My dog has an upset stomach, what do I do?

2019’s Best 7 High-Quality Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

This research is supported by you, our readers, through our independently chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn more.

Choosing the right food to feed your pup is an increasingly difficult decision. There are so many options out there, and a lot of sometimes conflicting information about what is really the best thing to feed your pet dog. This can be even more complicated if you suspect your dog has a sensitive stomach as so many foods just don’t seem to agree with him at all.

Note: Always SLOWLY transition your dog to new food when changing his diet so that you do not further upset their sensitive stomach. 

Top 7 Foods Formulated for Dogs with Sensitive Stomach Reviews 

Although there are lots of dog food choices out there, and more seem to hit the shelves every day, some stand above others as the best choices for almost any pup who has a sensitive stomach. We took a long, hard look at many of the choices out there and with the help of a few keen, sensitive stomached pups and the insight and input from other owners we came up with this top seven list for your four-legged friend.

1. Zignature Zssential Grain-Free Multi-Protein Formula

BEST OVERALL
Dry Kibble for Sensitive Digestion

This best-selling dry dog food has a lot going for it when it comes to providing dogs with sensitive stomachs nutrition that is gentle on the tummy but also very tasty.

The formulas tick many of the most important boxes when it comes to a great choice for dogs who need food that's easy on the digestion. Its primary ingredient is always real meat, all the ingredients are naturally sourced and many are organic, it's free of the grains that can cause gastric upset and trigger food allergies and it is also free of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

Zignature Zssential Multi-Protein Formula Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is available in four different flavors; fish crude protein, poultry crude protein, meat crude protein and multi source crude protein. The proteins themselves actually sound quite yummy, even to humans, as they include salmon and trout in the fish offering, turkey and duck in the poultry, and even venison and kangaroo (!) in the meat formula.

Many of the owners who recommend this food do so not only because their fur kids seem to love it, often when they have refused to eat other brands, but they have been able to switch between flavors to offer a more varied diet to their pups with very few stomach upset incidents. The only downside that some report is that the food can be a little too dry, but when moistened with a little water that problem is solved.

We chose this brand as our top overall choice for dog food for sensitive stomachs because it is well tolerated by most dogs, is all natural and can offer lots of different taste experiences, all things that most pups, even the picky ones, should love.


2. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Pork, Beef & Lamb Recipe

MOST AFFORDABLE
Nutritious dog food for sensitive picky dogs

Whole Earth Farms have been a favorite of pet parents looking for a more natural dry dog food for some time. They offer a wide range of formulas, but we had been advised that the one that was best for dogs with sensitive stomachs was this meaty, grain free option.

While grain isn't bad for all dogs, for many sensitive stomached pets it can cause all kinds of gastric problems, so the fact that this is a grain free formula is a plus for many of them. The ingredients are all natural and it includes the primary proteins in meal form, which means pups get an extra shot of protein, something that is beneficial to pups of all ages.

Encouraged by the large number of pet parents commenting online about how well their food allergic and sensitive stomached fur kids tolerated this food we tried it out on our testers. Almost all of them seemed to enjoy it and there were no issues related to stomach problems that were notable enough to be worth mentioning. We may agree however with some reviewers that the flavor is perhaps a little bland for some very picky eaters who seem to prefer 'stronger' tastes. 


3. Ollie Healthy Turkey Feast

BEST FRESH FOOD
Cooked refrigerated dog food

*Use the link above to get Get 50% Off Your First Box of Ollie.

If you spend any time on social media, you may have seen ads for this dog food brand as the startup has been running a large social media advertising campaign for some time. Flashy ads are great, but what we wanted to know was did the Ollie brand really have something to offer to our sensitive stomached food testers?

The answer did seem to be yes. Each of the four flavor options - beef, chicken, turkey and lamb - claim to be made using a high percentage of real, nutrient-dense organ meat (taurine!) and the smell told us that may indeed be the case, and the meaty textures seemed to confirm that. There are no grains included in any of the formulas, no sketchy ingredients, and the food is shipped fresh. Another noteworthy remark is that Ollie’s food is gently cooked at low temperatures to retain nutrients unlike mass cooking by other kibble manufacturers.

