Sometimes a brief change in diet will upset a dog’s stomach. Overindulgence at a holiday like Thanksgiving, for example, could also produce lethargy, diarrhea, or apparent discomfort. These stomach issues will often resolve themselves fairly quickly. While your dog is on the mend, you may be wondering what to feed a sick dog that will help, rather than upset them further.
Note: If symptoms like diarrhea persist beyond 48 hours, or vomiting for more than 24, get in touch with a vet. If it’s just a little case of the over-did-its, try any of these remedies to ease your dog back into wellness and comfort:
Let Your Dog Eat Grass
Let them eat cake! And by cake, we mean grass! Grass is one of those instinctual remedies dogs may go for when they’re feeling unwell. Grass may cause a dog to vomit. This is okay (as long as it’s not on your favorite rug or, heaven forbid, a pillow). Let your dog’s instincts lead you both. If they want to eat grass when they’re not feeling well, if they want to vomit a bit, that may be just what they need to do to feel better. Just make sure to keep them well hydrated. If they vomit more than twice, or persistently eat grass and vomit every time they take a trip outside, call a vet.
Your dog’s kibble may be a bit too rich for them when they have an upset stomach. Try some simple boiled shredded chicken with a bit of white rice, or try some mashed pumpkin. Offer small amounts at a time, rather than a full meal. If they appear eager for more, it’s a good sign. Their tummy might be on the mend. If they’re still dubious, consider a no-salt chicken broth to entice them to eat a bit. Add water to whatever you offer them, as dehydration is the real danger of your average run of the mill upset tummy.
You May Not Have to do Anything
Your nauseated or gassy dog may refuse food. This is not cause for concern in the short term. 24 hours is probably the longest amount of time you should allow to lapse with nothing ingested. 48 hours could be okay if they’re drinking water, but not eating solid foods. Anything beyond that, and you should call your vet.
Check for Dehydration
Lift your dog’s lips and look at their gums. Gums should be pink and slick. That is, wet in appearance instead of dry. If you’re not sure, press on your dog’s gums until you see the color change. Remove your finger, and note how long it takes for color to come back. Color should come back immediately. If it takes a couple of moments, your dog could be dehydrated.
You can also pull at the scruff of their neck, the way a mother animal may lift their young. If the skin snaps back, they should be fine. If it takes a long time for the skin to retract, they could be dehydrated.
How to Prevent and Treat Dehydration
If your dog is showing the above signs of dehydration, it’s time to take their condition seriously. Many people offer their dehydrated dogs unflavored Pedialyte, which is a child’s electrolyte drink. Even if your dog is drinking water, it sometimes isn’t enough, and Pedialyte will help replace electrolytes they may have lost from vomiting. Other dog-friendly products like Rebound may also help.
If they won’t drink it on their own, you may wish to use a feeding syringe (needle-less) to feed them the Pedialyte. Put the syringe into the side of the mouth, between the cheek and gums, and go slowly to prevent your dog from choking or breathing in the liquid. Be careful, take it slowly, and keep them calm. Really sick dogs sometimes don't have the greatest gag reflex, and aspiraton of these liquids can be dangerous.
How much should you give? A dose to help a dog maintain hydration should be at least 15 mL per pound of body weight per day. This can turn out to be quite a bit of fluid to deliver with a syringe, so you may want to divide the dose into 4 a day.
You can also simply take your dog to the vet, where they'll be able to treat dehydrated dogs by delivering fluids under the skin.
OVER THE COUNTER TREATMENTS FOR UPSET STOMACH IN DOGS
Some pet parents offer their pets human Pepto-bismol or Famotidine (Pepcid) for an upset tummy. These over the counter drugs can be safe, if administered minimally, at the proper dose. Be sure to ask your vet what the dosage should be for your dog.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.