Best Food For Dogs With Diarrhea

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When it comes to Best Food For Dogs With Diarrhea, there is a lot that you need to know in order to make the right decision. While it might not seem like much, this can be a big deal as far as your dog’s health. That’s why I am writing this article: to help you learn about what kind of food you should choose for your dog for such situations.

When your dog is suffering from diarrhea for an extended period of time, it can lead to digestive issues and even health problems down the road. The best food for dogs with diarrhea can improve their overall condition by keeping them healthy and hydrated. It may also help inhibit any negative side effects that may come with the disease. However, if you’re trying to buy food for a dog with diarrhea, there is a lot to consider. This article will list out some of the most common foods used to treat this condition on either a long-term or short-term basis.

Best Food For Dogs With Diarrhea

Let’s be honest: No one wants to deal with dog diarrhea. But if you’ve landed on this article, chances are that your dog is suffering from the dreaded “runs”—and you want to clear it up fast. (Who wouldn’t?) Here’s the good news: By feeding the right foods in the right way, you can help stop your dog’s diarrhea and heal their gut. So what do you feed a dog with diarrhea? Here’s what you need to know

When to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea

OK, you’ve ruled out a medical emergency and you’re ready to feed your dog. But is your dog’s body ready for food?

Whether your dog has a single bout of diarrhea or has had multiple episodes, the recommendation remains the same: You need to rest your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Resting the GI tract by withholding food for a short period of time allows the intestines to heal because they aren’t busy digesting food.

So how long should you withhold food after an episode of diarrhea? The answer depends on several factors, including the overall health, age and size of the dog, the underlying cause of diarrhea and any medications that are being administered.

For healthy, adult dogs, try withholding food for around 12 hours. So, if your healthy, adult dog has a single bout of diarrhea in the morning, withhold food for the day and offer a small amount of bland food at dinner time. (More on that below.) If your dog has diarrhea in the evening, withhold food for the rest of the evening and offer a small, bland meal in the morning. It is OK to offer water as long as your dog can hold it down and it doesn’t trigger more bouts of diarrhea.

There’s one important exception to this rule: Do not withhold food from dogs who need regular feeding to survive. These include:

  • Puppies
  • Toy breeds like Chihuahuas and Maltese
  • Senior dogs
  • Dogs with health issues

Withholding food from these dogs can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels and other emergencies. For these pups, consult your veterinarian at the first sign of diarrhea.

Is My Dog’s Diarrhea an Emergency?

Before we can even talk about what to feed a dog with diarrhea, you need to rule out a medical emergency that needs immediate veterinary attention. Diarrhea in dogs is sometimes no big deal, but it can sometimes be severe or life threatening. Signs that your dog needs to see a vet include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Bloody diarrhea, or diarrhea that has digested blood, which looks like coffee grounds
  • Diarrhea that has lasted longer than two days
  • Signs of dehydration, including dry gums and skin tenting (aka skin that doesn’t snap back into place when you pull it)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Signs of abdominal pain (bloating, groaning, panting rapidly, not wanting to be touched, or “prayer position,” aka a stance with the dog’s rear up in the air and their front legs and head on the floor)
  • Acting excessively tired or weak

In some dogs, diarrhea is always an emergency. For these pets, call your vet at the first sign of diarrhea:

  • Puppies
  • Senior dogs
  • Dogs who are already sick or debilitated due to a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or heart disease
  • Dogs on new medication (which could be causing the diarrhea)

If your dog fits any of these criteria, call your vet for advice immediately.

what to feed a dog with diarrhea

What to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea

It’s finally time to for your dog to have a small meal—but what do you feed a dog with diarrhea? Look for bland, easily digestible food that is soothing to the GI tract. (We’ve got six tried-and-true suggestions below.)