According to our canine testers reactions Ollie Dog food tastes great. It is a little more expensive than many other brands, but our pups felt that this was perfectly justified (we think, judging by their reactions). The food also seemed to help reduce the amount of after dinner gas in the room and even picky pups cleaned their bowls.

Ollie is a subscription dog food service, so many pet parents love that convenience and many report that their sensitive tummied pups tolerated it very well. As you can cancel the subscription at any time if you are looking for a wet food that you can successfully add to your pup's daily diet then we think you should give this one a go. 


4. The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Fish Dehydrated Limited Ingredient Recipe

LIMITED INGREDIENTS
Healthy foods for sensitive stomachs in dogs

For some pet parents a dehydrated dog food is the perfect choice. It can be stored for far longer than fresh wet food without cluttering up the fridge (like the Ollie brand may) and yet still offers some 'wet food' goodness which is something most dogs get pretty excited about.

This formula is another of the growing number of 'human grade' dog foods available, and its primary ingredients are all naturally sourced. The Limited ingredient offering is limited to six elements per formula and there are several rather great sounding ones to choose from.

Those who prefer to feed their dogs this food like it for a number of reasons. Many state that it has helped reduce the number of gastric problems their pup has after eating, especially in terms of gas and diarrhea and the food is easy to prepare according to their dog's liking, as some pups prefer a more liquid preparation than others and these differing tastes are easy to accommodate by simply adding more, or less, water.

As for our testers they seemed to enjoy this food and also tolerated it very well. 


5. CANIDAE Life Stages Platinum Formula Canned Dog Food

BEST FOR SENIORS
Best wet food for dogs with sensitive stomach issues

As dogs get older and become less active their dietary needs change, and so, often, do their digestive systems. As they are moving less they can become more prone to bloating and gas, they have a reduced appetite and they need fewer calories to maintain their body weight, and so some standard adult dog foods may put them at risk of gaining weight.

This wet dog food is made using all natural ingredients including choices like fresh lamb and wild caught salmon. There are no grains, poultry by products or soy, ingredients that can be bothersome to many pups with sensitive stomachs, and the calorie count is lower than many other premium dog foods.

Another reason why this is a great choice for seniors is that the formula contains additional glucosamine and chondroitin, which helps protect joint health, something that is very important for senior dogs.

Those who love this food for their dogs say it's well tolerated by older dogs with sensitive stomachs and that they really enjoy the food, opinions that our senior canine tester seemed to agree with! 


6. Tuscan Natural Simply Pure Lamb LID Recipe

CONTENDER
best dog food for small dogs with sensitive stomach and skin

Although some pups love poultry and red meats like beef it can be troublesome for dogs who suffer from gastric issues. Lamb is a gentler, protein filled alternative to these staples and this dog food is considered by many to be one of the best lamb based limited ingredient options around.

Many of those who prefer this food for their pups are the owers of smaller dogs who suffer from food allergies, not just to grains but to some meats as well and they appreciate the fact that this all life stages formula seems to help keep those allergies at bay while also being a food that picky eaters enjoy.

Our testers seemed to enjoy the taste and the extra vitamins and minerals added to the formula did not seem to make a difference to how well their sensitive stomachs tolerated it.


7. Nutrisca Grain-Free Lamb & Chickpea

This is another great low-glycemic lamb choice that is grain free with added protein filled chickpeas. Some people may be wary of this dog food because it is somewhat cheaper than some of its counterparts but in this case a lower price does not seem to indicate lower quality. Our doggo testers enjoyed it a great deal and it did not upset any stomachs. It is free from potatoes, corn, grains, wheat, soy - none of the nasties and is formulated for all life stages.

It's also encouraging to note how many of the positive reviews found online are from pet parents who have been making use of this formula for several years. It's always nice to find a certain food that a picky pup with sensitive digestion likes and then be able to stick to it for some time without it causing any digestive issues.


