A scientifically formulated food like Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dog Food, is designed to be gentle on the stomach. It contains vitamins E and C to support the immune system and omega-6 fatty acids, which gives your pup a shiny coat.
  • A limited ingredient dog food can help you narrow down what specifically might be irritating your dog’s stomach. These foods are exactly what they sound like: a food that contains as few ingredients as possible. American Journey Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe, for instance, contains one protein source—salmon—and no grains, corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meals and artificial colors.
  • A food specifically formulated for a sensitive stomach can provide your dog with all of the nutrients needed, which can ease tummy upsets due to nutritional deficiencies and naturally can aid in healthy digestion. Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach contains barley to help settle sensitive stomachs without any artificial ingredients.
  • Giving your pup a food containing digestive boosters such as pre- and probiotics also can help with stomach troubles. Blackwood Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Recipe Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula is fortified with pre- and probiotics.

Regardless of the sensitive stomach issues your dog may be experiencing, he stills needs to eat a food that’s appropriate for his life stage. Don’t give a dog food for puppies to a senior, or vice versa, even in a well-meaning attempt to ease his discomfort.

Tips for Switching Your Dog to a New Food

When you’re ready to change your dog’s diet, avoid switching his food suddenly, as this can cause further digestive upset. Instead, make the change gradually, over at least five to seven days.

Simply mix a small portion of the new food in with his current diet while reducing the amount of old food proportionately. After a couple of days, if no additional upset occurs, increase the transition amount. Your veterinarian is a great resource to help with transition questions and concerns.

If the first diet you try doesn’t solve your pup’s sensitive stomach issues, do not lose heart; it might take a few tries to find the perfect match. Thankfully, there are many more options out there nowadays to help your furry friend get the nutrition he needs without the tummy unpleasantness.

What to Do if Your Dog Has An Upset Stomach

Your first move, if your dog seems to be having stomach issues, is to consult your pet’s veterinarian. A full medical work-up is needed to pinpoint the underlying causes of his vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss or change in appetite, as those also can signal something serious, says Amy Learn, VMD, resident of clinical behavioral medicine at the Florida Veterinary Behavior Service in West Palm Beach.

I like to be cautious as the earlier you catch something, the easier it is to fix,” Dr. Learn says.

Once larger issues are ruled out, remember that a sensitive stomach, or mild intestinal upset, is a broad term that doesn’t mean much unless you determine the root cause. Questions Dr. Learn asks include: “Is the pet having trouble digesting or absorbing nutrients? Does he have a food allergy or sensitivity? Might an inflammatory bowel condition play a role?”

Your vet will be able to tell you whether your dog has a medical condition affecting his digestion, or whether he’s suffering from a one-time dietary indiscretion—like gobbling up the goose poop at the park or the contents of the litter pan when you weren’t looking.

Causes of an Upset Stomach in Dogs

Before blaming the dog food you’ve been buying as the cause of your pup’s stomach woes, take a look at your own habits. If you, or others in your household, sneak dinner scraps to your dog under the table, give him the last bite of whatever he sees you eat, and/or toss him a goodie every time you pass the treat jar, that could be at least part of the problem.

Dog treats are perfectly fine as an occasional, well, treat, but a dozen a day? Not so much. And lots of human foods can be too rich or spicy for dogs, so you want to be very discerning when it comes to feeding him scraps.

If you also share your home with cats and leave their food out where your dog can reach it, he might be snacking even more than you realize. Many dogs enjoy cat food with its higher protein, fat content and stronger smell. But it isn’t good for him.

Try eliminating all human food, temporarily going cold turkey on dog treats and putting your cat’s food in a spot your pup can’t access. If his stomach issues still don’t improve, then it’s time to turn an eye to his dog food.

By: Christina Vercelletto
Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub. 


By: Chewy EditorialUpdated: