Digestive Upset

Information about stomach problems such as indigestion and digestive upset in cats and dogs.

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  1. What are Digestive Upsets?
  2. What Causes Digestive Upsets?
  3. Help for Digestive Upsets
  4. More Information on Digestive Upsets

What is Digestive Upset in Pets?

Just like humans, pets can experience upset digestive systems. Many of the causes are the same, too: overly processed diets, environmental pollution and stress. When dogs and cats get upset stomachs, they depend on their humans to help them feel better.

“Upset stomach” is a catch-all term for a number of different symptoms in dogs and cats. Vomiting and loss of appetite are the most common signs that your furry friend isn’t feeling well. If your cat or dog suffers from tummy trouble, there are remedies you can try at home before calling the vet.

What Causes Digestive Upset in Cats and Dogs?

Poor quality diet

One of the biggest causes of digestive system problems in dogs and cats is poor quality food. Commercial canned food or dry food varies in quality. Cat and dog owners should check the ingredients to make sure the food is made with real meat and minimal additives or preservatives.

Cats and dogs have taste preferences just like humans. It may take a little experimenting to find the diet that suits your pet’s dietary and physical needs. Sudden diet change can also cause digestive problems, so make changes over time whenever possible.

For some cats and dogs, table scraps can cause an upset stomach. Human food can have additives, fat and spices that a sensitive stomach can’t handle.

Even if you’re feeding a high quality cat food or dog food, your cat or dog may have a food intolerance or allergy to one of the ingredients. Try a different recipe or a new brand and see if there is improvement.

Other digestive problems

Some pets seem to have more sensitive digestive systems, and may be prone to digestive problems such as stomach inflammation, frequent vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, constipation, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, and bloating.

If your pet likes to put random objects in his mouth, he could have ingested something by mistake. If you suspect your pet swallowed something he shouldn’t have, call your vet right away. A physical exam or X-ray can check for a foreign body in your pet’s stomach.

Infection and parasites

Intestinal parasites and infections are common causes of stomach problems in dogs and cats. Take your cat or dog to the vet, who can run fecal tests. These tests check for Giardia infection, Salmonella, various types of intestinal worms and more.

Help for Digestive Upsets

Treatment for Digestive Upset in Dogs and Cats

The treatment for your pet’s upset stomach depends on what’s causing the problem.

Your vet will do a physical exam on your pet and may recommend dietary changes, behavior modification, medication or surgery.

Natural Remedies

Nature has a first aid box of herbal and homeopathic ingredients to relieve digestive upset in pets. In nature, animals instinctively seek out herbs that help them feel better. Some dogs even eat grass, although experts disagree on exactly why.

At home, pets do not have easy access to the wild herbs their ancestors did, so it’s up to pet owners to provide them.

Licorice is a natural ingredient with anti-inflammatory properties. It’s known as an effective tonic for the entire digestive system. Slippery elm is a digestive herb with a long history of use. Marshmallow is well-known for soothing painful and inflamed mucous membranes in the digestive tract.

Digestive Support™ for Cat & Dog Digestion is a natural supplement that includes all three of these herbs.

Homeopathic remedies such as nux vomica are also a good choice. They have no risk of serious side effects.

Nutritional supplements such as digestive enzymes, probiotics, aloe and glutamine can help support digestive health in pets.

If natural remedies don’t help, contact your veterinarian. 

Bland Diet

When your pet is sick, your veterinarian may recommend a “bland diet.” This basic diet is very easy to digest so it reduces stress on the stomach. Feeding a bland diet can help relieve some of your cat or dog’s intestinal discomfort while making sure he or she is getting the proper nutrition.
A bland diet consists of only steamed or boiled chicken and rice. Some vets also suggest low fat cottage cheese.

Foods for Mild Upset Stomach

• Plain, unseasoned chicken, even if your pet isn’t restricted to a bland diet.
• Pumpkin, canned or fresh and unseasoned, can sooth stomachs and contains many beneficial vitamins and nutrients.
• Bone broth adds enticing flavor to dry food to encourage pets to eat
• Baby food, as long as it doesn’t list onion or garlic in the ingredients.

More Information on Digestive Upsets

Tips for promoting digestive health
  • Dietary intolerance is a leading cause of digestive upset in pets. It only takes intolerance to a one ingredient in your pet’s food to cause digestive complaints such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Opt for high quality, balanced diets filled with unprocessed foods. If necessary, experiment with a few different diets to find one that most suits your pet’s digestive system.
  • Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh clean water available at all times. Many cats are fussy water drinkers and may only drink from water sources other than their water bowel, such as from running taps, baths, or your drinking glass. Keep at least two sources of water around for your pet.
  • Food and water bowels should be made from glass, ceramics or stainless steel, not plastic. Plastic is porous and can harbor bacteria. Bowels should be washed regularly with hot water.
  • Many pets will refuse to eat if they are feeling ill. This natural fasting process gives your pet’s digestive system time to rest and heal. Don’t worry too much if your otherwise healthy pet skips a meal. If your pet doesn’t eat for 48 hours, or shows other symptoms of illness, call your vet for advice.
  • Certain foods such as onions and chocolate are toxic for pets and should never be given as treats. Other human foods can also cause digestive upsets such as very spicy, or rich foods.
  • Furballs can seriously disrupt the digestive system and cause a number of digestive complaints. It is therefore important to manage furballs with regular grooming and natural supplements, if they are a problem for your pet


1. “My Cat Has an Upset Stomach. What Can I Do?” VetStreet. Accessed March 26, 2020. http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/my-cat-has-an-upset-stomach-what-can-i-do
2. Burke, Anna. “Five Foods to Feed Your Dog When He’s Sick.” American Kennel Club. Accessed March 26, 2020. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/six-foods-to-feed-your-dog-when-hes-sick/
3. “How to Relieve Cat Stomach Issues.” PetMD. Accessed March 26, 2020. https://www.petmd.com/cat/how-relieve-cat-stomach-issues
4. “How Do You Spell R-E-L-I-E-F for Your Dog’s Upset Stomach?” American Kennel Club. Accessed March 26, 2020. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-do-you-spell-r-e-l-i-e-f-for-your-dogs-upset-stomach/

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