Dogs can get an upset stomach and start vomiting or having diarrhea for what seems like no reason. Maybe the dog got into the neighbor’s garbage or started a new dog food that doesn’t agree with his stomach. The most common cause of canine stomach upset is gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining and intestines. The cause of that inflammation isn’t always readily apparent. However, as long as your adult dog is otherwise healthy and his symptoms are relatively mild, home remedies may settle his stomach. If symptoms worsen or there’s no improvement after the first 24 to 48 hours, it’s time to call the veterinarian for more serious interventions.
Simple Home Remedies for a Dog with an Upset Stomach
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Human or dog, an upset stomach often most dramatically reveals itself in a couple of ways—vomiting and/or diarrhea. The two symptoms can be handled together or separately if only one presents.
Home Remedy for a Dog That’s Vomiting
If the dog vomits more than once and seems to not feel well, withhold food for 12 to 24 hours. Don’t withhold water because you don’t want the dog to get dehydrated. Watch for other symptoms of illness, like lethargy or abdominal pain. If the dog doesn’t show any other symptoms and acts normally, slowly reintroduce his normal diet after the 12- to 24-hour waiting period.
It’s important to note that sometimes dogs eat grass, sticks, or non-toxic plants that cause them to vomit. In these cases, they usually vomit and return to their normal happy selves almost immediately. These instances are generally not a cause of concern. However, you’ll still want to keep an eye on the dog in case any more symptoms appear.
Home Remedies for a Dog with Diarrhea
Diarrhea is a little different. Don’t withhold food or water. Again, it’s important for the dog to stay hydrated. However, many commercial dog foods are high in fats or contain other ingredients which are difficult to digest. 1 Rather than withholding food, switch to a gentle, bland diet. An easily digested mix of boiled white rice with boiled white meat chicken offers a simple option. A ratio of five parts rice to one part chicken works well. Make sure the chicken does not have skin or bones in it.
Start with a small meal, and as long as the dog handles it well, you can feed four to six of them per day. If the dog does well on the bland diet, start feeding him fewer meals of increasing volume and then gradually return your dog to his regular diet after stools have returned to their normal consistency. You can do this by mixing a small portion of regular dog food with a bland meal. Continue to increase the amount of regular food for a week or so until the dog is back on his regular diet.
You can also help your dog by using over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication containing kaolin and pectin to soothe the intestinal tract and firm up stools.2 You can also try probiotic supplements. These supplements help regulate and normalize the balance of “good” versus “bad” bacteria in the dog’s intestines.3 4
If your dog becomes lethargic and weak, he could be suffering from dehydration. Lack of water can also decrease blood flow to the intestines, further slowing recovery. With either vomiting or diarrhea, it’s important to keep the dog hydrated. However, it might be necessary to limit water intake to small portions given frequently, because large volumes of water can trigger more vomiting.
When Is It Time to Call the Veterinarian?
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While home remedies can be effective, sometimes they’re not enough, nor are they always appropriate given a dog’s age or medical condition. For example, puppies are more susceptible to the effects of dehydration. Senior dogs are also at greater risk for complications, as are dogs with chronic diseases or serious health conditions. These dogs may have a compromised immune system or simply don’t have the physical reserves to maintain their health even with a mild case of vomiting or diarrhea. In any of these cases, call the veterinarian for advice on how best to proceed.
No matter the dog’s age, if he shows any of the following symptoms or if the vomiting or diarrhea is severe or worsens, call your veterinarian5:
- Blood in the vomit or stool
- Abdominal pain
- Watery diarrhea
- Dry heaving (trying to vomit but nothing comes up)
The veterinarian will take a thorough history and perform a physical exam. If the cause of the stomach upset isn’t forthcoming, she may also order blood work, fecal examinations, x-rays, and a urinalysis. Specialized laboratory tests, an ultrasound, or exploratory surgery may be necessary in some cases.
The goal is to identify and treat the cause of the stomach upset. However, in the meantime, the veterinarian may prescribe anti-emetics, antidiarrheal medications, and provide fluid therapy to correct or prevent dehydration. If the vomiting and diarrhea continue, the dog may require nutrition through an IV as well.
The symptoms associated with an upset stomach are certainly no fun, but the problem will sometimes resolve on its own. Keep a close eye on your dog and make sure he’s drinking. If symptoms get worse or don’t get better after 24 to 48 hours, call the veterinarian. Be ready to list any other symptoms, the type of food the dog eats, and any medications you’ve given him. With the help of a veterinarian, your dog should be back on his feet soon.
- Cave N. Dietary approach to gastrointestinal disorders–Acute gastroenteritis. World Small Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings. Published 2010. Accessed March 20, 2021.
- Washabau RJ. Antidiarrheal agents. Canine and Feline Gastroenterology. 2013: 445-449. doi: 10.1016/B978-1-4160-3661-6.00034-1
- Herstad HK, Nesheim BB, L’Abee-Lund T, Skancke E. Effects of a probiotic intervention in acute canine gastroenteritis – a controlled clinical trial. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2010; 51(1): 34-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.2009.00853.x
- Jensen AP and Bjornvad CR. Clinical effect of probiotics in prevention or treatment of gastrointestinal disease in dogs: A systemic review. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 2019; 33(5): 1849-1864. doi: 10.1111/jvim.15554
- Defarges A, Blois SL, Hall EJ, Gibson TWG, Mitchell KD. Disorders of the stomach and intestines. Merckvetmanual.com Updated May 2018. Accessed April 21, 2021.