Sensitive Digestion in Dogs FAQs

Yorshire Terrier

Yorkies are the poster dog for sensitive stomachs

The foods we chose for our list are some of the best you can buy right now to help dogs with upset stomachs enjoy their food while also avoiding the digestive issues that some dog foods seem to cause. There are many others out there too though, and we encourage you to find, and then stick with, whatever choice seems to be right for your unique pet dog.

The issue of sensitive stomachs in dogs can be a tricky one to understand in general, and food is not always the only reason that some pups suffer from digestive issues or seem to be very picky eaters. Understanding more about the topic can be very helpful for pet parents dealing with the issue, so we would like to address some basics here right now.

Q. Does my dog have a sensitive stomach?

A: The term 'sensitive stomach' is a very loose and broad one and does not really refer to a particular recognized health condition. In fact, it's more of a marketing term than anything else. But the health issues usually associated with the term are very real. 

The good news is that if your pup has a sensitive stomach you usually know about it because the signs and symptoms are, if somewhat unpleasant to deal with for you both at times, very clear. Here are a few common causes of upset stomach in dogs:

Frequent diarrhea: all pups are likely to suffer from the occasional bout of very loose stool, especially if they ate something they should not have, but if it is a more frequent occurrence, it is a good sign that your pup has a stomach that is more sensitive than others.

Excessive gas: if your dog is very flatulent, it may be a sign of a gastric upset or illness or that he gulps in too much air when he eats.

Vomiting: Occasional Vomiting is perfectly normal, but if your dog vomits often, and does not seem to be actively ill he may be suffering from acid reflux or another gastro intestinal complaint.

Loss of appetite: if your pup is not eating well it can be a sign of all kinds of illnesses and should always be taken seriously. Sometimes however a dog simply won't eat a certain food you are trying to give to him because he dislikes the taste, or he knows it's going to upset his tummy. As he can't explain all of this to you though, loss of appetite in your dog is a reason to visit the vet as soon as possible.

Eating lots of grass: yes, the old wives tale is actually true. Dogs do eat grass as a natural remedy for a bad tummy, so if he eats a lot of it it's a sign that he might need more help to solve his stomach problems. 

Food intolerances: while many people think dogs can - and will - eat anything - a lot of pet parents know that is often far from the case. They find that certain dog foods, or certain foods in general, either do not appeal to their pup at all, seem to upset their stomach or both.

Food allergies: in the same way that humans can be allergic to certain foods so can dogs. Peanuts or shellfish - common human food allergies - are rarely a problem for them though, it's more often ingredients like wheat, soy and corn that cause problems, as well as some common protein sources including chicken. 

Q. Are certain breeds more at risk at having an upset stomach?

A: While all pets can develop a sensitive stomach there are certain breeds that are more susceptible than others. These include:

Q: Should My Dog See His Vet About His Sensitive Stomach?

A: As things like vomiting and diarrhea can be signs of a serious health problem, a visit to the vet to discuss your concerns about your pup's seemingly sensitive stomach is a must.

If a stomach ailment doesn't show signs of improvement in 24 hours, it is important not to take any risks and consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. 

There they will be able to get a physical exam and undergo blood, urine and stool sample testing that can rule out a serious medical cause behind your pup's sensitive stomach issues.

Q: How are dog digestive problems treated?

A: This is a question that does not have a simple, one size fits all answer, as there are so many things that can contribute to a pup's sensitive stomach issues. If there is an underlying health condition, such as ulcers, hernias or other GI diseases, they will need to be treated first and then a plan for a dog's future digestive health formulated once they recover.

​In cases of parasites, chronic diseases, serious viruses, or infections, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or specific medicines depending on the origin of the cause.

Often however there is no major health reason that a pup seems to have a sensitive stomach, and this is where things can become more complicated and, along with their vet, pet parents have to be willing to do a little detective work to figure out what is really going on and how best to help their pup. 

​Q: What are some of the food-related causes for sensitive digestion?

A selection of dog-friendly vegetables, pulses, grains and meat with good sources of protein

Some grains, chicken, high-fat levels are some of the common triggers of an upset stomach

A: Every dog is unique, and that's true of his digestive system too. Some pups seem to have an iron stomach. They eat any dog food you put in their dish and plenty of things they should not eat and digest it all with ease.

