We all love our furry buddies, but it’s not so pleasant when they have sensitive systems. Stepping in a warm pile of regurgitated food is enough to frustrate even the most loving pet parent. And sometimes a stinky litter box can’t be concealed, and the problem could require more than a stronger air freshener. Frequent stomach upsets could mean it's time for a new dog food or new cat food.
Maintaining your pet’s digestive health is imperative to their happiness—even if they can’t tell you that. Here are some signs that your furry friend needs a change in food, food routines and/or food brands.
All pets get sick, but when it happens frequently, a change in food brands is necessary. Dogs get sick for a variety of reasons, but frequent vomiting is not typical. Cats like to eat until they’re full, and if they then go for a drink of water, which expands the dry food in kitty’s tummy, it can cause an overload. Filling up the food bowl and leaving for the day could be the root of the problem, so consider your own feeding habits before you blame it all on kitty. Increasing the frequency of feedings can be time consuming, but it can save a lot of time cleaning up the aftermath. Giving less food every four to six hours is likely to decrease the chances that your pet's stomach will overfill. Also, consider restricting water consumption around food times.
If you’ve switched litter brands, tried new types of air fresheners, and still observe an unbearable odor, it's time to try something new. Stinky litter can signal digestive issues. The same goes for digestive upsets that result in loose or irregular bowels: if there’s a problem, it’s likely connected to your pet’s diet.
Not to be confused with bad behavior, a cat or dog that exhibits uncharacteristic lethargy, tiredness, or lack of interest may require a change in foods. Pay attention to your pet’s mood, as it is a good indication of how they are feeling.
Addressing the Problem
Switching foods can be tricky, but it is usually the solution for a sensitive stomach. Sometimes it’s as simple as mixing wet and dry food, or switching from one brand to another. Many dog and cat food brands offer products for sensitive digestion, and you might have to try a few to find the right one. When switching foods, it’s important to make a slow transition. Simply switching foods from one day to the next is more likely to agitate your pet’s system, so be sure to observe their behavior as they adjust to the new food.
Begin by introducing a few pieces of new food into your pet's diet and if all goes well, increase the amount of the new food and decrease the amount of the old. This can be done safely over about a week for most dogs, and up to three weeks for the most finicky cats:
Start with 25% new and 75% old the first week, 50%-50% the second, and 75%-25% the third for picky cats. For dogs, make each transition every two to three days. Cat food specifically designed for sensitive systems will be easier to digest and is usually only a bit more expensive than normal food.
When all else fails, make a trip to the vet. Ignoring ongoing problems like stomach upset can cause serious damage to your pet’s health. While it may seem like your pet’s digestive upsets are “normal,” there may be underlying issues that are more severe than a simple stomach bug. Talk to your vet about what’s best for your pet, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about specific problems. Tell your vet what is typical for your pet, the basics of their diet, and any other issues they may be having. The more information the vet has, the more likely you'll receive an accurate diagnosis.
It can be frustrating to maintain your pet’s health when they can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong. Instead, look to their behavior. If they are sluggish or lethargic, there might be something wrong with their digestive system that only a veterinarian can diagnose. Schedule regular checkups for your furry friend to help prevent problems before they occur. Even if it takes some effort to calm your cat or dog’s sensitive stomach, it can be done, and they will be endlessly thankful. Remember, a healthy pet is a happy pet!
More on Pet Food and Diet
Your Dog Food Questions Answered
Is Your Cat a Picky Eater?
When to Take a Cat to the Vet
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.