Veterinary background provided by Dr. Jennifer Coates DVM
Updated October 2022
Why do Dogs Eat Grass? | Poisoning in Dogs
5 Signs Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach
Is your dog’s stomach gurgling and they have diarrhea? Do they have a pained look on their face and aren’t enthusiastic about eating like normal? Do they ask to go outside and start eating grass?
If your pet has any or all of these symptoms, it’s possible they are experiencing an upset in their gastrointestinal tract. Read on to learn about the signs and treatments of a dog’s upset stomach, and when you should consult your vet.
Sign #1: Your dog’s stomach is gurgling.
The gastrointestinal tract can be quite noisy. Proper digestion can sometimes make noises, and that doesn’t necessarily point to a problem. Some normal reasons for dog stomach gurgling are:
- A change in diet
However, stomach gurgling is something to watch closely because it may be an indicator of a more serious health issue. It can also be a sign that your pup is experiencing a stomach ache.
If you notice your dog’s stomach is gurgling, keep an eye out for any other symptoms. You may also want to examine your pet for any abdominal changes, like swelling or tenderness to the touch.
Sign #2: Eating grass.
Why do dogs eat grass? People have debated whether dogs eat grass when they have an upset stomach—some think dogs eat grass to make them vomit and others think that dogs just like eating grass and then vomit after eating it. It may be both, depending on the dog.
Regardless of the reason your dog is eating grass, make sure the grass isn’t chemically treated. Eating chemically treated grass or poisonous plants will obviously cause more harm and potentially lead to more health issues.
If your dog’s stomach is making noise and they’re eating grass, chances are they have a stomach issue.
Sign #3: Your dog is experiencing behavioral changes.
Some behavioral changes to look for are:
- Excessive salivation
- They’re standing in a praying posture—aka front end on the floor while keeping their rear end raised in the air
- They’re lethargic
- Your normally friendly dog doesn’t want to be touched and is acting upset or irritated
- They look pained and can’t seem to lay down or get comfortable
- Changes in their eating and drinking habits
These can all be subtle signs of a stomach ache.
Sign #4: Vomiting and changes in fecal matter.
Vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most obvious signs that your dog is experiencing stomach trouble. Sometimes this is not an indication of a serious medical condition.
However, there are times when vomiting and diarrhea could mean your pet is experiencing something more serious. A few things to look out for include:
- Inability to keep food down
- Signs of discomfort or pain
- Complete loss of appetite
- Consistently soft stool
- Obvious weight loss or rapid weight loss
Other signs of stomach problems can be constipation or a change in the color of your dog’s stool. If you notice their feces is tar black, bloody or contains mucus, consult your vet immediately.
Sign #5: Excessive gas.
Some dogs tend to have more gas than others. But excessive gas can be a symptom of an upset stomach or bowel problems. If there are no other symptoms, extra gas may just be a side-effect of something your dog ate and no cause for concern.
Tips and Remedies for an Upset Stomach in Dogs
It can be worrying or frustrating when your dog’s tummy is upset. Here are some ideas to help them feel better.
- Rice and Boiled Chicken. This bland meal can provide good nutrition for your dog and can help ease an upset stomach. Make sure the chicken is boneless and there isn’t any seasoning or salt added. Consult your veterinarian before adding any new foods into your pet’s diet to make sure it’s appropriate for them.
- Scrambled eggs and sweet potatoes. This is another protein and carbohydrate combination that is bland enough for your pet to consume with an upset stomach. Make sure the sweet potato is cooked and peeled and there are no added seasonings. And always consult your vet before introducing new foods to your pup.
- Banana or pumpkin. These items can help treat diarrhea. You might give your dog a small amount of plain banana or pumpkin or add some to their food. If you choose to go with canned pumpkin or banana baby food, make sure they have nothing added to them.
- Fasting. Fasting for short amounts of time may flush out toxins and give your dog’s digestive system a rest. While fasting can be very beneficial, do not let your dog go very long without food. Contact your vet regarding this strategy to determine if it’s appropriate and for how long your particular dog can safely fast. Your dog should always have fresh water at all times during the fast to avoid dehydration.