More dogs however are affected by what they eat, but there is no one ingredient that seems to be bad for all pups with sensitive stomachs. There are some dog food ingredients that may irritate a sensitive stomach that are more commonly seen than others.

Types of protein: Whatever dog food you feed your pup, however old he is, it is important that one of its main ingredients is a good source of protein. Protein is crucial to almost every bodily process in humans and in animals so that they get enough to keep them as healthy as possible is a must.

The fact is though that some types of protein may not suit a sensitive stomached pup. Many pups, for example, seem to have an issue with chicken, and when they are switched to a food that contains a different poultry - turkey or goose perhaps - their stomachs are not irritated in the same way.

Fiber: Like humans, sometimes all a dog needs to help relieve digestive problems like gas, bloating and loose stools is a little more fiber in their diet. But given that many dogs with sensitive stomachs are sensitive to grains, what else can provide extra fiber? According to experts beet pulp is a great natural source of fiber, so if you have seen that ingredient in dog foods and wondered why it would be there, now you know!

Fat levels: Often a sensitive stomach can be irritated if the dog food being introduced into it is very high in fat. Have you ever eaten a big burger that tasted great at the time but made you feel rather bloated and even a bit nauseous not too long after? According to dietitians that is because the fat level was too high for you digestive system. The same is true for pups if they are given a food that is too high in fat.

Grains: Very few pet parents can have missed the fact that many of the most popular dog foods, both wet and dry, are prominently advertised as being grain free. Some may also know that recently these diets have been the subject of some controversy, as an FDA warning was issued about a possible link between some of the brands and an increased risk of a form of heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy.

However, most veterinary experts and canine nutrition experts feel that the problem is probably not the grain free food. And many pups with sensitive stomachs do seem to improve when they are fed a diet that is grain free. According to one expert, a professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Kathryn Michel, what is far more important is that all the required nutrients for your pup's health are in the food, whether it is grain free or not.

Q. Human grade vs feed grade, any link to sensitive digestion?

A bowl of fresh dog food full of veggies and protein-rich meats

Human grade refers to a finished product that is deemed legally suitable, safe, and FDA-approved for consumption by a human. Feed grade is suitable for animal feed but not for human consumption

A: Some of the sensitive stomach dog foods we chose for our list are marketed as containing 'human grade' ingredients. And some pet parents are rather confused about what that means and how important it is.

Again, this term is more about marketing than anything else, although a few dog foods do meet the standard for 'edible' food as set by the Department of Agriculture.

The most important thing however is that dog foods are made using safe ingredients, whether they are something that a human could theoretically eat or not.

Some dogs with sensitive stomachs don't do well with dog foods that contain a lot of coloring or artificial ingredients, so those pups may do better with a more naturally prepared dog food like the Ollie and Honest Kitchen products we featured on our best of list.

Q. Do you read the fine print on every food you buy? Why you should...

Ingredient list on a dog food bag

A: As you search for the right dog food for your pup's sensitive stomach reading all the fine print in the ingredient listings becomes a must. This is for two reasons. The first is to ensure it contains none of the ingredients you have already been able to determine probably cause him a problem, and if you haven't managed to do that yet ingredient labels will help you find out what they might be. 

The second reason for paying close attention to these lists - especially in limited ingredient dog foods - is to ensure that they not only contain high quality ingredients but also to make sure it offers all the nutrition your pup needs. For example, if yours is a senior pup he will probably benefit from food that contains extra glucosamine, as that is something that can help protect their joint health.

Big brands tend to cut corners, avoid feeding your fur-kid subpar products by reading the ingredients list and buying high-quality dog food that contains natural ingredients, real meat, vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. 

Not sure just what nutrients your pup really needs? Your vet can be a great source of information and guidance. 

Q. How do I transition my dog to a new food?

A: As to solve - or at the very least improve - sensitive stomach issues related to food in your pet dog the chances are that you will need to try at least one or two different dog foods. Some pet parents do 'get lucky' and, based on their research, find a suitable food right away. More often however it does take a few tries.

