We always want our pets to be happy and this comes right down to the food we feed them. While dog’s have a great appetite, they are also not immune to certain intolerances or sensitivities towards certain ingredients that can cause a stomach upset, just like we can develop. It can be really difficult to see your dog in pain or suffering, and switching their food if you suspect they do have a sensitive stomach can be a quick and easy fix. You may notice your dog has loose or watery stools or has lost their appetite or, even worse, is vomiting — but what it is exactly that’s making them feel sick?
Below we have compiled a buying guide giving you all the information you need about your dog’s sensitive stomach including possible causes, how to determine whether your dog is intolerant, ingredients to stay away from and, lastly, our top picks for dog food’s that should be easy on your canine friend’s stomach.
What Causes A Sensitive Stomach In Dogs?
The cause of a sensitive stomach in dogs can be a number of things, just like there are many causes for sensitive stomachs in humans. It can be difficult to determine what exactly it is that is causing this pain within your doggie and you may need help from your veterinarian to be one hundred percent sure. However, some causes are more common than others.
This is pretty broad, but it relates to any of the ingredients in your dog’s diet not being digested and absorbed properly. Unfortunately, almost all the foods in your dog’s diet have the ability to be the cause of this and it can be difficult to determine which one is the ingredient that is not being digested or absorbed. If you suspect it might be a food intolerance, then you may need to take your pup to the vet to get checked over and they will be able to give them a more thorough exam.
A lactose intolerance is an intolerance to all dairy foods, which is pretty common in humans too. This can include milk and cheese. If your dog cannot digest lactose found in diary products, then it will be passed to their stool in their whole form.
A gluten intolerance is another one that is also common in humans. It means your dog’s stomach does not have the ability to break down gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in many grains, like wheat. Today it is more common than not to find a dog food that is grain-free and made without corn and soy, so if you suspect your dog has a gluten intolerance switching them to a new food should be easy. Similarly, if your dog is already on a grain-free food and they are still showing signs of intolerance, then you can rule gluten out as the cause.
Just as some humans can experience diarrhea when they eat fruits, so can dogs. Fructose malabsorption relates to not being able to digest fruits properly, which lead to a very upset stomach and soft stools.
Disruption Of Normal Intestinal Flora
Your dog’s intestine is full of a variety of bacteria that help to break down any food they eat. They produce a variety of substance that aid your dog’s digestion. However, when there is a disruption of your dog’s normal intestinal flora, this bacteria can be overwhelmed by other bacteria that can bring disease, resulting in less digestion-friendly substances and problems with your dog’s digestion and absorption.
How To Determine If Your Dog Has A Sensitive Stomach
If you want to determine for sure that your dog has a sensitive stomach and what the cause is, you will need to visit your vet. Because there are so many variations of issues that can arise when your dog has a sensitive stomach and so many causes of the problems, while you may be able to figure out what you need to take out of your dog’s food, you will need to visit a vet to get a proper diagnosis of what is actually wrong. They will do some tests and be able to give your dog a thorough evaluation, and will also be able to advise what food is going to be best for your pup.
If you suspect your dog has a sensitive stomach, there are a few symptoms you should look out for. These include:
- Loose, watery stool
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Poor body condition
- Loss of weight or not gaining weight as expected
Ingredients In Dog Food That Could Cause A Sensitive Stomach
Now you know what the symptoms of a sensitive stomach are and the causes, it is important to look at the specific ingredients found in dog food that could be upsetting your dog’s digestion. As we mentioned above, if you want a precise answer, you should visit your vet and they will be able to determine what the exact cause is.
We mentioned above that a lactose intolerance is very common in both humans and dogs. A lactose intolerance is when your dog cannot digest lactose because they lack the enzyme lactase. If your dog suffers with this issue then they will be unable to digest any food with dairy in it.
If your dog has a gluten intolerance then they will not be able to digest gluten, which is the protein found in grains. This grains include wheat, corn and soy. Luckily, there are many dog foods out there on the market that are grain-free, so you can easily switch your pup to one of these.
Fruits contain the sugar fructose and some dogs do not have the ability to digest fructose due to the fact that they lack certain carrier molecules in their small intestine. This results in higher levels of fructose in their gut which can in turn lead to loose, watery stools and diarrhea.
What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For A Sensitive Stomach?
