Tummy upset happens, and there can be many reasons for it! I have found with all of the many issues my past dogs have had over the years that tummy troubles respond best a natural diet and to natural remedies.
My first dog, Brindel had SO many tummy issues when she was a puppy. We tried everything with her, and we were told by the vet that she had IBD and we’d have to deal with it. According to them, their vet kibble diets should have taken care of her issues, but they never did.
Eventually, switching her to a raw diet, and trying a few of the options below ultimately worked! She lived a long, healthy life relatively free of tummy problems. She taught me A LOT about how to handle a dog’s upset tummy!
IMPORTANT: if your dog has chronic diarrhea it’s very important to have them examined by a Veterinarian. You don’t want to risk dehydration or something more serious.
6 Common Causes of Diarrhea
The following are some of the most common causes of diarrhea I’ve seen with my pet food client’s pups.
Giardia is an intestinal disorder caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia. It can be contracted from swimming in (i.e. drinking) untreated water such as the water found in streams, ponds or rivers.
If you suspect your dog has Giardia, take them to their veterinarian for treatment along with a recent stool sample for testing. Also see Grapefruit Seed Extract below for prevention.
Although most dogs used to a rotational diet can switch to a new food with ease, if your dog has a major food change or is not used to new diets, they can get diarrhea.
Try a gradual switch over to a new food, or add a digestive support supplement like Adored Beasts’ Healthy Gut during a food transition or switch. See Below.
Indulging in too many treats or too much food may lead to loose stools or diarrhea. Very often pet parents will come into my store targeting the food for causing these issues, but when we dig deeper we find that the dog recently had a very large bone, or started training classes, or that the kids have been sneaking Fido extra goodies that drastically increased his food intake.
I have two tips for preventing diarrhea caused by overeating:
- On days when your pup has had a lot of training treats, or a large bone or bully stick, reduce your dog’s food serving. If you are training at home, you can very often get away with using their dry kibble (if you feed kibble of course) to treat them. Simply portion off part of their serving into a training pouch or opaque container (as to not let in the light) and tell the family they are to train or reward using treats from that container only and once it’s gone for the day, it’s gone. Dry kibble usually won’t cut it for training in highly distracting areas, so in these cases simply cut back on food for that day and feed your high value treats.
- Check your food label and use the lower end of the portion size recommendation. AAFCO requirements may cause a pet food manufacturer to have to list a larger serving size than what’s actually required. Most dogs are fine to use the “less active” serving size recommendation. Weight will always be the best indicator of wether you are feeding too much or too little. Here’s an ideal weight chart to help you decide if your dog is overweight.
Side Note: Gas can also be caused by overeating so you can try these strategies for that as well.
Don’t you love it when the snow thaws and uncovers all of those disgusting surprises that your dog feels compelled to sample? Or, you leave your pup home for a few hours only to come home to tipped over garbage can with contents that’ve been partially devoured?
These situations almost always lead to an upset stomach and require some intervention.
Medications like antibiotics not only strip your dog’s gut of bad bacteria, but they also wipe out the good! We need this good bacteria to keep the bad at bay, so replenishing it is essential for gut health.
Vaccinations, dewormers, etc can also create stress on the immune system. Since 60-80% (I have heard all the numbers in between) of your dog’s immune system “resides” in their gut, it’s often required we give the gut a boost with pre/probiotics during and after medication. See Below.
Good or Bad Stress
Stress of any kind (good or bad!) can cause digestive upset. Think of a time you maybe were excited to travel, or maybe before an exam when your bowels may have gotten the better of you. The same thing can happen to dogs.
If there have been major changes in the household (divorce, death, move), travel, or even a kennel stay your dog may get the runs.
In these situations managing their stress levels and treating the symptoms with some of the suggestions listed below may help.
Treatment Suggestions for an Upset Tummy
IMPORTANT AND WORTH MENTIONING AGAIN: if your dog has chronic diarrhea it’s very important to have them examined by a Veterinarian. You don’t want to risk dehydration or something more serious.
If you are sure it’s just a short term issue, here are some of my most tried and true ways to get your dog’s bowels back on track!
12-24 Hour Fast
Sometimes a break from digesting food is all the body needs to heal and kick the shit out of diarrhea. (I had to!) Try skipping the evening meal and then feeding a bland diet for a few days (see potato diet below) to see if your pup’s guts recover.
If you are like me and fasting your dog breaks your heart, try feeding a small amount homemade broth for one meal – just so your dog will stop giving you those puppy-dog eyes!
IMPORTANT: Always consult with your Veterinarian to be sure your pet is healthy enough for fasting. Fatty liver disease can affect an overweight cat that’s been fasted for example, so always check with your Vet first.
Pumpkin is a wonderful bowel balancer. The extra fibre seems to work magic for poop that is both too runny or too firm. It’s a great long term solution for dogs that are on quality diets, but still have issues with loose stools.
