Best Dog Food For Sensitive Stomach (& Diarrhea): Top 4 Brands
If you’ve been finding yourself cleaning up messes around the house, you might have found us because you’re desperately searching the internet with one question in mind: what’s the best dog food for sensitive stomach and skin? And trust me. I get it.
The first time I tried to feed our dog peanut butter, I had about a dozen little messes to clean up, and most of them were under our bed. Gross. Hopefully, I can help you avoid having to spend the next couple of weeks on your hands and knees with a bottle of Lysol and a couple rolls of paper towels!I’ve outlined some info on why exactly dogs get upset stomachs, and I’ve provide a few recommendations for some dog foods you can try. As always, if you have any questions, just let me know in the comments.
Quick Product Comparison: A Few Good Choices for Pups with Tummy Trouble
**Below, you'll find our expert's science-backed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Chewy.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
Most of the time, it should be pretty obvious if something is aggravating your pup’s sensitive stomach. Just in case, though, we wanted to give you a quick list of symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
Occasional Loose Stools
Loose could really mean anything. But mostly, anything that’s not a solid movement could be considered a loose stool, although, of course, some will be looser than others.
Occasionally, this type of stool will also contain some blood. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about—unless there’s a really large volume of blood. In that case, call your vet immediately.
Also, try not to freak out at the first sign of a loose stool. It may not mean anything. Dogs get diarrhea sometimes, and your first strategy should be “wait and see.” Just keep an eye on it for 24-48 hours and see if it improves. If it doesn’t, take some more action.
If something’s bothering your dog’s stomach, odds are good that loose stools aren’t going to be the only symptom.
Most dogs will also vomit. It’s important to note that they may not vomit as much as they pass a loose stool, though. And they may not even vomit every time they eat. It might just be every once in a while. This is usually the case when our pup has tummy trouble. She’ll keep about half her meals down.
Gas, Gas & More Gas
A sudden uptick in little doggy farts may also be a sign of stomach woes. Of course, every dog is different, but you should know by now how much gas is normal for your dog.
If it seems like your dog’s body has all of a sudden opened its release valves, it may be time to adjust his or her diet. And this doesn’t go for farting only. It can also go for belching.
Really, it doesn’t matter which end the gas is coming out of. If there’s a lot of it, pay attention, especially if it’s combined with other symptoms.
Of course, some dogs are just gassier than others (*cough* our dog*cough*), so it’s important to judge your pup’s current level of flatulence against his or her normal gas levels.
What Should I Do?
Simplify Her Diet
If you think something’s bothering your dog’s tummy, the first thing you should do is cut all the extras out of her diet. And that means everything except for her normal dog food.
No table scraps. No treats.
You want to totally eliminate anything that could be causing her body to go a little haywire.
If you’re in the habit of giving your dog treats (or if you’re training her, for example), the best course of action is usually to train her at meal time and use her regular dog food as treats/rewards. Trust me: she’s a dog. As long as she’s getting some kind of food when she’s a good dog, she’ll like it just fine.
Take a Good Look at Her Food
If you’ve eliminated everything else from her diet, and she’s still exhibiting the symptoms above while eating only her regular food, take a good look at her regular food.
Read the label. The first thing you’ll want to look for is that it’s made with good, high-quality ingredients. The first ingredient should be protein, and the carbohydrates should come from a complex carbohydrate, like sweet potatoes.
Some big, commercial brands of dog food stuff their food with fillers and low-quality ingredients (which is totally unethical if you ask me). So make sure you can recognize (or at least pronounce) the first dozen ingredients in your dog’s food.
Take special care to avoid stuff like corn, soy and other low-quality ingredients.
Then, check the fat content. All dogs need good sources of fat, but it’s still more difficult to digest than, say, protein. If your dog’s food has a bunch of fat, you might want to look for a lower-fat dog food.
For optimal digestive health, look for a food with a moderate amount of fat—around 15%.