Once you have determined your dog has a sensitive stomach, you will want to know what type of food you should be feeding them. Of course, this depends largely on the cause of your dog’s upset stomach, but below we have listed some of the factors you should consider when looking for a sensitive dog food.
Although this is not a food allergy, it has been proven that lowering the amount of protein in a dog’s diet can help with a sensitive stomach. This is due to the protein’s larger size, which can result in more work for your dog’s stomach while trying to digest them. This can be especially important if your dog is already having trouble digesting proteins, because if your dog’s diet is rich in protein they are not going to be able to digest all of it. Therefore, lowering the amount of proteins present can help your dog’s digestive system to work more efficiently.
Similarly to the low protein point we mentioned above, choosing a food with a single protein can also benefit dog’s who struggle to digest proteins. Having a smaller number of protein sources can help your dog’s digestive system to work a lot better.
The reason for having limited ingredients in your dog’s food if they have a sensitive stomach is quite simple. Fewer ingredients, fewer causes of an upset stomach. If you choose a food with fewer, gentler ingredients, you will be sure to see a change in your dog’s digestion. Of course, your dog still needs a well-rounded and balanced diet so you shouldn’t limit their diet too much, but if you take out any unnecessary additives it may help with your dog’s stomach.
Digestible Proteins And Carbohydrates
You want to make sure that all the ingredients in your dog’s food, especially the proteins and carbohydrates, are digestible and easy on your dog’s stomach. Of course there are exceptions but most dogs digest chicken, lamb, brown rice and potatoes pretty well so it could be worth looking for a dog food with these ingredients.
We have mentioned this already, but grains are a source of gluten which some dogs can’t digest. These grains can include wheat, corn and soy. If your dog can’t digest these, you will need to put them on a grain-free diet. Luckily, there are many grain-free foods out there for you to choose from.
This goes hand in hand with the limited ingredient recommendation above. While many dog owners like to spoil their dogs with special proteins or special fruits and vegetables, if your dog has a sensitive stomach then a blander composition is going to be better for them. If you pick a food that has simple proteins, like chicken, and some rice, then the chances are your dog is going to be able to digest this much better.
Probiotics can help to aid your dog’s digestion process by ensuring their is a balance of the good and bad bacteria in their gut. This will ensure their digestion is a lot more efficient and so a dog food that includes probiotics can be especially great for dealing with sensitive stomachs. You could also look for ingredients such as pumpkin or a high-fiber diet that could help to harden up your dog’s stools.
If you’re ready to find the best food for your dog’s sensitive stomach, take a look at the ones we recommend below, all available to you on Amazon.
The Best Dog Food For A Sensitive Stomach
The Lucy Pet Formulas for Life dry dog food is formulated for dog’s with sensitive stomachs and to promote gut health and digestive health. Designed for puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs of small and large breeds to live and be healthy, each piece of kibble contains all the essential nutrients. Because this food is made for sensitive stomachs it will ensure a strong immune system for your pup and there is also prebiotic balanced fiber to maintain a healthy gut.
High-quality wild caught deboned Alaskan salmon rich in omega-3 fatty acids not only makes sure your dog is eating enough protein but also helps with healthy skin, coat and proper body function. Pumpkin is also present, which helps support healthy digestion, and quinoa is a digestible seed that is rich in protein. Even better, there is taurine for vision and heart health and antioxidants for the immune system. All the ingredients are sourced in the USA and the food is grain-free. It is also free from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
This grain-free dry dog food from Hill’s Science Diet is formulated for dogs with a sensitive stomach and skin, and supports digestive health and skin health for adult dogs. With a grain-free formula, this food is easily digestible for better nutrient absorption and stool pick up, making it both easier on your dog and on you. Chicken is the number one ingredient in this dog food, with no chicken by-product meal and only natural ingredients made in the USA.
There is prebiotic fiber to support beneficial gut bacteria and a balanced microbiome as well as vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids for a silky smooth coat and healthy skin. With clinically proven antioxidants and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, you know your dog is getting only the best food. This food is formulated with little dogs in mind to provide an optimal balance of nutrients specifically for miniature and toy breed dogs.
