Digestive Health for Dogs

What are dog digestive issues?

A digestive disorder is any health situation that prevents your dog from properly digesting food or alters the rate that food passes through their digestive tract. Don't ignore the signs! If your furry friend is showing symptoms of digestive disorders, seek immediate advice from your veterinarian.

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Know the signs of distress

Some signs of your dog’s digestive problems are easy (and unpleasant) to spot. Make sure you consult with your vet if your dog shows any of these signs:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or soft stools
  • Change of appetite
  • Flatulence
  • Stomach gurgling
  • Constipation
  • Sudden inactivity or depression
  • Itchy skin/ears

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What causes dog digestive problems?

Digestive upsets can happen for a variety of reasons, and all of them can make your dog feel under the weather. Here are some of the more common causes of digestive problems in dogs..


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  • Acute gastroenteritis

    This is the most common cause of an ‘upset stomach’ in dogs. It usually consists of vomiting and diarrhea that begins suddenly but can just be diarrhea too. It can be caused by lots of things like eating something unsavoury (we all know our dogs love doing this!), parasites, viruses and foreign bodies, to name but a few.

  • Chronic enteropathy or Inflammatory bowel disease

    Unlike the sudden onset upset we just mentioned, chronic enteropathies are slower to appear and tend to last a long time. Diarrhea and weight loss are common signs. Again, it can be caused by many different things such as adverse food reactions and genetics.

  • Colitis

    The colon is part of the large bowel and when this gets inflamed it’s called colitis. It’s usually very characteristic and most dogs show the same signs - looking like they urgently need to have a poop, they might strain to have a poop but not much comes out, and one of the classic signs of colitis is fresh blood and/or slimy mucus in the stools.

  • Pancreatitis

    This is a serious condition in dogs and can be life-threatening. Common signs of pancreatitis are sudden onset vomiting, depression and lack of appetite. It’s also a very painful condition so your dog may be restless and adopt the ‘play bow’ position to try to ease the pain. If you have any concerns that your dog might have pancreatitis get them to the vet as soon as you can.

  • EPI - exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

    This complicated-sounding name describes a condition where dogs are lacking certain enzymes needed for digestion. The pancreas produces some of these and when they are lacking the food passes straight through without the dog being able to get at the nutrients. Dogs with EPI tend to be ravenously hungry but still lose weight and look in poor condition. Because they don’t digest fat well, their stools may be greyish in colour. Some breeds such as German shepherds are more prone to it than others. Usually supplementing the diet with the missing enzymes gives a good result.

  • Food allergies

    Dogs can react badly to certain foods for a number of reasons and together we call these adverse food reactions. True food allergies are rarer than people think and they tend to be caused by proteins in foods such as beef and chicken. Food allergies can cause vomiting and diarrhea and also skin issues like itchiness.

  • Constipation

    The same as in humans, when dogs are constipated, they find pooping difficult and they might go to the toilet much less frequently. Constipation can be caused by lots of things. Eating bones can make the stools hard and difficult to pass, dehydration or a sluggish bowel will also mean that the stools are dry and difficult to shift.

How can you help?

First, if you suspect your dog is suffering from a digestive disorder, talk to your vet about treatments that may be able to help. You can further help your dog by reducing the amount of stress triggers in their environment with some of these suggestions:


Happy small dog being pet in yard

Stick with a routine

Dogs love predictability. Knowing they can anticipate when you’ll arrive home, when meals will appear and when it’s time for a walk will help keep your dog’s anxiety to a minimum.

See Tips

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There are a variety of products on the market intended to help calm your dog. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation that could help address your dog’s stress response in anxiety-inducing situations.

Learn More

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Consider their nutrition

Foods made with highly digestible ingredients can be gentle on upset tummies. Ask your veterinarian about switching your dog’s food and how to do it without upsetting your dog’s stomach any further.

See Options

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Resources and tips

To help provide your dog with the best care possible on the journey ahead, check out these helpful resources from our team of veterinarians.

  • Dog Food Taste & Types: Does My Dog Like Their Food?

    Learn about different types of dog foods, why your dog might actually like certain ones over others and questions to ask your vet about dog food taste.
  • Is it Safe to Feed My Dog a Banana?

    Are bananas good or bad for dogs? Find out if it's safe too feed him a banana treat and what to do if he's eaten a whole one, peel and all.
  • Can Dogs Eat Cheese?

    Learn whether cheese is a snack that's safe for your dog, including specific types of cheese, ingredients to watch for and how much is ideal.
  • Is Pineapple Safe for Dogs?

    It's a tasty treat, but is pineapple safe for dogs? Discover the pros and cons of feeding your dog pineapple and how to do it safely.
  • Can Dogs Eat Watermelon?

    Watermelon is usually a healthy treat for dogs, but learn the tips about its safety, which parts are OK to feed your dog, and how much is a healthy amount.
  • Why Chocolate is Bad for Dogs

    Dogs running The hazard of chocolate to your dog depends on the chocolate type, the amount consumed and your dog's size.
  • Can Dogs Eat Peanut Butter?

    You know your furry friend loves peanut butter, but is it good for him? Learn the details about this snack and when it's safe for your dog.