But, whether you change your pup's food once, or several times, it is very important that you go about doing so the right way, to avoid causing stomach problems that are worse than the ones you are trying to solve.

The very best way to transition your pup from one food to another to avoid stomach upsets is to do it systematically and gradually. You may be keen to start your pup on his new diet quickly, but you should resist the temptation to move too fast. Here is a sample schedule you can follow to make switching from one food to another easier on you both:

Sample Diet Transitioning Schedule

1

Day #1

75% current food, 25% new food

2

Day #2 and Day #3

70% current food, 30% new food

3

Day #4 and Day #5

50% current food, 50% new food

4

Day #6

25% old food, 75% new food

5

Day #7

New food only!

You should follow this schedule any time you make a brand switch and as you do try to observe how your dog's stomach and digestive health changes. Once your pet dog is all transitioned to his new food you may need to still give it several days before you can truly determine whether it is right for him or not.

Q. What about home-cooked dog food?

A: Some pups have such a sensitive stomach that almost any dog food seems to not quite sit right. This leads some pet parents to consider cooking their dogs food themselves.

This, in theory sounds like a great idea, as you will have far more control over the ingredients that make up your dog's meals. But, as many pet parents discover, there are a number of downsides to the idea as well.

Practical concerns aside - it takes a long time and is usually more expensive than even the premium priced commercial dog foods - it can be very hard to get the proper nutritional balance right unless you follow recipes that have been prepared by a trusted vet or a qualified canine nutritionist. You can often find lots of recipes online but not all of them are properly balanced.

The other potential downside of home cooked food is that it has to be consumed very fresh, or you will risk giving your pup a foodborne illness. In fact, according to the FDA you may even put your own health at risk as well, so your culinary hygiene and ingredient selection will have to be tip top. 

If you are willing to put in the effort, and do proper due diligence, preparing your own dog food could be a viable option to help your pup with his sensitive stomach issues, just be aware that it is a lot to take on. 

Q. What are some other ways to help dogs with sensitive digestive systems?

Pprobiotic supplements for pets

Integrate a probiotic supplement to help speed up the recovery process

A: Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of sensitive stomach in dogs, what causes it and how you can use food to help remedy many of those issues. 

Not all sensitive stomach issues can be solved with food changes alone though. Some issues may be behavioral or even related to the environment you pup eats in.

For example, if your pup eats too fast, he may be introducing too much air into his stomach too quickly, and this can lead to bloating, flatulence, acid reflux and even, in some extreme cases a dangerous condition called bloat. To help in these situations, a pup may benefit from a special time released feeder, food puzzle toys or even a few sessions with a canine behavior specialist. 

A dog bowl that is too low is a problem for some pups too. If they have to bend too low to eat, or even lie down if they are very tall, this constriction of the digestive system as they eat can cause stomach problems on its own. Investing in a raised dog bowl that better suits his height and allows him to eat in a more comfortable stance can be very helpful.  

Finally, your dog's stomach problems may sometimes be related to things he should not eat that you may not even know he's eaten. Some pups eat the strangest things. Paper, cardboard, discarded socks and underwear, even stones they find outside. 

They may also eat toxic vegetation if they are being exercised in a new area you are unfamiliar with. That's why it's important to keep as close an eye as possible on everything your pup puts in his mouth and to teach him that things like rocks and paper are not food! 

Finally, implementing probiotics and digestive enzymes into your pet dog's food can help monitor the digestive tract and prevent issues from developing such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Final Words

We know hope you understand a lot more about sensitive stomach in dogs, and about the role the right - and the wrong - dog food for sensitive stomachs can play in both their overall health, their digestive health and their enjoyment of their meals. Finding the right dog food for sensitive stomachs can be quite a project, but the effort will be worth it, for both you and your sensitive stomached pup!

Thank you for reading and we hope you have found the information useful. What are your own experiences with dog digestive health and what kind of sensitive stomach dog food have you tried on your fur-kid? Share your tips below and please don’t forget to share with us if you found this content useful!

Leave a Comment: