What Do You Feed a Dog With an Upset Stomach? Here’s What Vets Recommend
Soft, easy-to-digest foods help your sick pup feel better more quickly. By Debra Steilen and Tracey L. Kelley Medically Reviewed by Alicen Tracey, DVM Updated January 03, 2023 Medically Reviewed by Alicen Tracey, DVM Advertisement Pin FB More Tweet Email Send Text Message Print
dog eating bland diet from his bowl Credit: victoriarak / Getty
On This Page
- Why Is My Dog's Stomach Upset?
- What Is a Bland Diet for Dogs?
- Buying a Diet
- When to Feed
- How Long to Feed
- After Surgery
- Food Allergies
- Sensitive Stomach
Urp. URP. URP! Most pet parents are quite familiar with the sound of a dog vomiting, as well as the mad scramble to get him off the carpet. But once the deed is done, do you know what to feed a dog with an upset stomach? Should you even try? Let's take a closer look at why your pooch is experiencing distress, why a bland diet for dogs might help, and when it's time for a veterinary exam.
Why Is My Dog’s Stomach Upset?
Your dog vomits and experiences diarrhea for a lot of reasons, and each one requires you to determine the difference between a minor upset and something more serious.
Canines have mild intestinal reactions if they:
- Gobbled their meal too quickly
- Consumed food or treats featuring ingredients that don't agree with them
- Snuck into the trash and ate something spoiled
- Suffered from intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms or roundworms
But if your dog's reaction is excessive, or there's blood in his stool, you'll need to consult a veterinarian right away. Your pet may have a more serious condition such as:
- Gastroenteritis, inflammation of the stomach and intestines
- Pancreatitis, which results from an inflamed pancreas
- Kidney disease, a chronic but treatable condition if caught early
- Toxicity or poisoning, which could happen if they eat a toxic plant or accidentally consume harmful-to-dogs human foods such as chocolate, grapes and raisins, or peanut butter with xylitol
- Intestinal blockage from eating rocks, tree bark, mulch, paper towels, toys, or something else
If you think your dog has eaten a toxic substance or that something could be lodged in his gastrointestinal tract, he needs immediate medical care. Even if you suspect a new food or treat is the problem, call your vet, who may recommend serving your dog a bland diet after conducting a thorough exam.
RELATED: What to Do If Your Puppy Isn't Eating Enough
What Is a Bland Diet for Dogs?
As a child, do you remember eating bananas or white rice because your tummy was upset? Dogs also benefit from a bland diet when feeling nauseous, and it's one of the best home remedies for dog vomiting and upset stomachs. Bland diets—usually soft foods easy to digest—are boring by design so they can soothe the digestive system until your dog's normal appetite, digestion, and bowel movements are restored.
What Kinds of Foods Suit a Bland Diet?
According to Arlington Animal Hospital in Virginia, bland diets usually include one source of carbohydrates and a single source of lean protein. The basic bland diet is made of boiled unseasoned white rice and boiled, diced, and unseasoned chicken breast with skin and bones removed.
As an alternative to boiling meat, you can pan-fry lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken—but drain it thoroughly to remove as much fat as possible and, again, don't season it. When cooking beef or poultry, make certain to use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here are other simple carbohydrates choices to include in a bland diet for dogs:
- Skinless, unseasoned boiled white or sweet potato
- Boiled, unseasoned spaghetti noodles
- A quick-cooking form of white rice
Lean protein alternatives choices to include in a bland diet for dogs:
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Unseasoned cooked egg whites
- Diced pork loin, also cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees without salt or other spices
Your vet might also recommend other options, such as canned or pureed pumpkin or bone broth, based on your pup's current dietary plan.
Keep in mind, all these human foods are normally occasional treats, so follow your veterinarian's guidelines for how much of a bland diet to feed a dog with an upset stomach, including the amount per serving and the duration for this diet modification. We explain a little bit more about this below.
RELATED: Human Foods You Can Safely Share With Your Dog
So, what's the ratio of starch to meat? The general recommendation is 2:1—for example, mix 2 cups of baked sweet potato chunks with 1 cup of drained, pan-fried lean ground beef. Make sure the foods have cooled to room temperature before serving them. Then, refrigerate cooked food for up to 48 hours, or freeze it for long-term storage.
Here's another common question: Can dogs eat baby food when they have an upset stomach? Some vets say yes, as long as they're Stage II meat-based baby foods without onion or garlic—vegetables that are toxic to dogs.
Can I Buy Bland Dog Food Instead of Cooking My Own?
Yes, you can purchase food made specifically for your dog's upset stomach, says Jessica Romine, DVM, DACVIM, of BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Southfield, Mich. She recommends Hill's Prescription Diet i/d, Purina EN Gastroenteric, and Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal dog foods for your sick pup.
When Do I Start Feeding My Dog a Bland Diet?
Follow your veterinarian's instructions on how and when to give your dog a bland food diet. Arlington Animal Hospital suggests pet parents wait 12–24 hours after their dog's digestive episode before feeding them anything, though dogs under 6 months of age should only be fasted under veterinary supervision. Fasting helps give the dog's intestinal system a chance to rest. Offer your dog small amounts of water or ice chips during this time.
Once your pet can hold down water, it's time to gradually introduce solid bland food. Depending on the size of your dog, start by offering 1–2 tablespoons of food every two to three hours. If your dog seems to tolerate this approach, gradually increase how much food you give him and feed him less frequently. For example, offer ¼ to ½ cup of bland food every four hours.
How Long Do I Keep My Dog on a Bland Diet?
Your vet will probably recommend you only keep him on it for two or three days after the vomiting and diarrhea has stopped. This is because a bland diet isn't nutritionally complete. Once your pet's stool has returned to normal, start mixing his regular food with a bland portion in even amounts. Give your pooch a little more dog food each day over five days until he's completely back to his usual routine.
Unfortunately, bland diets don't magically cure all gastrointestinal problems. Romine says to call your vet if your dog can't keep anything down or continues to vomit even though there's nothing left in his stomach. Additionally, if you notice blood in your dog's vomit or stool, or if he becomes weak or pale, seek immediate professional care.
RELATED: What to Do If Your Dog Won't Eat
Should I Put My Dog on a Bland Diet After Surgery?
Again, take your vet's recommendation about this, but it's common for dogs to be on a bland diet for a couple of days because most surgeries require anesthesia, which leaves your dog feeling a bit woozy, with a temporarily reduced appetite and slower gastrointestinal motility.
Here's when trusty boiled chicken and rice for your dog is a good option to ensure easier digestion until he regains an appetite after a couple of days. Then, you can slowly reintroduce regular food combined with the bland diet at a 1:1 ratio until your vet gives the green light.
Will a Bland Diet Help a Dog With Food Allergies?
If your dog is itchy all over, or he focuses his scratching on his ears and feet, he may have a food allergy.
"Most dogs with food allergies are allergic to proteins from animal sources: beef, eggs, dairy, and chicken," says Theresa Entriken, DVM, a veterinary consultant based in Leawood, Kan. But dogs can be allergic to any ingredient, such as wheat or a specific vegetable, so a bland diet won't necessarily help—unless the diet also lacks the ingredient that triggers the dog's immune response, she adds.
If you are concerned about an allergy, ask your veterinarian about safe prescription hypoallergenic dog food. And be careful when it comes to grain-free dog food. There has been a link found between grain-free diets and heart disease, so it's best to feed a grain-containing diet unless otherwise directed by your vet.
Home-prepared diets can be tricky to get right because they must provide complete and balanced nutrition to the dog. Work with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to get help coming up with the best diet—bland or otherwise—for your dog.
Will a Bland Diet Help a Dog With a Sensitive Stomach?
If your dog's stomach seems persistently sensitive, it's important to identify the underlying cause. "This sensitivity typically manifests as frequent vomiting, diarrhea, or flatulence," Entriken says.
So when you're trying to address the symptoms of a sensitive stomach, always have your vet evaluate your pet to determine the appropriate next steps. And if a bland diet or other dietary change is needed, your vet or a veterinary nutritionist will create a new eating plan to meet all of your dog's needs.
By Debra Steilen and Tracey L. Kelley