You can feed up to 1 tablespoon per 10 lbs of body weight daily. Choose to top your dog’s favourite food with it, or freeze it into single serving sizes in ice cube trays and serve frozen. If your dog is small and overweight, you can try replacing part of their food portion with pumpkin. It’s filling, but low in calories so it could be helpful in a weight loss regime.
Tip: When shopping for pumpkin, be sure to find pure pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie mix that’s filled with unnecessary ingredients.
If your pup has recently been medicated, or stressed, their gut flora could be out of whack. A good quality probiotic can help repopulate the gut with good bacteria which are essential for a healthy gut and strong immune system.
Tip: when looking for a probiotic, be sure it also contains PREbiotics. Prebiotics are “food” for probiotics and they increase the effectiveness of the probiotic supplement. Also when comparing brands, make sure you compare the CFU (colony forming units). The higher the CFU are, the better. One product may look more expensive on the surface, but actually have smaller and more potent serving sizes and last you much longer.
Digestive enzymes are necessary for breaking down and unlocking the vitamins and minerals in your pet’s food for effective absorption.
While fresh foods naturally contain enzymes, they can deplete quickly with improper storage, heat, pesticides, etc. Things such as aging and environmental pollutants and medications can also deplete digestive enzymes.
If your pet is on a processed or cooked diet, they are very likely getting no digestive enzyme support from their food, which means supplementation may not only be beneficial, but necessary!
Slippery Elm/Marshmallow Root
Slippery Elm is a species of elm native to North America. Its inner bark has been used for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes. When water is added to the powdered bark, it becomes slippery and gooey (like snot!) – hence its name.
In cases where a dog’s gut is really irritated, slippery elm can coat the digestive tract and allow food to pass without re-irritating the lining. This is the same reason slippery elm can be found in many natural throat lozenges.
Marshmallow Root is a herb with similar benefits and properties to Slippery Elm.
You can find slippery elm and marshmallow root on their own in health food stores for humans or pets. You can also find them in combination with other gut enhancing products like the one recommended below.
Adored Beast Gut Soothe for treating an irritated gut – contains enzymes, pre/probiotics, slippery elm and marshmallow root.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
If your dog swims or is notorious for eating anything and everything he finds, you can add a supplement called Grapefruit Seed Extract to his food or water during the summer months to help combat protozoa, bacteria, yeast and some viruses.
Grapefruit Seed Extract has been called a “natural” antibiotic and is nontoxic and hypoallergenic. It’s got many uses for people and pets and is a must have in your medicine cabinet.
Nutribiotic Grapefruit Seed Extract
Side note: If you are planning a trip to Mexico, take your GSE with you and add it to your fancy drinks and anything containing water or ice!!
The Potato Diet
Years ago I read this amazing recipe for dogs with diarrhea found in “The Nature of Animal Healing” by Dr. Martin Goldstein. I had a dog with chronic diarrhea that I tried it on when she got bad and it worked quite well. Here it is:
- 50% Peeled White Potatoes
- 50% Peeled Sweet Potatoes
- A slice of turnip
- A slice of leek
Boil all of the above ingredients, mash and mix with boiled chicken or lamb for flavour.
You may notice it’s a pretty loose recipe, but that’s ok it doesn’t have to be exact. If you make too much, keep some in the freezer for emergencies. Feed it for a few days until things are back on track again!
Try adding Adored Beast Gut Soothe to the Potato Diet for treating an irritated gut – contains enzymes, probiotics, and slippery elm.
Side Note: Dr. Goldstein will be speaking at the upcoming Raw Pet Health Conference in Saskatoon Saskatchewan in September of this year!
In an ideal world – MY protocol
If you came to me and asked me what I would recommend for most dogs with acute diarrhea, and you were open to EVERYTHING, this is what I would suggest if it was my dog:
- Skip dinner for one day (first ensuring you’d ok that with your Vet).
- Feed The Potato Diet above for the next few days.
- Mix the Adored Beasts’ Gut Soothe in with each of these meals (use until the container is empty).
- Switch to a raw food diet, or a Limited Ingredient dry food if your pet is prone to diarrhea. Eliminate corn, wheat, soy and anything of that nature from their diet.
- Supplement with a digestive enzyme/pre and probiotic indefinitely once the Gut Soothe is gone.
You know if you’ve followed me for any amount of time that there is a huge quality different in many of the foods on the market. You may find that the Tail Blazers ingredient dictionary is helpful when label reading potential foods. Also, be sure that most if not all of the ingredients listed before the fat ingredient in your dog’s food are meat. And when I say meat, I mean it should identify the animal source like, “lamb, chicken, bison” NOT an unidentified “meat meal”.
I hope you’ve found a few nuggets of info here that might help you with your dog’s next bought of digestive upset! If you are in Calgary, Canada feel free to pop in our store, Tail Blazers – Copperfield, and we can give you hand resolving any issues!