The CANIDAE All Life Stages dry dog food is crafted from lamb meal providing an optimal level of protein for all breeds and sizes, helping your dog to maintain healthy muscles and energy. Rice is a wholesome grain that is present, and is easy on your dog’s stomach and should not upset their digestion. This food is crafted without any corn, wheat or soy and there are health benefits in every bite of the kibble. These include probiotics that are added to every kibble after cooking to support healthy digestion and antioxidants to support a healthy immune system.
Also present are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support healthy skin and a shiny coat. Because this food is nutrient dense you can actual feed less of it to your dog per day, saving you money. It is made in the USA too, so you can be sure it is safe for your doggie to eat. There are also five different variations of this food for you to choose from.
Purina Pro Plan’s FOCUS Sensitive Skin & Stomach dry dog is formulated to support your dog’s total well-being. Salmon is the number one ingredient and an excellent source of protein. Four of the other main ingredients include fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids to support joint health and mobility, oatmeal, which is easily digestible and gentle on your dog’s stomach, sunflower oil, rich in omega-6 fatty acids to support a healthy skin and coat and, lastly, natural prebiotic fiber that promotes digestive health by nourishing intestinal “friendly” bacteria.
There is no poultry or poultry by-product meal, perfect if you suspect this might be the ingredient that upsets your dog’s stomach, and also no corn, wheat or soy or artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. There are a number of other flavors for your dog to try in the sensitive skin and stomach range, as well as a wet dog food is your dog has trouble staying hydrated.
This Natural Balance L.I.D wet chicken and sweet potato dog food uses a simple formula that limits the ingredients in your dog’s diet to help minimize the chance of food sensitivities. This food is designed to give complete and balanced nutrition to puppies, adults and seniors, which is perfect if you have a multi-pet household and you want to put your dog’s on the same food. Chicken in this dog food is high in protein for strong and healthy muscles and, with sweet potatoes another prominent ingredient, this food is highly-digestible and potassium rich, great for those dogs with difficulty digesting certain food.
There are no grains and no fillers, perfect if your dog is allergic to them or showing signs of intolerance. The balanced essential vitamins and minerals ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients they need, alongside omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that support healthy skin and a shiny coat. There are no artificial colors or flavors, either. This food comes in different flavors, including duck, fish, venison, buffalo and lamb.
The Limited Ingredient Diet dry dog food From Blue Buffalo Basics features a single animal protein source with real turkey as the first ingredient, along with potatoes, peas and pumpkin to support gentle digestion in senior dogs. This limited ingredient diet doesn’t contain any chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy or eggs, making it a good option senior dogs with food sensitivities. Plus, it contains carefully balanced protein and carbohydrates to help your dog maintain an ideal body weight while providing the energy senior dogs need to stay active. Pea and pumpkin aid in gentle digestion, too.
It also contains Blue’s exclusive LifeSource Bits – a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support immune system health, life stage requirements, and a healthy oxidative balance. Glucosamine and chondroitin are present to support joint function and overall mobility, and DHA, an important fatty acid, helps maintain healthy cognitive and retinal function. There are no artificial flavors or preservatives and it features only the finest natural ingredients.
This Purina Pro Plan FOCUS food is the wet dog food version of the Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin & Stomach dry dog we mentioned earlier. Perfect if your dog has trouble drinking from their water bowl or you are worried about their hydration, this wet dog food ensures your canine friend is keeping their moisture levels up as they eat. With nutrient-rich salmon as the number on ingredient and an excellent source of protein, this food helps to keep your dog’s muscles in great condition while also being easy to digest.
Linoleic acid, an omega fatty acid, helps to support his healthy skin and coat and highly digestible carbohydrates, including rice, are gentle on your dog’s stomach and digestive tract. Designed for adult dogs it is great for maintaining a strong immune system, too. It is also made without wheat or soy, or artificial colors or flavors. As stated above, you can also buy this food in other flavors and in a dry food version too.
Perfect for small dogs, this Royal Canin Canine Digestive Care dry dog food is formulated for small dogs 10 months and older weighing up to 22 lbs with a sensitive stomach. This food promotes healthy digestion with an optimal blend of highly digestible proteins, prebiotics, and dietary fiber for the best possible nutrient absorption. Helping to support common digestive problems this food can be great for getting your dog’s stools back to normal, and it helps to aid digestion by supporting a balanced intestinal flora so your dog’s stomach can get back to normal too.
The great taste of this food satisfies the appetite of even the fussiest dogs and the small crunchy kibble pieces help with your dogs dental health, cleaning their teeth as they chew. You can also mix this food with wet dog to mix up different textures, so your dog gets the best of both worlds!