No matter which of these foods you choose, you should start with a small amount:

  • For small breeds, start with a tablespoon of food
  • For large breeds, start with a golf ball-sized portion of food, around 2 tablespoons

Here are a few great foods to try:

1. Lean Protein

Low-fat meats are gentle on your dog’s stomach, while still providing important protein. Try meats like:

  • Chicken breast (no skin)
  • Lean ground hamburger
  • Turkey

To Prepare: Chop into small bites, boil until uncooked, then drain. Do not add seasoning, oil, butter or salt.

2. White Rice

White rice provides healthy calories without much flavor that could irritate the GI tract. Avoid serving “minute rice” or brown rice to your dog; high-quality white rice is best.

To Prepare: Rinse the rice well, then follow the instructions on the rice package. Serve at room temperature. You might consider adding lean protein (see above) to make a 50/50 mixture of lean protein and rice.

3. Potatoes

Both white potatoes and sweet potatoes are easily digestible starches, making them ideal to serve to dogs with diarrhea. But do not serve raw potatoes to a dog; they must be cooked. That’s because potatoes contain a compound called solanine, which can be toxic to dogs. Baking reduces the levels of solanine in a potato, making them safe to eat.

To Prepare: Cut into bite-size pieces and boil or bake until cooked through. Do not fry or add butter, seasonings or salt.

4. Canned Pumpkin

Plain canned pumpkin can be very helpful for some dogs with diarrhea because of the high fiber content, which helps to regulate digestion. Plain canned pumpkin is different from pumpkin pie filling, which also comes canned and can look similar. Do not serve pumpkin pie filling to dogs. Serve only plain canned pumpkin that you will find in the canned vegetables aisle of your supermarket. Because the two can look similar, double-check to be sure you’re using plain canned pumpkin before serving to your dog.

To Prepare: Simply spoon out small amounts into your dog’s bowl. For small to medium dogs, offer 1-3 teaspoons. For large dogs, offer 1-3 tablespoons.

5. Prescription Dog Food

Many dog food brands have therapeutic lines that target specific health issues, including diarrhea. Therapeutic diets are formulated to specifically address the cause of diarrhea and resolve it, and typically require a prescription from your vet. Some widely used therapeutic foods for dogs with diarrhea include Hill’s I/D and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula.

Depending on the cause of your dog’s diarrhea, your dog may benefit from a food made for specific health conditions. For example, feeding a hypoallergenic food or a novel protein food (food made from a type of protein your dog has not eaten before) may help dogs who suffer diarrhea due to allergies.

To Prepare: Follow the instructions on the food package.

6. Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

Other commercial dog foods are formulated to help dogs with GI problems and do not require a prescription from your vet. These include Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food, which includes prebiotic fibers to assist in digestion; and Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Lamb & Oatmeal Formula Dry Dog Food, which contains live probiotics to regulate your pup’s gut.

These foods may not help all dogs, but they can be helpful in some cases. If you don’t notice any improvement within a day or two of feeding this food, consult your vet.

To Prepare: Follow the instructions on the food package.

Continue feeding your dog a bland diet until their stools have been normal for two to three days. In the meantime, you can slowly increase the amount of food you give them, if your dog will tolerate it. Remember: If your dog’s diarrhea has lasted longer than two days, call your vet.

When it’s time to transition back to your dog’s normal diet, make the switch slowly to avoid upsetting your pup’s stomach yet again. Start by mixing a small amount of your dog’s usual food with the bland food. Over the course of three to five days, slowly increase the ratio of regular food to bland food, until your dog’s diet is 100 percent back to normal.

  • What to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea or Other Stomach Issues
A Bulldog asleep with his tongue out.
A Bulldog asleep with his tongue out.

What to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea or Other Stomach Issues

Wondering what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach issues like gas or vomiting? An acute case of diarrhea or other tummy troubles might be alleviated at home by feeding your dog these foods.

One of the most common questions I receive is about what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach issues, like vomiting and gas. We’ve all been there, and we know how unpleasant it is. The good news is that we can help our canine companions feel better faster. First, we need to identify the cause of the distress and determine whether it’s a serious condition requiring veterinary attention or an acute situation that can be treated with some at-home TLC.

If symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting persist for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by other worrisome signs such as lethargy or lack of appetite, I err on the side of caution and advise taking a trip to the vet. However, an acute flare-up resulting from a dietary indiscretion or stress colitis, for example, can typically be addressed at home and recovery helped along with proper nutritional management. So, let’s take a look at what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach problems.

Using Traditional Chinese Medicine Principles to Determine What to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea or Other Stomach Issues

A sick white dog wrapped in a green blanket.
Wondering what to feed a dog with diarrhea? Traditional Chinese Medicine might help. 

For what to feed a dog with diarrhea if it’s acute diarrhea, I like to draw from the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) food therapy. This optimizes the individual’s qi (life force) by balancing the internal energies of yin (cold) and yang (heat). According to TCM, all foods have properties that either warm the body, cool the body or are neutral. When the body’s yin and yang are out of balance, disease results.

“Most acute gastrointestinal problems relate to excess yang, or heat, so we want to treat them with cooling yin foods,” says Marc Smith, D.V.M., a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) practitioner and owner of Natchez Trace Veterinary Services in Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee, and co-owner of PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products.

Here’s some of Dr. Smith’s advice on what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach ailments. His favorite TCVM food remedies seek to address your dog’s acute upset stomach and get his qi back in balance as quickly as possible:

1. Fasting

When it comes to what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach issues, sometimes the best answer is nothing at all. Dr. Smith advises withholding food — but not water — for 12 to 24 hours, depending upon the severity of the situation. “Digestion takes energy, which can further deplete an already compromised organ of its qi,” he says. Allowing the GI tract to rest prepares it to better receive the nutrients that are then introduced. Be sure to provide your dog with water or ice chips to avoid dehydration.

2. Cooling proteins

Chicken tops many lists for what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other stomach upsets, but Dr. Smith warns that chicken is actually a “hot” protein that can further deplete yin energy. He recommends introducing lean cooling proteins, such as rabbit, turkey, white fish, eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, pork or organic tofu. Dr. Smith also advises avoiding yang proteins such as beef, salmon, venison, lamb and goat until the dog’s symptoms fully subside.

3. Millet

White rice is perhaps the most “prescribed” food by veterinarians for what to feed a dog with diarrhea or other acute gastrointestinal distress, but white rice is actually warming. While brown rice is cooling, some dogs experience difficulty digesting it, so Dr. Smith recommends feeding millet instead. “Millet is a cooling food that is also high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and manganese, making it an excellent choice in times of acute GI distress,” he says.

4. White potato

White potatoes are a cooling food that are also bland and easy to digest, making them perfect answer for what to feed a dog with diarrhea. They help to settle upset stomachs and provide energy without taxing an already stressed GI system. Dr. Smith advises boiling, steaming or baking the potatoes and mashing the flesh. Remove the hard-to-digest skin prior to serving.

5. Banana

A dog eating a banana.
Bananas are among the foods to feed your dog when he has diarrhea or other stomach issues.

“Bananas are both a cooling and moisturizing food, which helps to restore yin energy as well as tonify a dehydrated digestive system,” Dr. Smith says. Bananas also contain pectin, a soluble fiber that helps bind water in the colon and coat the GI tract. An added bonus: They’re rich in potassium, an important electrolyte that can become depleted during bouts of diarrhea or vomiting. Dr. Smith recommends giving about 1 teaspoon of mashed banana per 10 pounds of body weight.

The 10 Best Food for Dogs with Diarrhea

1. Blue Buffalo Basics Adult Dog Food – Best Overall

Type:Dry
Size:11 pounds

We chose the Blue Buffalo Basics Adult Dog Food as our pick for the best overall food for dogs with diarrhea. It features deboned turkey as the primary animal protein, and it’s supplemented with pumpkin and pea fiber to ensure gentle digestion. The recipe is 100% grain-free for pups with gluten allergies and sensitive stomachs. It contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to promote healthy hair and skin.

