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Common Canine Digestive Problems: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

October 31, 2019

Heed these takeaways

  • Dog digestive problems can cause vomiting, diarrhea, changes in appetite and more.
  • From viruses to the wrong diet and even emotional stress, there are many potential causes of tummy troubles.
  • If symptoms are severe or persistent, get your pup to a vet straight away.
  • There are plenty of simple things you can do to prevent digestive upset — the most important is feeding a high-quality, balanced diet.

Ask your vet about the most common reasons dog owners bring their sick pups in for a check-up, and there’s a good chance that digestive problems will be at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, gastrointestinal upset is an occasional part of life for our dogs, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea and a host of other problems.

But there are many different causes of dog digestive issues. Some are relatively harmless and will resolve themselves quickly, others can be much more serious — so it’s important to know how to diagnose and treat your dog’s gastrointestinal troubles as effectively as possible.

Symptoms of dog digestive problems

Dog digestive problems can produce a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Excess flatulence
  • Changes in appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness or lethargy

Sometimes, these symptoms will resolve themselves quite quickly — our guide to foods that can heal an upset stomach contains plenty of useful tips to help you get your dog back to full health as soon as possible.

But if the symptoms are severe, if they persist for more than 24 hours, or if your dog is suffering from dehydration or weight loss, make sure you seek urgent veterinary attention.

Causes of dog digestive problems 

There are plenty of potential reasons why your pup’s digestive system isn’t functioning properly. Common causes include:

  • Eating something he shouldn’t have (for example, if your dog has gone through the trash)
  • Eating table scraps
  • Pancreatitis (caused by eating a large amount of fatty food)
  • An abrupt switch to a new diet 
  • Stress or emotional trauma
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Viruses, including parvovirus and coronavirus
  • Ingesting a toxic plant
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Food allergies
  • Harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli
  • Medications

Due to the fact that there are so many potential causes, and because your dog’s digestive system is a complex beast, determining the nature of your pup’s digestive issues isn’t always easy. The good news is that there are plenty of diagnostic tests your vet can use to get to the bottom of the problem.

And in those less serious cases of digestive issues that crop up from time to time, there’s plenty you can do at home to reduce the risk of discomfort for your dog.

How to prevent and treat dog digestive problems

If your pup is suffering from a minor bout of digestive upset, you can aid their recovery by giving their digestive system a break. A short fast and then a gradual reintroduction of bland foods can help soothe an unhappy tummy, while dogs suffering from diarrhea will need to frequently be given small amounts of water to prevent dehydration.

There’s also plenty you can do to reduce the risk of future digestive problems, including:

  • Ensure your pup doesn’t eat anything he shouldn’t — never give your dog table scraps and find a way to stop him rummaging through the trash
  • Take care never to overfeed your pup
  • Stay up to date with parasite prevention
  • If switching your pup to a new diet, make the transition gradually
  • Feed a high-quality dog food designed to promote a thriving gut and good digestive health

This last point is why you should consider switching your pup to brands like Heed who have a strong focus on digestive health. All of our premium kibble blends are created with one key goal in mind: ensuring good gut health. Good digestive health starts with the right diet, so help your pup put his best paw forward and make digestive problems a thing of the past.

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