In this Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Sensitive Systems dog food, salmon is the first ingredient. With 0% fillers and 100% nutrition, this food gives your dog complete and balanced nutrition with natural vitamins and minerals. This protein-rich crunch kibble is highly-digestible, helping not only your dog’s stomach but also ensuring their stools are smaller and firmer. It also helps to promote strong muscles and a healthy heart, ensuring your dog stays active at all stages of their adult life.
With omega-6 fatty acids this food ensures healthy skin and a shiny coat and it is supported by an antioxidant blend of vitamins E and A and minerals zinc and selenium for a strong immune system. With a natural source of glucosamine you can be sure that your dog’s joints are kept healthy and the crunchy kibble helps to keep their teeth clean as they chew. This gentle ingredient blend has no artificial colors or flavors, either. It also comes in a few other flavors too — great if your dog is picky.
Perfect for sensitive stomachs, Holistique Blendz is carefully formulated with a balance of ocean fish meal, healthy whole grains like pearled barley, and a unique blend of whole superfoods. Designed for adult and senior dogs, this potato free and all natural protein formula gives mature dogs the food they need, while providing the flavors they crave. This food is made with easily digestible single source protein, probiotics and balanced fiber to promote healthy digestion.
There are also minerals like calcium, phosphorus and sodium present and fiber-rich prebiotics, patented, protected living probiotics that stay alive and viable until consumed, support your dog’s gut health and overall immune support. Omega fatty acids help keep your dog’s skin healthy and their coat shiny, too, and there are superfoods such as carrots, pumpkins and blueberries that provide antioxidants to help feed the good bacteria in your dog’s stomach. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives added and no corn, wheat or soy. The kibble sizes are small for dog’s of all sizes.
The Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet dog food is made with only one protein and one vegetable — lamb and peas. The grass-fed lamb is a nutrient-rich easily digestible protein that provides all of the essential amino acids for your dog to ensure their muscles and heart stay strong. Because this food is made without chicken, beef or fish as well as no grain, dairy, eggs, sweet potato, potato, chickpeas, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or preservatives, it is perfect for those dogs with sensitive stomachs who need a special diet to ensure their digestive system works at it’s best.
There are omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat and antioxidants are also present to help boost your pup’s immune system. Each piece of kibble is coated in freeze dried raw for nutrition and taste, making it protein-packed and minimally processed. This food is made in the USA with the finest ingredients from around the world. There are three other flavors for you to choose from too — duck, salmon and turkey.
Another Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet dry dog food, this food is designed for adults. Similar to the senior Blue Buffalo dog food we mentioned above, this food features a single animal protein source to promote easy digestion. Made with real salmon as the first ingredient, potatoes, peas and pumpkin are also present to support gentle digestion in your dog without the grains that contain gluten. This limited ingredient food doesn’t contain any chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy, dairy or eggs making it a good option for dogs with food sensitivities.
Plus, it’s specifically formulated with essential proteins and carbohydrates to help meet energy requirements and promote a healthy lifestyle, just like the senior dog food. It also contains Blue’s exclusive LifeSource Bits which are antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support immune system health, life stage requirements and a healthy oxidative balance. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids promote healthy skin and coat and and there are no artificial flavors or preservatives. This food comes in a few other flavors too, including duck, lamb and turkey.
This Nature’s Recipe Easy to Digest wet dog food is made with high quality lamb, a protein source that is gentle on your dog’s stomach yet still supports lean body weight and healthy muscle growth. This easy-to digest stew is also formulated with wholesome rice and barley, which are both highly digestible sources of carbohydrates for energy, keeping your dog active no matter what age they are. Tasty peas and carrots that are also present are high in beneficial antioxidants too, giving your dog complete and balanced nutrition and there are added vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
This formula avoids any foods that could cause a stomach upset within your pup, including wheat, corn and beef, so you know your pet is only eating foods that sit well with them. There are also no artificial flavors or preservatives. This food also comes in a chicken, barley and rice recipe too.
