Dogs hold a special place in our hearts. From the way in which they always greet us at the door, tail-wagging and ready to play, it’s not hard to see why they’re considered man’s best friend (or woman’s best friend, of course). Only when we see them sick are we reminded that they are creatures with a full range of emotion—emotions other than excitement, happy, and BALL!

To see a dog sick and miserable is a heart-wrenching sight. If we had one wish, it would be to take their pain away and allow them to be their goofy, adorable selves all the time. Unfortunately, until their sickness passes, all we can do is wait for the medicine to kick in and provide them with comfort in the meantime. However, when it comes to dog digestion problems, knowing what the most common issues are and how to treat them can get your dog back on all four paws as quickly as possible. 

To that end, here are the 5 most common dog digestive issues.

1. Infections in the Digestive System

Ingestion of contaminated food, water, or (unfortunately) feces, is the most common way dogs receive an infection in their digestive tract. The three most common infectious culprits are: 

  • Bacterial Infections – Ingesting bacteria can stick to and irritate the inside of the digestive tract. If the bacteria are in the stomach, vomiting is likely to result. However, if the bacteria is further down the digestive tract, diarrhea is likely to occur. Veterinarians can prescribe antibiotics to cure these infections.
  • Viral Infections – Coming into contact with other sick dogs can produce viral infections that cannot be cured using antibiotics. Instead, managing your dogs’ symptoms and providing enough fluids is all that can be done.
  • Parasites – Parasites live inside the gut of an animal. They produce eggs or larvae that pass through the digestive tract and then end up in the feces of the animal. Other animals then eat this, and that is how the parasite lives on. Seeing white spots in your dog’s feces is typically a sign of parasites.

2. Noninfectious Disease

The digestive tract is also prone to noninfectious diseases. Ulcers, kidney stones, enzyme deficiencies are all common in dogs, especially as they age. These need to be identified and treated on a case by case basis.

3. Nutrient Deficiencies

Unfortunately, not all pet foods are created equal. And some “complete and balanced” brands don’t take into consideration the pathways needed to absorb all the necessary nutrients. Dogs need a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals for their long-term health. Any deficiency in a dog’s diet will cause stomach issues, problems with the intestinal tract, and much more.

Dietary Supplement

If you suspect malnutrition, dietary supplements are available to regain your dog’s sense of well-being. It’s important to consider both the age of the dog and the specific nutrient deficiency before looking for the right dog digestive supplements.

4. Overeating and Bloat

“No thanks, I’m on a diet,” seems to be outside of a dog’s lexicon. In fact, putting three bowls of dinner out will not surprise a dog at all. He or she will continue to eat, up until the point of rupture… literally.

An immediate sign that your dog has overeaten is an inflated, hardened stomach. Don’t let their tummy ache confuse you into thinking this is a fair form of karma for sneaking into your pantry. Overeating can quickly turn into bloat, a life-threatening illness. Bloat occurs when gas builds up in the stomach due to eating too much or too quickly. Instead of being released, the gas gets trapped in the stomach and slowly twists the stomach into a knot. If it rotates too far, the illness becomes fatal.

If you suspect overeating or bloat, drop everything and take your dog to the vet immediately.

How to Prevent Overeating

There are a few simple measures you can take to ensure this will never happen to your dog:

  • Store all dog food in a pet-safe container, away from the greedy paws of our gluttonous canine friends.
  • Use a bowl with awkward shapes that make it hard for them to reach the food—this causes them to swallow smaller bites at a time.
  • Offer smaller meals throughout the day if you’re worried your dog eats too quickly.

5. Swallowing a Foreign Object

Our furry friends are known to be a curious bunch with one main thought on their minds: To eat or not to eat, that is the question. Yes, Shakespeare was thinking of dogs when he came up with that line. But seriously, the list of items dogs are known to eat is extensive.

  • Fishing hooks
  • Corn cobs
  • Bones
  • String
  • Balls
  • Socks
  • Stockings
  • Toys

While smaller objects will pass through your dog’s digestive tract without much issue (though, maybe some discomfort), larger objects can create blockages in the stomach or small intestine. This can turn fatal if not caught early enough. If you notice your dog acting strange, vomiting or dry heaving profusely, it may be time to rush them to the vet. 

Understanding Your Dog’s Digestion

As much as it’s important to know about common digestive issues that your dog may be facing, it’s equally as important to 

Your dog is prone to eating anything and everything under the sun. If it looks or smells even remotely edible, chances are they’re going to take a bite before you can say, “drop it!” Knowing the common dog digestive problems that can occur in their GI tract will help you identify the underlying cause and treat it appropriately.

No one wants to see their dog suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or any other type of digestive upset. To avoid stomach issues and ensure the long-term health of your furry companion, make sure you are providing your pup with a wholesome diet on a daily basis. 


Merck Manual. Introduction to Digestive Disorders of Dogs.

Pet MD. Signs and Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs.

Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine.  She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.

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