Have you been struggling to find a food that your dog won't throw up? Maybe they have chronic soft stool or bad gas. Luckily, there are many dog foods for sensitive digestion that may help. Here are our top picks!
How to Choose the Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
How do you know if a food is good for your dog and their sensitive stomach? Here are some things you should look for.
Whole or No Grains
A couple of years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found a potential link between some grain-free dog foods and a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). They still don't know enough to definitively say that grain-free dog food causes DCM, just that there may be a link.
Vets are split on whether or not dogs should eat grain-free foods. Some dogs are sensitive to grains and do best on a grain-free diet. If your dog has been battling stomach issues on a grain-inclusive food, they may benefit from switching to a grain-free food.
Regardless, you should talk to your dog's vet before adding or subtracting grains from your dog's diet.
If you opt for a grain-inclusive diet for your pup, make sure it contains healthy whole grains rather than grain by-products, which are commonly used as non-nutritious filler ingredients.
Digestible Protein and Other Ingredients
Some ingredients are just easier to digest than others. High-fat meats, for example, can be much more difficult to digest than leaner meats. Some easy-to-digest ingredients include lamb, chicken, potatoes, and brown rice. It's important to note, though, that chicken is a common food allergen for dogs, so that could be a contributing factor to your dog's symptoms.
Food allergies or sensitivities are a common contributor to stomach problems in dogs. The fewer ingredients are in the food, the lower the likelihood that your dog will be sensitive to one of the ingredients.
It may not be exciting for your dog, but "bland" recipes like chicken and rice are often the easiest to digest. This goes along with choosing a diet with limited ingredients. For dogs who struggle with stomach problems, simpler food is usually better.
Ingredients that Help Digestion
You might take probiotics yourself. Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that help digest food. The best sensitive stomach dog foods include probiotics for improved digestibility.
Prebiotics are a type of fiber that beneficial bacteria feed off, so they can help digestion, too. Look for ingredients like sweet potatoes and pumpkin to help with your pup's tummy.
Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach
1. Nulo Puppy & Adult Freestyle Limited Plus Grain Free Dry Dog Food for Digestive & Immune Health
If you're looking for a top-of-the-line, high-protein (30%) diet for dogs with sensitive stomachs, Nulo has you covered with this Freestyle Limited Plus Grain Free formula. The turkey and salmon recipes each contain a single protein source, which is handy for dogs with food allergies. This food also includes probiotics and prebiotics for extra digestibility.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned turkey, turkey meal, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, canola oil
Customer Reviews: There are a couple of reports of customers receiving a bad, damaged, or incorrect bag of Nulo food. By and large, though, dog owners rave about this food. Pups love the taste and have improved poops and shinier fur after switching to this food from something else.
Our Take: This food is on the pricy side, and grain-free diets aren't appropriate for all dogs. However, if you can afford this food and your dog thrives on a grain-free diet, this may be the best dog food for sensitive stomachs on the market right now.
2. Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Dry Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, dried potatoes, lentils, chickpeas
Customer Reviews: The complaints on this food are varied and range from issues with the price to the risk of dilated cardiomyopathy to the food making some dogs sick. However, most customers say their dog loves the taste of this food and report improved digestion and healthier skin and coat.
Our Take: If the Nulo food is outside your budget, this Nutro food is still a high-quality grain-free food that is somewhat more affordable.
3. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
If you prefer to give your dog a grain-inclusive food, Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Dog Food is an excellent choice. It combines a single animal protein source with whole grains LifeSource Bits for a nutritious food that's easy to digest and may work for dogs with food allergies.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned salmon, oatmeal, brown rice, salmon meal (source of glucosamine), peas
Customer Reviews: Most of the complaints revolve around quality control issues, with some dogs getting sick. However, there are many reports of dogs having improved stool and healthier skin and coat after switching to this food.
Our Take: If you're looking for an affordable, quality, grain-inclusive food for your dog, this one is a good choice. Most dogs seem to improve after switching to this food.
4. Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, peas, tapioca, canola oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid)
Customer Reviews: This is a newer product from Instinct and has no negative reviews yet. So far, customers report that their dogs love the taste and are thriving on this food.
Our Take: Not all dogs do well on such a high-protein diet (34%), and chicken is a common allergen. However, for certain dogs, this may be the perfect diet to help calm their stomach problems.
5. Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, Grain Free
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, pea protein, lamb meal, chickpeas, peas
Customer Reviews: There seems to be a big issue with quality control over the last couple of months. However, most customers are thrilled with this food and report that it's the only food they've tried that doesn't upset their dog's food allergies.
Our Take: There's a chance you could get a bad batch of this food, but overall, Natural Balance LID options are still a solid choice for dogs with multiple or unknown food allergies.
6. Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food Salmon & Potato
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, potatoes, peas, dried ground potatoes
Customer Reviews: There are occasional reports of dogs not liking this food or getting sick after eating it. However, most dogs love the taste, and there are multiple reports of reduced gas, firmer poops, and improved skin.
Our Take: This is an excellent choice if you're looking for a premium, limited ingredient, grain-free dog food for your pup.
7. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Sensitive Stomach Dry Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, barley, ground rice, canola meal, oat meal
Customer Reviews: There seem to be significant quality control issues lately, with multiple people reporting worms or other insects in their bags of food and quite a few dogs getting sick. On the other hand, there are plenty of accounts from people who report that their dog is healthier than ever after switching to this food.
Our Take: If you can afford something better, this is far from a top of the line food. However, we recognize that not everybody can provide premium dog food. If you're on a tight budget, you could do much worse than Purina Pro Plan.
