A Little Known Way To Deal With Dog Digestive System Problems

Dog digestive system problems are a serious issue for many American families and their pets, leading us to search for the most effective ways to deal with dog digestive system problems. Dog digestive system problems are extremely unpleasant for your dog, causing pain and discomfort. They can also be problematic for families when they cause accidents inside the house or in the crate since these accidents are often hard to clean. Here is a little bit of information about why your dog may be suffering from digestive problems, as well as some little-known ways to deal with them. We’ll also discuss some common treatments that you should actually avoid.

Why does my dog have digestive problems?

Just like people, dogs don’t always digest their food well. The digestive system is complex, involving lots of different organs in your dog’s body. Dog digestive system problems can result from issues with any of these organs, as well as other organs in the body. Digestion can be divided into four categories: digestion, nutrient absorption, movement of nutrients through the digestive tract, and elimination. Your veterinarian will try to determine where the digestive problem is occurring in order to help you solve the problem. If your dog only suffers from mild indigestion for a day or two, you likely have no reason to feel concerned. However, if your dog suffers from digestive issues for days at a time or has recurring bouts of indigestion, you should seek out your veterinarian’s help. The solution may be easier than you think to improve your dog’s quality of life. 


Parasites are a very common source of digestive upset in dogs. All kinds of parasites can affect the digestive tract. If your dog is suffering from ongoing or recurrent digestive upset, your veterinarian will certainly perform an examination of the stool in order to determine whether parasites may be present.  Screening for parasites should be a part of every dog’s annual visit to the vet. Keep in mind that sometimes parasites can be missed during screening, depending on their life cycle and how thorough the test was. Test again if your dog’s vet cannot find the cause of the illness.


Overeating, poor-quality food, chemicals, indigestible objects, or injury to the digestive system can all result in digestive problems. If your dog suffers sudden digestive upset, having eaten a foreign object is very likely the cause. Your veterinary can perform x-rays or other imaging to find out if your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have. 

Genetic problems or other diseases

Dog digestive problems can result from enzyme deficiencies or even birth defects. Twisting of the stomach, known as gastric torsion, causes severe dog digestive problems and does not have a known cause. Diseases of other organs in the body, including the liver, kidney, and adrenal glands, can also result in digestive upset such as vomiting and diarrhea.

A Little Known Way To Deal With Dog Digestive System Problems 

Your veterinarian might decide that the best way to deal with your dog’s digestive problems is to address lifestyle issues. If this is the case, there’s plenty that you can do to improve your dog’s quality of life and even completely stop dog digestive system problems. Here are some things that can help. 


Fiber is beneficial in your dog’s food because it:
  1. Helps move the digestive tract along
  2. Makes your dog feel full without overeating
  3. Can aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals by keeping them in the digestive tract longer
You can choose a dog food that has high levels of fiber or choose a supplement made especially for dogs.  You can also add fiber to your dog’s diet by giving them healthy vegetables and fruits that contain lots of fiber. The goal is to give your dog things that contain as much fiber as possible with the lowest caloric content as you can. Green beans are a wonderful option, which most dogs seem to love. Brussel sprouts are another great choice.  If your dog seems uninterested in the raw variety, try lightly cooking or freezing vegetables in order to make them more appealing to your dog. Stay away from high caloric fibers such as pumpkin and fruits such as apples and strawberries. A little of this food is a great way to incorporate fiber into your dog’s routine and replace treats, but too many can rapidly be fattening or introduce too much sugar into your dog’s diet. 


Glutamine, or L-glutamine, is an amino acid that is common in dairy and meat products. It is most abundant in the skeleton, blood, and muscle, as well as in the brain where it acts as a fuel and a neurotransmitter. Furthermore, glutamine is a valuable energy source for cells lining the digestive tract, particularly when they are injured or diseased. Glutamine can help your dog restore their stomach lining and reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract. It can be effective for treating dogs that suffer from chronic bowel disorder and even parvovirus. 

Slippery elm

Slippery elm is an herbal treatment. It is made from the inner bark of the red elm tree, otherwise known as the slippery elm tree. The tree is called slippery because of a gel that is made when the powdered bark meets water. In your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, slippery elm can protect and lubricate. Tannins reduce inflammation and therefore reduce pain. The oily substance of the bark lubricates the entire digestive tract, helping everything to move more smoothly. Slippery elm has been used commonly with pets with all sorts of digestive disturbances, running the range from diarrhea to constipation. While no animal studies currently exist, slippery elm seems to be well tolerated and have mild effects. In rare cases, an animal may show an allergic reaction to slippery elm, so it should be introduced in isolation to other novel foods or supplements and only when you have access to veterinary care. 

