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10 Dog Upset Stomach Symptoms to Look Out For

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Sick dog with hot water bottle

If your pup looks distressed or in discomfort, there’s a good likelihood it has a stomach upset. Canine digestive problems are quite prevalent compared to other health concerns commonly treated by vets. In a study conducted in 2013 on 2,376 diseased canines, 1,344 (56.5%) suffered from digestive issues.

While your furry friend cannot communicate, some behavioral patterns or symptoms can help you piece up the puzzle to unveil potential tummy issues.

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Here are 10 dog upset stomach symptoms to look out for:

1. Vomiting & Diarrhea

One of the no-brainer signs of a stomach upset is vomiting and diarrhea. You can get clues about the health concern of your pup by checking the color and consistency of its vomit and poop. While the job is not pretty, a piece of plastic in the stool, for instance, will let you know that your furry friend is ill because of what it consumed.

dog vomiting
Image Credit: Mumemories, Shutterstock

2. Loss of Appetite

Dogs have full appetites and are often not picky eaters. When your dog is healthy, its stomach produces ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates a hunger response. The hormone sends out appetite-suppressing neurons when your canine has an upset stomach.

If your furry friend is turning down food it likes, this doesn’t necessarily mean it has a health concern. However, there’s reason to suspect a stomach upset if the symptom persists.

3. Rumbles

It is expected for a canine’s tummy to occasionally produce some noise as food goes through the digestive tract. However, if you notice a gurgling sound that persists for more than a few minutes, your pup likely has indigestion.

Canines produce more massive amounts of stomach acids than humans. Their digestive systems can break down even foods considered indigestible, although it may take longer. Indigestion often resolves itself without medication, although you should visit your vet if symptoms persist or bouts of diarrhea follow the tummy rumbles.

sick german shepherd dog unable to play
Image Credit: Ivor Ilic, Pixabay

4. Bloated Stomach

Another symptom to look for if you suspect your pup has a stomach upset is a bloated tummy. This symptom is often accompanied by an increase in passing gas. Even though flatulence (passing gas) is normal, excess gas usually indicates a tummy issue.

It could be that your pup enjoyed a diet high in indigestible carbohydrates or fermentable fiber. If you have not made any recent dietary changes, you may be dealing with a severe underlying issue like tummy inflammation or a bacterial or parasitic stomach infection.

5. Nausea

So, how do you tell if your dog is nauseated?

Increased saliva production is the main sign that your pup is nauseated and on the verge of vomiting. Saliva has mild alkaline properties that help to neutralize the harsh acids in vomit. The body triggers an increase in saliva production when your dog is about to vomit to protect the throat and teeth from potentially damaging acids.

An increase in saliva production or hypersalivation is not always notable unless your canine is drooling. Some dogs don’t drool even when nauseated, meaning you must look for other signs of hypersalivation.

These signs may include:
  • Lip-smacking
  • Lip licking
  • Gulping
chihuahua vomiting
Image Credit: suchinan, Shutterstock

6. Excessive Burping

Food aggression can make a dog burp, especially if it tends to eat too fast. As it gulps down the food, your dog will also ingest air, causing it to belch. While burping is not always a sign of a stomach upset, it may indicate that something is amiss, especially when followed by vomiting.

Increased belching can signify gastritis and indicate that food within your dog’s gastrointestinal tract is moving backward instead of forward. The back pressure also pushes air out through the mouth because of decreased food mobility. Persistent waste accumulation in the tummy can cause other severe health issues, including inflammatory bowel disease.

7. Assuming a Praying Position

If you see your pup stretching out with its head low, chest down, and the bottom in the air, it could be that it’s playing. Also, your furry friend could be experiencing stomach pains, especially if it assumes this position for extended periods. This would indicate an attempt to reduce abdominal pain or pressure caused by tummy bloating.

Black labrador is stretching in a garden
Image Credit: Mattia B, Shutterstock

8. Lethargy or Restlessness

A canine experiencing abdominal pain or discomfort can also show restlessness or lethargy. Both signs may seem poles apart, although they often indicate a single problem.

If your pup is moving around too much, jumping on stuff, or just climbing up or down the stairs while maintaining a stiff gait, it could be trying to relieve tummy pain. If this does not seem to help and the concern persists, the dog will likely lie down while constantly changing its sleeping position.