8. Diamond Naturals Skin & Coat Real Meat Recipe Dry Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, fish meal, potatoes, lentils, peas
Customer Reviews: There are several reports of dogs having increased skin allergies after switching to this food, and many dogs don't care for the taste. However, there are more reports of dogs experiencing decreased allergies and stomach problems.
Our Take: Many dogs do well on this food, and it's one of the more affordable options on our list. It may or may not work to help your dog's sensitive stomach – you may need to try it to see.
9. CANIDAE PURE Real Salmon, Limited Ingredient, Grain Free Premium Dry Dog Food
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, menhaden fish meal, sweet potatoes, peas
Customer Reviews: There have been some reports of quality control issues when people order from Amazon, and dogs who have been eating this food for a while suddenly got sick after receiving a new bag. Mostly, though, dogs love the taste of this food and thrive on it, even dogs with multiple food sensitivities.
Our Take: There is a chance you could get a bad bag from Amazon, but all in all, this is a quality limited ingredient dog food that's great for most dogs with sensitive stomachs.
10. Halo Natural Dry Dog Food, Wild Salmon & Whitefish Recipe
First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, whitefish, dried egg product, oat groats, pearled barley
Customer Reviews: Some dogs don't enjoy the taste of this food, and a couple got sick after eating it. Mostly, though, dogs love this food and have improved digestion after switching to it.
Our Take: If you like grain-inclusive foods with non-GMO vegetables for your pup, this is an excellent choice. Some dogs may not love the taste, but most dogs do well on this food.
Symptoms of Sensitive Stomachs
How can you tell if your dog has a sensitive tummy? Here are some symptoms to look out for.
Is your dog's poop always squishy or runny? Do they sometimes struggle to get outside in time? Diarrhea is a common problem in dogs with stomach issues.
While some dog breeds are stinkier than others, no dog should be clearing a room with their farts. If you can barely stand to share the room with your gassy dog, they're probably struggling with digestive issues.
Vomiting is never normal. If your dog commonly vomits shortly after eating, then they're having stomach problems and may need a new food.
Why Do Some Dogs Have Sensitive Stomachs?
Several different things could be triggering your dog's sensitive belly. Here are some of the most common reasons some dogs have upset stomachs.
Just as some people are allergic to nuts or shellfish, some dogs have food allergies, too. Some common food allergies for dogs include:
Food allergies can also manifest as chronic ear infections or constant scratching or licking.
One of the trickiest food allergies to deal with can be chicken. Many foods that use other animals as the primary protein source may still sneak in chicken fat or chicken meal as an ingredient. If you know your dog is allergic to chicken, it's crucial to read every ingredient of a food before feeding it to your pup.
Unable to Digest Certain Ingredients
Some dogs struggle to digest too much fat or certain protein sources. Chicken and lamb tend to be easier to digest than other meats.
Have you ever felt nauseous when you were stressed out or upset? The same thing can happen to your dog. If you've recently moved, changed routines, or added or lost somebody from your home, the stress could trigger your dog's stomach issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Tell if My Dog Has a Sensitive Tummy?
Sometimes, it's evident that your dog's stomach is bothering them. Other times, it's less obvious. Signs of a sensitive belly include:
Is Food for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs Healthy?
All commercial dog foods must meet specific nutrition guidelines to be labeled "nutritionally complete," so any food for dogs with sensitive stomachs should be overall healthy. In fact, avoiding filler and focusing on a few nutritious ingredients may be better than a food with dozens of ingredients that you can't pronounce.
What Type of Dog Food is Best for Sensitive Stomachs?
Is canned dog food better than dry food for dogs with tummy trouble? Not necessarily. While your pup could benefit from the higher moisture content of wet food, it's the ingredients that make more of a difference than how wet or dry a food is.
You may need to experiment with many different types of dog food – dry, canned, raw, freeze-dried, or even homemade – before finding one that your dog's stomach agrees with.
You also need to pay attention to your dog's age when figuring out their ideal diet. Food labeled "for all life stages" is acceptable for dogs of any age. If you have a puppy or senior dog, you might want to look for food specifically for those life stages because they have different nutritional needs.
What Ingredients Should I Avoid in Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs?
When shopping for dog food, do your best to avoid the following ingredients:
What is Hypoallergenic Dog Food?
Hypoallergenic dog food has gone through a special process to split proteins into their basic amino acid building blocks. In a sense, they've been "pre-chewed" so that your dog's body doesn't recognize the meat as an allergen.
What is a Limited Ingredient Dog Food?
Limited ingredient dog food uses fewer ingredients than other dog foods to help reduce allergens. A food might contain as little as one protein source, one vegetable, and a bunch of vitamins and minerals. If you aren't sure what is bothering your dog's stomach, limited ingredient dog food can be a great way to eliminate many possibilities.
What Is Prescription GI Dog Food?
The only way to get genuinely hypoallergenic food for your pup is with prescription dog food. It's hypoallergenic dog food made in a way that reduces the odds of cross-contamination from other foods. If your dog has a severe food allergy, a prescription diet may be the only way to get over their stomach issues.
How Do I Safely Transition My Dog to a New Food if They Have a Sensitive Belly?
Any time you transition your dog from one food to another, you should always do so gradually. That's even more important for dogs with sensitive stomachs, as they're more prone to digestive upset.
Start by adding just a little bit (less than 25%) of the new food added to your dog's current food. Over a week or two, work on adding more of the new food and less of the old food at each meal.