What Food is Best For a Dog With a Sensitive Stomach? Q&A with Dr. Leilani Alvarez, DVM

A sensitive stomach can cause your dog many problems—from lack of appetite to nausea to vomiting.

Because dogs with a sensitive stomach often experience discomfort when eating, many will eventually start skipping meals and might lose weight or even get sick as a result.

In order for your dog to thrive, you’ll need to address the issue and find a solution that works for him—whether that means just changing his diet or also receiving medication or supplements throughout his life to ease the symptoms.

We talked to Dr. Leilani Alvarez, DVM, head of the Integrative and Rehabilitative Medicine Department at the Animal Medical Center of NYC, to learn more about how choosing the right diet can help your dog cope with a sensitive stomach.

THE HONEST KITCHEN: What makes a diet better for a dog with a sensitive stomach?

Dr. Leilani Alvarez: Individual dogs have specific requirements that may be best for them depending on their particular medical or physical needs. Not all dogs with a sensitive stomach are alike. For example, an old dog with arthritis is likely to respond differently to a diet than a young and active dog.

In general, diets that are less processed with fresh and whole food ingredients are likely better tolerated. In older dogs, gently steaming food can help improve digestibility. In dogs with a history of diarrhea or vomiting, choose foods that are lower in fat content (less than 25%).

THE HONEST KITCHEN: Are certain ingredients more upsetting or inflammatory than others?

LA: High-fat foods and dairy are often the culprits for dogs with sensitive tummies. Spicy foods should also be avoided in pets. I would recommend avoiding cheese, milk, butter, sausages and high-fat meats (pork belly, bacon, certain cuts of beef and lamb).

THE HONEST KITCHEN: Are there any natural supplements that can be used to help my dog with a sensitive stomach?

LA: Slippery Elm, Pumpkin, Papaya leaf, Papain, Ginger, Chamomile, and Marshmallow Root are all great options for natural digestive supplements.

THE HONEST KITCHEN: What is the difference between allergies and sensitivities when it comes to foods/ingredients?

LA: One must be careful not to confuse “allergies” with “sensitivity.” A food allergy in its true sense is caused by an inappropriate response of the body’s immune system. This occurs when the body confuses a food item (usually a protein) for a foreign invader and mounts an attack on that “foreign” protein. For example, a person with a peanut allergy can have an anaphylactic allergic reaction when they eat peanuts, even though peanuts are not a real threat to the body.

Food sensitivity or “intolerance” means our body may not digest or react to a certain food very well, such as occurs commonly with dairy products due to a lack of the enzyme that breaks down lactose or due to foods that are too high in fat or fiber or other nutrient variations. This would lead to an upset stomach with symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, but this is not the same as an “allergy.” True food allergies are actually pretty rare in animals (<10% of reactions).

THE HONEST KITCHEN: Are limited ingredient diets always the answer for a dog with a sensitive stomach?

LA: Dogs with food intolerance or sensitivity may do better with a limited ingredient diet, but it’s certainly not necessary unless they have a true food allergy. Most food sensitivities are due to excess fat, inadequate amounts or proportions of soluble to insoluble fiber or other “odd” ingredients that may cause an upset stomach. Look for diets that list whole and recognizable ingredients with protein as the number one ingredient. Also, avoid diets with a very long list of ingredients.

I personally like diets that have 10 ingredients or less (not counting any added vitamins or minerals). More than likely means ingredients that are not natural and more likely to have preservatives and fillers.

THE HONEST KITCHEN: How can a whole foods diet like THK benefit a dog with a sensitive stomach?

LA: Although true food allergies are rare in animals, food sensitivities are common and more likely caused by foods that are poorly manufactured and contain chemicals, preservatives, and other non-natural ingredients. The Honest Kitchen has some of the few diets out there that are truly “human grade”; meaning we can trust that the ingredients and the manufacturing meet the highest of standards for quality and purity.

THK diets contain only whole foods with no GMO ingredients, preservatives or fillers. Dogs with a sensitive stomach are less likely to react to a natural whole food diet than to highly processed foods with lots of preservatives or other non-natural ingredients.

Meet the Author: Diana Bocco

Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com

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