Blue Diamond chose turkey as the protein source for canines with chicken allergies. The formula does not include dairy, soy, or unnecessary fillers. Dog owners are overwhelmingly impressed with the Blue Diamond recipe; however, the high price is our only issue with the brand. However, Blue Buffalo Basics is more affordable than many of its competitors.

Pros

  • Turkey is the primary protein
  • Grain-free and gluten-free
  • Supplemented with minerals and vitamins
  • Healthy fiber sources for easy digestion

Cons

  • Expensive

2. Iams ProActive Health Adult – Best Value

Iams ProActive Health Adult
Type:Wet
Size:13-ounce cans (12 pack)

For sensitive pets that prefer wet food, you can try Iams ProActive Health Adult. It won the prize for the best food for the money, and it’s ideal for pet parents who operate on a tighter budget. Iams slow-cooked recipe includes beef, vegetables, rice, and real broth. With only 1% crude fat, ProActive has one of the lowest fat contents of any brand we reviewed. High levels of fat can irritate upset bellies and cause weight gain. It contains essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese.

Dogs that dislike ground meat recipes will love the tender chunks of meat in gravy. Although Iams’ formula is well-balanced, it includes wheat flour that can irritate dogs with gluten sensitivities.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Slow-cooked recipe with low fat
  • Includes essential vitamins and minerals

Cons

  • Contains wheat flour

3. Purina ONE Plus Digestive Health Dry – Premium Choice

Type:Dry
Size:31.1 pounds

Purina ONE Plus Digestive Health Formula is our pick for the best premium formula for sensitive stomachs. Purine One is trusted by millions of dog owners for its healthy recipes, and the Digestive Health formula can help pups suffering from diarrhea. It uses chicken as its primary protein source, and it features probiotic components to aid with digestion and boost the healthy bacteria in your pet’s gut. Digestive Health also includes glucosamine to support joint health and antioxidants to maintain the dog’s immune system.

Even picky dogs seem to love the taste of Digestive Health, but it may irritate animals that are sensitive to chicken ingredients.

Pros

  • All-natural ingredients
  • Antioxidants for immune health
  • More moisture than most dry formulas

Cons

  • Not for dogs with chicken allergies

4. Purina Pro Plan Puppy Sensitive Stomach – Best for Puppies

Purina Pro Plan Puppy
Type:Dry
Size:24.3 pounds

Choosing a dog food for puppies with sensitive stomachs can be difficult, but Purina Pro Plan is designed to help young dogs with digestive problems. It uses salmon as the primary protein and includes rice to make the food more digestible and easier on upset stomachs. It does not contain artificial flavors or colors and uses live probiotics to increase healthy bacteria levels. Sunflower oil and fish oil are included as sources of omega fatty acids to improve cognitive development and vision.

Pro Plan is higher in calories than adult food to ensure your puppy develops appropriately, and it does not contain wheat, fillers, or corn. Although Pro Plan is an excellent choice for young pups, the crude fiber content could be a bit higher.

Pros

  • Salmon is the primary protein
  • Probiotic and prebiotic components
  • No wheat, corn, or fillers

Cons

  • Only 3% crude fiber

5. Royal Canin Vet Diet Gastrointestinal Low Fat Dry Food

Royal Canin Veterinary
Type:Dry
Size:28.6 pounds

Excess fats and oils can irritate a dog’s digestive system, but the Royal Canin Veterinary Diet brand is made with only 5.6% crude fat. Royal Canin includes fish oil with omega fatty acids to soothe the animal’s digestive system and promote healthy skin and hair. The high-protein recipe uses a prebiotic blend to increase beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, and a mixture of vitamins and minerals helps support the immune system.

Before using Royal Canin, you’ll need to get a veterinarian’s recommendation. Royal Canin is an effective product for treating sensitive stomachs, and dogs enjoy the taste, but it’s more expensive than most competitors.

Pros

  • Veterinary formula
  • Probiotic and prebiotic blends
  • Limited fat and oils

Cons

  • Expensive

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