Use probiotics

Probiotics make it easier for your dog to digest the food that they eat. Your dog will be able to absorb more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from their food and suffer less digestive upset. In a study on dogs entering a shelter, supplementation with probiotics significantly decreased the incidence of diarrhea. Therefore, if your dog is prone to diarrhea, whether it is from diet or stress, probiotics may have a beneficial effect.

Eliminate chicken, beef, dairy, and wheat from your dog’s diet

Many people think about choosing a grain-free diet when trying to eliminate digestive upset in their dog. In reality, research has found that the most likely food allergens are beef, dairy products, and chicken.  Wheat is also a leading allergen, so choosing grains besides wheat may be a good choice as well. The best diet for dogs that may be suffering from food allergies will be one with a novel protein (venison, duck, or salmon) and a grain that is soothing for the stomach such as oatmeal or rice.

Make sure that your dog drinks plenty of water

You may be focused on food when you think about digestive problems, but plenty of water is also important to keep your dog’s digestive system moving well. Your dog can become dehydrated if they have diarrhea or if they are vomiting, which can perpetuate the problems with digestive upset. Encourage your dog to drink water. Add something enticing like salt-free chicken broth to their water if they are reluctant to drink enough. 

Things you probably shouldn’t try

You’ll find plenty of good information about what can help your dog’s digestive problems; however, but there is some misleading information out there as well. Here are some things that might be suggested as ways to help your dog’s digestive problems that are, in fact, not helpful. They may even be hurtful.

Grain-free diets

Grain-free diets are touted as being more natural and easier for your dog to digest. Some sources claim that grains are often the source of allergies for dogs and a grain-free diet can remove digestive upset that results from indigestion. In fact, most dogs are allergic to beef, chicken, and dairy, not grain. While wheat is a leading allergen as well, other grains like rice, oatmeal, and barley are generally well digested and unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. It seems that dogs not only tolerate but need grains in their diets.  A shocking number of dogs who have eaten grain-free diets, especially throughout life, have developed a condition known as canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Previously, this disease generally only occurred in breeds that have a genetic predisposition for it. More recently, however, cases have come up in breeds that are not known to have a genetic predisposition for it.  Cases are frequent enough that veterinarians and pet owners have made an outcry and the FDA has launched investigations into the connection between grain-free diets and DCM in dogs. If you want to eliminate potential allergens in your dog’s food, eliminate beef, chicken, dairy, and wheat, but keep other grains. 

Digestive enzymes

Makers of dog foods and supplements claim that digestive enzymes help to break down the proteins, fats, and carbs in your dog’s food. This, in turn, helps your dog digest these foods more easily and get the best nutritional content from them. This seems logical, especially in dogs suffering from digestive upset due to difficulties producing enzymes.  In fact, research has not been able to back up the use of enzymes, and some of them may even be dangerous for your dog. Dogs may have increased rather than decreased digestive upset as a result of enzymes; it can also potentially cause severe symptoms including allergic reactions.  Sometimes enzymes are said to be preserved because the food is not cooked, but uncooked food can be dangerous for your dog. Studies have found no difference in the digestion of essential nutrients when dogs are supplemented with enzymes versus when they are not. Stay away from digestive enzymes and stick to other more beneficial supplements when trying to improve your dog’s digestive health. 


You may have heard pumpkin suggested as a way to add fiber to your dog’s diet and improve their digestive health. However, pumpkin may not be the best way to add fiber to your dog’s diet. In order to provide your dog with enough pumpkin to give the sort of fiber that would offer therapeutic effects, you would need to feed them a lot of this high-sugar food. This would likely cause your dog to gain weight and unbalance their diet. Furthermore, pumpkin only represents one kind of fiber and your dog needs both soluble and insoluble fiber. Consider other options to add more fiber to your dog’s diet. 


Dog digestive system problems are no fun for you or your dog. However, if you are deliberate about trying some proven methods that are safe for your dog, you are likely to find a solution that works well. Don’t get frustrated if one or another of these solutions don’t work. Each dog is an individual. It may take a couple of different techniques in order to arrive at a successful solution for your furry friend.

Coral Dawn Drake

My fiance, Justin, and I live with our two little dogs, Sofie and Lisa, and three chickens in Gainesville, Florida. Justin and I are homebodies who occasionally enjoy a good adventure. I love living in Gainesville, and I love Florida. I can’t imagine anywhere more beautiful or strange than this hot, marshy place where people are guaranteed to be nothing other than themselves. Justin is always reminding me to relax. Relaxing doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m always busy. Making art or editing photos, digging in the yard or trying to grow some new moss or plant. There never seems to be enough time to do everything that I want to do. Life is so, so full and I want to plunge into every second of it.

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