If your dog’s tummy troubles don’t seem to get better after a few days or if your dog has ingested something potentially life-threatening, seek emergency medical treatment or call the pet poison control hotline at 1-855-764-7661 as soon as possible. Being proactive by keeping toxic items away from your dog and closely monitoring your dog’s behavior is the best way to help them maintain good health.
Reasons your dog may get an upset stomach
Just like humans, an upset stomach in dogs can happen for a variety of reasons. Here are some common causes:
- Stress. Animals can experience stress in many ways that humans do. If there have been major changes in your household or if you recently moved, this could cause stress for your pet. When dogs are feeling stressed or anxious, they may exhibit symptoms such as excessive gas or diarrhea. Sometimes dogs get stressed when they’re exposed to loud noises, such as fireworks or are separated from their owners for long periods of time. If you’re taking a trip, long car rides can also cause your pet to have motion sickness. That can cause a queasy stomach and change in behavior.
- A change in diet. Changes in your dog’s eating routine can cause digestive problems. Especially during holidays and family gatherings, make sure your dog stays away from leftover food. It’s also a good idea to keep their feeding times consistent. If you’re switching to a new dog food, make sure there is a transition period. This means that you slowly mix the new food into the old food to give your dog’s digestive system a chance to adjust.
- Ingesting food, drink or medication that is toxic to dogs. Dogs will eat, well…pretty much anything. Unfortunately, items like alcohol, caffeine, medications or certain human foods like grapes or chocolate can be extremely toxic and even deadly. Ingesting human medications can be extremely harmful and may even cause death. If you think your dog has ingested something toxic, don’t wait for signs of stomach upset—call your vet immediately.
- Underlying health problems. While many causes of stomach upset are benign, gastrointestinal trouble can also be a sign of other serious issues, like:
- Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus—aka bloat
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- A gastrointestinal blockage
- Gastrointestinal infection
- An allergy to food
- Liver or kidney disease
- Certain cancers
- Intestinal parasites
When to consult your vet
You should always consult your vet if your dog:
- Is very young or very old
- Has a fever
- Has severe diarrhea and vomiting
- Has blood in their stool or vomit
- Has been displaying symptoms for over 24 hours
- Appears to be worsening
- Refuses to eat or drink and appears dehydrated
- Your dog is experiencing any symptoms of a blockage or bloat
- Is in pain
Don’t hesitate—take your dog to your vet or an emergency clinic immediately. Petco’s Vital Care is the ideal solution for many pet parents. Check out the Merck Veterinary Manual for more information.
What to expect at the vet
When you take your dog in for stomach issues, your vet will most likely perform the following procedures, depending on symptoms:
- A fecal and urinalysis
- A physical examination
- An ultrasound
- An endoscopy
- Intravenous fluid therapy
Depending on the diagnosis, your vet may prescribe medication to take home. This can be antidiarrheal medicines, probiotics, antacids, medications for nausea or medication that can help coat and protect your dog’s stomach lining. They may also want you to change their diet.
If the situation is severe, your vet may also elect to do surgery. This is why you should never wait if your dog is presenting alarming symptoms—when it comes to emergency surgery, every second counts. Bringing your pet in sooner rather than later may also prevent the need for surgery in the first place.
How to prevent an upset stomach in dogs
The best way to treat gastrointestinal problems in pets is to prevent them. Here are some tips:
- Try to keep their diet consistent and change brands slowly to help them adjust
- Try not to skip yearly vet visits
- Talk to your vet about deworming treatments and preventives
- Avoid giving your pet human food and make sure you’re aware of which human food can be toxic to them
- Talk to your vet about ways to reduce your pet’s stress levels
- Keep an eye out for potential toxic items during walks or when visiting a friend or family member
Being proactive about your pet’s health also means being ready for emergencies. Get pet insurance today to have more peace of mind about protecting your pet’s health.