Finally, make sure whatever food you’re feeding your pup has some good sources of fiber. Just like in humans, fiber helps keeps the ol’ plumbing regular. For dogs, good sources of fiber include stuff like leafy greens, fibrous fruits and root vegetables.
If you take a good, long look at your dog’s food label, and you find some stuff you don’t like, try a better food that’ll be easier on her digestive system (like those below), and gradually change her food over the course of about a week.
If Nothing Helps, Call Your Vet
If you’ve tried to modify your dog’s diet, and it just doesn’t seem to help (or if her symptoms get worse), it’s probably time to visit the vet. Really, if you have any doubts at all, visit your vet. It can’t hurt, and my philosophy is always to be safe rather than sorry.
Check Out Our Reviews of a Few Tummy-Friendly Dog Foods
When looking for the best dog food for sensitive stomach and skin, we’re looking for one that’s easy to digest and a couple of different things (which is what the following recommendations and reviews on based on).
First, we’re looking for relatively few ingredients. That can sometimes be hard to find, especially in commercial dog foods, so we just want to make sure it’s reasonable and not a full-blown novel of a nutrition label.
We also want to make sure the main ingredient is a good source of protein, and we want to avoid foods that contain excessive fat. With that in mind, here are just a few recommendations (just keep in mind there are plenty of good foods out there, and you can always make your own).
If you’re looking for a dog food that’ll be easy on your pup’s stomach, this is a good place to start.
In general, Wellness makes good dog food anyway, so at the very least, you’ll know the ingredients are good.
In addition to having just a few ingredients, this dog food also avoids anything that might potentially be a food allergy: grain and soy. It also leaves other stuff that could cause stomach problems, like corn, dairy, preservatives and artificial colors.
There are a bunch of different “flavors,” which really just means there’s a different primary protein.
The only real downside to this formula is that it contains Canola oil, which isn’t our favorite ingredient in the world. Overall, though, it’s a good recipe and a good place to start.
We like this dog food from AvoDerm mostly because it’s a high-quality food that also has a relatively low-fat content, and reducing the fat in your dog’s food can help her digestion pretty significantly.
Like most of the foods we’re recommending here, there’s no corn and no wheat. The main ingredient is a good protein (chicken meal), and the carbohydrates come from whole ground brown rice.
Plus, there’s some good sources of fat (even though the fat content is low), which comes from flaxseed and herring meal.
We do want to mention that there are a few controversial ingredients here, although they’re in small quantities: tomato pomace, alfalfa and avocado.
This is another brand we recommend quite a bit, and this is a good option if you’re finding little puppy messes around your house.
There’s not many ingredients here at all, and the ones included are high-quality and sensible. There’s no wheat, corn, or soy, and the most of the protein comes from turkey.
The limited ingredients here should help eliminated (or at least narrow down and isolate food sensitivities).
Plus, there are plenty of good sources of antioxidants and fiber with help keep your dog regular and give a small boost to her immune system.
Natural Choice’s limited ingredient formula has a few things going for it that make it a safe bet for dogs showing symptoms of a sensitive stomach.
Mostly, though, we like that the ingredients are good and the kibble size is small. If you’ve got a breed that loves to snarf, like, say, a pit bull, who sometimes swallows without chewing, large kibble sizes could be contributing to her tummy issues. The small kibble size solves that problem.
Plus, it’s got plenty of good sources of protein (coming mostly from lamb), and it includes goods sources of fiber—namely, beet pulp.It doesn’t have a ton of fruits and veggies, so it’s probably not a food you want your dog to be eating indefinitely, but it’s good for when she catches a bug.
If you're looking for more specialized dog food, check out this post on good low-fat foods. We also have a nice, big article on hypoallergenic dog food. And here's a good article on doggy dental health and one on canned dog food options and the best food for labradors.
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**Disclaimer: Our dog food reviews are based mostly on (1) our expertise and that of the experts with whom we consult and (2) the information provided by the manufacturers. We do test many dog foods (with our dog's help), but we can't test them all. As such, please remember the above recommendations are our opinions, and you should consult your vet before making changes to your dog's diet.