When a stomach upset makes your dog restless, you should act immediately and visit your vet. This is often a sign of severe pain sometimes caused by potentially deadly abdominal bloats.

9. Growling When You Touch the Belly

If your pup tightens its belly or starts to growl when you touch its tummy, it could be that it has a severe stomach upset. Some dogs will even guard their tummy and show signs of aggression if you insist on touching them.

If your furry friend is also restless, it is imperative to seek emergency healthcare services. Other behavioral changes allied with an upset stomach include acting overly clingy to seek attention or acting distant and not wanting any interactions.

dog laying gets a massage
Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

10. Licking Surfaces

A dog that desperately wants to vomit will seem to have an appetite for indigestible stuff. It will lick surfaces like the floor, carpet, and doors in search of fibers that can make it throw up.

If the canine is outdoors, it will eat grass to make itself vomit. You have reason to suspect a stomach upset, especially if the pup also shows other symptoms like drooling or lip-smacking.

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Effective Remedies for a Stomach Upset in Canines

Dogs experience pain in almost similar degrees to humans. However, their genetic wiring and evolutionary past make them suppress signs of pain or distress. If your furry friend is at the point of exhibiting signs of abdominal aches or discomfort, it is crucial to visit a vet if the symptoms persist. Most signs of stomach upsets subside, although there’s much you can do to accelerate pain relief.

Here are a few remedies that could work.

Veterinarian holds a dog in his hands and touches his stomach
Image By: Alice Rodnova, Shutterstock

A Temporary Dietary Change

A temporary dietary change can help soothe your furry friend’s stomach. Consider introducing a bland diet of plain rice and chicken, canned pumpkin, or oatmeal, and avoid using oils or spices. Bone broth also works wonders. You may add some apple cider vinegar and a few chunks of meat. It also makes sense to introduce foods with probiotics like unsweetened yogurt.

Let Your Pup Fast

Some dog breeds have full appetites even when sick. If your pup shows all signs of a stomach upset but is still feeding, consider withdrawing food for at least a day or 12 hours if you have a puppy. The idea is to give its tummy adequate time to settle down and address indigestion naturally.

Replace Water With Ice

Most dogs will want to drink plenty of water right after vomiting. While the canine still needs hydration, excessive water can cause more harm than good. Giving your pup ice chips instead of water can make it slow down without necessarily staying dehydrated.

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One of the core responsibilities of every dog owner is to ensure their canine is happy and healthy. Gastroenteritis is the most common concern treated by vets, and it’s easy to panic if your pup frequently shows signs of a stomach upset. Here are the answers to three gastroenteritis-related questions frequently asked by pet parents:

How Soon Should I Visit a Vet When I Suspect My Pup Has a Stomach Upset?

Understandably, most pet parents will want to rush to the vet if they notice their pup is ill. However, it is common for mild gastroenteritis cases to clear up without medication within a day or two. It always makes sense to wait for at least 48 hours and only act if the symptoms persist. Your vet can take blood tests, X-rays, ultrasound scans, and stool samples to get to the root of a problem.

What Causes Gastroenteritis in Dogs?

Your pup can experience a stomach upset because of abdominal obstructions, inflammation, ulcers, or even motion sickness. Most of these concerns clear up naturally in a few days. If symptoms persist, it could be a more severe concern like bacterial or viral gastrointestinal infections.

Can I Prevent Stomach Upsets?

Dogs are naturally curious and will always want to eat something they shouldn’t eat. Also, some concerns that cause gastroenteritis, like organ failure and food allergies, are not always in your control. Even so, you can take precautions by vaccinating your canine against parvovirus, deworming it as your vet recommends, and clearing spots that encourage scavenging.

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Final Thoughts

Contrary to popular belief, dogs don’t have a tough digestive system immune to gastric distress and digestive problems. Like humans, dogs can experience hindrances when breaking down their food. Your pup can also suffer a stomach upset because of disease or infection by bacteria, parasites, viruses, and other microbes.

Because 70% of your dog’s immune system is in the gut, be sure to consult a qualified vet to ensure your furry friend maintains a happy and healthy gut!

Featured Image Credit: Sonja Rachbauer, Shutterstock

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