This AvoDerm Food Intolerance and Sensitivities dry dog food is grain free and made with limited ingredients. With duck as the first ingredient, not only is this is a great source of protein for healthy muscles but it is also the only animal protein ingredient, limiting the amount of animal protein your dog has to digest and helping to minimize food sensitivity. This recipe is grain free and gluten free, helping to provide a balanced diet, too. In the AvoDerm food, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids come from California sourced avocados and avocado oil which have nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and polynutrients to help promote good healthy and a healthy skin and coat that shows.
The special thing about AvoDerm recipes is that each version of their food is consistent with protein and starch levels and the same amount of nutrients, meaning that you can switch up your dog’s food and put them on a rotational diet. This means they could have turkey today and lamb tomorrow, giving your canine friend variety. In these foods there are also no by-product meals and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
This Whole Earth Farms Grain Free dog food recipe is crafted to support the nutritional needs throughout all life stages of your dog. With real wholesome, rich proteins of pork, beef and lamb, this is a dog food that provides all the nutrients and natural goodness your dog needs. There are also healthy fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, flaxseed and apples to give your dog essential vitamins and minerals, helping to keep them healthy and supporting their immune system. Also included in this food are flavorful dried blueberries, rosemary, sage and thyme.
There is no corn, wheat or soy, as well as no poultry by-product meal or artificial colors or flavors, so you do need to worry about a grain or gluten intolerance. This food is also poultry-free, which is great if you suspect your dog might be suffering from a common poultry allergy too. All the natural ingredients in this food combine together to support easier digestibility, less shedding, shinier coat, increased energy, stronger nails and healthier skin. The Whole Earth Farms dog food also comes in a chicken and turkey, salmon and whitefish and turkey and duck flavors.
This Wellness Simple Natural Grain Free dog food has limited ingredients and is therefore designed to be more easily digestible to dogs who have sensitivities, allergies or intolerances to certain ingredients. This is another recipe why only one protein source, limiting the amount of proteins your dog needs to digest. The protein in this meal comes from real, high-quality salmon that gives great energy levels and ensure your pup’s muscles stay healthy.
Carbohydrates, such as potatoes, as well as prebiotic fiber and probiotics promote healthy digestion too. There is also flaxseed, chicory root and canola oil in this recipe that contain fatty acids to nourish skin and help support the healthy growth of your dog’s fur. There are no meat by-products, no wheat-gluten, no corn, no soy, no dairy, no eggs and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives present in this food. Therefore, you can be sure you are feeding your dog food that isn’t going to upset their stomach.
This Wellness Simple Natural Grain Free dog food is very similar to the other Wellness Simple Natural food we have mentioned above, except this food is a wet food. Wet food can be particularly great for dog’s who do not drink enough or have trouble retaining moisture. If you are worried about your dog’s hydration levels, this food can help to restore some of the water they are missing. This food is also a limited ingredient diet with only one protein, expect this protein is real, high-quality turkey. With only one protein to digest it is much easier on your dog’s sensitive stomach and makes it easy to digest.
Potatoes are present here as a carbohydrate to promote healthy digestion, alongside chicory root, which is a natural prebiotic and flaxseed that ensures your dog is getting omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat. All the ingredients in this food are natural and there is no wheat, corn, soy, gluten or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. It is also made in the USA.
How Should I Switch My Dog’s Food To One For A Sensitive Stomach?
If you decide to switch your dog’s food to one better suited for their sensitive stomach, or any other food, remember to do this gradually. If you change it over instantly you can upset your dog’s stomach even more because they won’t be used to the food. The best way to transition any food is to do it over a period of time. For example, if you normally give your pet 2 cups of food, you can give them 1.5 cups of the old food and 0.5 cups of the new food for the first three to five days and see how they take to the new food, watching out for any bad reactions.
Then you can slowly transition this to 1 cup of the old food and 1 cup of the new food over the next few days, then 1.5 cups of the new food and 0.5 of the old, until your dog is comfortable just eating the new food.
If you suspect your dog has a sensitive stomach or is struggling to digest certain foods, it can be really difficult as a dog owner to determine what to do next. While you should definitely take a trip to the vet to get your dog checked over and get some proper answers about what is causing your dog’s sensitive stomach, you can also start to work out for yourself what may be causing the issue by switching their food.
Staying away from grains if you suspect they might be gluten intolerant or picking a food without dairy products if you think they may be lactose intolerant can be a great way to start determining what is wrong. Whatever you think the issue may be, one of the foods in the list above can help to keep your dog’s digestive system working at it’s best.