Published 09/02/2020

Seven Digestive Problems in Dogs & How to Handle Them

beagle lying on couch
Is your dog having stomach issues? Vomiting and irregular stools are are signs that your dog may be experiencing gastrointestinal issues. Learn about some of the most common digestive problems in dogs, what causes them, and what you can do to help.

Source: Seven Digestive Problems in Dogs & How to Handle Them by Erin Ollila, Hill’s Pet Nutrition 

Certain dog breeds, including German Shepards, Great Danes, and Schnauzers are prone to digestive issues, but digestive issues can occur in all dogs for a variety of reasons.

Has your dog ingested something other than dog food recently? If he has, he may be allergic, intolerant, unable to digest it, or in some cases, may have an infection. Learn about some of the most common digestive problems in dogs, how you can help, and how to prevent them.

1. Diarrhea

You may notice that your dog is having loose, liquid stools. Diarrhea is a common ailment for dogs and other animals and is caused by many different things. Here’s a list of a few different reasons diarrhea occurs:

  • stress
  • spoiled/rotten food
  • allergies to specific ingredients in foods
  • changing dog foods too quickly
  • internal parasites
  • infections
  • failing organs

2. Small intestinal malabsorption

Malabsorption is a type of digestive problem in dogs. If your dog is experiencing small intestine malabsorption, it means he either isn’t digesting his food, or he isn’t absorbing the vitamins and minerals after digestion.

3. Colitis

Colitis, an inflammation of the membrane lining of the colon, is among the common digestive problems in dogs. It also inflames the large intestine, so your dog may experience painful stools or diarrhea. The inflammation and irritation can be either chronic or acute.

Whipworms can be the cause for colitis. Also, if your dog is suffering from tumors or polyps, they may also irritate the colon, causing colitis. A change in food, ingesting something other than food, or an allergy to a specific food is often the culprit for a colitis attack.

4. Acute gastroenteritis

Usually a temporary issue, acute gastroenteritis causes inflammation in the stomach or intestines. It usually occurs when a dog eats high-fat or spoiled food. It can also occur if a dog eats anything poisonous or something he is allergic to. Internal parasites can be a harbinger to gastroenteritis. Stress is another trigger.

5. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis

Similar to acute gastroenteritis, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis is usually a temporary issue, but it can be fatal if untreated. Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis causes severe vomiting and bloody stools, usually in diarrhea. It can be brought on by ingestion of foods or substances that your dog shouldn’t be eating or is allergic to, as well as pancreatitis and other autoimmune illnesses.

6. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an infection or inflammation of the pancreas. The reasons why pancreatitis occurs are unknown, though high-fat food may be to blame. Other issues that may cause the condition include trauma to the pancreas, infections, or a disease.

7. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency occurs when your dog’s pancreas fails to produce enough digestive enzymes. Weight loss, an increase in appetite, and large, soft stools are the major symptoms. If you’ve noticed an extreme weight loss in your dog, he may not be producing enough enzymes in his pancreas.

How can you help?


Monitor what your dog eats at all times

Make sure your dog receives well-balanced nutrition and doesn’t come in contact with any food he shouldn’t be eating. At the same time, don’t let your dog swallow anything he isn’t supposed to, even if it’s not food. Certain plants or foreign objects will make your dog extremely ill.

Healthy and easily digestible dog food will go a long way for an anxious dog’s belly. Also, regular preventative trips to the veterinarian will keep you on top of any health issues your dog may be facing.

vet listening to yellow labs heart

Know your dog’s baseline

Digestive problems in dogs can appear suddenly, so always be on the lookout for ways to protect your pet. The best way you can take care of your dog is knowing what his normal behavior and health looks like. How many times a day does your dog normally defecate? What do his stools generally look like? While gross to think about, and even more so to monitor, it can be a very vital piece in maintaining your dog’s health. Talk to your vet more about what a dog’s stool should look like when healthy to better understand what to look for if you notice abnormalities in your dog’s behavior. Does he ever throw up? While vomiting doesn’t always scream a larger digestive issue, it is one of the more common signs that something is wrong. If you notice this happening frequently, it is a good time to get your pup to the vet to have him checked out. How much does he eat and drink? These are all questions you need to know the answer to, so that you can identify when something is wrong.

Keep your dog hydrated

A dog suffering from a gastrointestinal or digestive issue needs to stay hydrated, especially if he is vomiting or has diarrhea. One thing to keep in mind: If you notice that your dog begins drinking less frequently and less water or he is lapping it up in an extreme amount, it’s a sign that something is amiss. Being well-hydrated is a key to keeping your dog healthy.

Be supportive and calming

Gastrointestinal problems in dogs can be upsetting for the entire family. Your once happy, playful dog is suddenly lethargic, withdrawn, and possibly vomiting or ill with diarrhea. Because stress can cause digestive problems, try to keep your dog calm and well-adjusted. In times of high stress, you may notice your dog having more stomach issues. Find coping mechanisms that work for your dog, such as petting him or scratching his belly.

Contact your veterinarian

If you even suspect that your dog is suffering from a digestive or gastrointestinal issue, contact your vet immediately. Many of these conditions are serious, and your dog will need to be monitored closely, and possibly be treated with medications.

In the case that your dog is suffering at night or on the weekend, don’t wait until the vet office is open. Consider visiting an urgent care facility.

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