Sensitive Stomach Dog Food Options For Canine Gut Health
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Natural Balance Limited Ingredient - Sweet Potato & Venison Formula
If you have a dog with a sensitive stomach then you know the frustration and heartache of trying to find foods that will give them relief from their symptoms. We know you want the best for your dog with special dietary needs, both in terms of taste and nutrition.
Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa | Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine
Sara is Wileypup’s Veterinarian Adviser and helped compose this article to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For more information on Sara click here
In this article, we will investigate some of the common causes for sensitive stomachs in dogs, and recommend the top high-quality foods formulated with such pups in mind.
We focus on the two main strategies that vets use to help dogs with food sensitivities: limited ingredient diets and hypoallergenic foods. We also have included a few treat options in each category so that you have some fun options to reward your dog while staying within strict diet restrictions.
Finding the right ingredients for canines with sensitive systems can be a trial and error process. You may consider buying smaller bags of feed until you land on a variety that your pup seems to tolerate well. Be sure you are not undermining the process by adding additional foods as snacks.
You will also probably notice that special foods are pricier by the pound. In most cases some of the extra cost will work out because these high-quality foods tend to have less filler which means it takes less to meet your canines nutritional needs.
Our product review of the top foods for dogs with sensitive stomachs prioritizes high quality ingredients from trusted names in the pet food industry. We include some more budget friendly options that meet these high standards as well, outlining the best dog food for sensitive stomach, diarrhea and skin issues.
Allergies & Food Sensitivities
Food allergies and intolerance for certain ingredients often present with the same symptoms in canines so it can be hard to tell the difference. In fact, the difference is not entirely understood at this time. However, combined they are a leading cause of sensitive stomachs in dogs.
Frankly, in either case the goal will be to identify the allergen or irritant and remove it from the diet.
Symptoms that may be signs of allergies or intolerances include:
- Excessive itching or licking, especially paws and ears.
- Red, crusty, scaly or excessively dry skin
- Frequent skin infections or ear infections
- Excessive gas
Since these symptoms can also be signs of any number of other conditions, some of which may be life threatening, it is best to work with your veterinarian to determine the cause of any health conditions your pup may be dealing with.
As we will investigate in this article, there are also different strategies for dealing with food sensitivities. Your vet is the best person to work with to develop a plan for your dog. They may have you keep a food and symptom diary to track how new foods are affecting your pooch.
Identifying the causes of food sensitivities can be painstaking. Be patient and follow the diet guidelines strictly and the chances are very good that you will find a diet plan that alleviates symptoms and gives your furry friend a better quality of life.
Allergy & Food Sensitivity Symptoms
There are some related symptoms to sensitive stomachs that you should be aware of and let your vet know about. These could be indicators of serious diseases such as diabetes, hypoglycemia or other conditions that require medical treatment.
If your dog has any of the following symptoms, please make an appointment with your vet!
- Sudden and drastic increase or decrease in appetite that lasts more than a few days
- Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than a day, is severe, or contains blood
- Excessive panting or drooling
- Excessive lethargy lasting more than a day
- Difficulty urinating or defecating
- Excessive drinking that lasts more than a day
Treating Dogs With Food Sensitivities
Eliminate any “extras” first
If your vet has identified that your pup has either allergies or specific food sensitivities, then it is likely they will first want to be sure your dog isn’t getting into anything that could be bad for them, such as:
- Table scraps
- High fat treats, such as rawhide
- Grass from the yard
- Herbicides or pesticides in the yard
- Toxic plants in the flower bed
- Toxic houseplants
- Access to any chemicals or other possible poisons
- Excessively fatty ingredients or other dog treats
Before heading to the vet, do an inspection of the house and yard to see if there is a chance that a toxic “extra” may have made its way into your dog’s diet.
Identifying ingredients that may be causing food allergy or intolerance
Often, canines with sensitive stomachs are reacting to one or more ingredients in their dinner, or treats.
Food sensitivities in dogs are not uncommon, nor are they completely understood. As we covered in our articles on Grain Free Puppy Food and Best Grain Free Dog Treat Recipes, sometimes owners jump to the conclusion that it is a grain sensitivity that is causing the problem.
The most common triggers for sensitivities are actually beef, dairy and then wheat followed by egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit and fish. Unfortunately, it is also likely that your pup may have more than one allergy or sensitivity.
In order to identify the culprit your vet may suggest one of two courses of action:
Novel protein and carbohydrate dog food with limited ingredients – Dog foods with novel proteins (such as bison, duck, or salmon) and carbohydrates (such as peas and sweet potatoes) that are unusual in commercial dog food are less likely to contain the offending ingredient.
Hydrolyzed protein dog food – These kinds of dog food use a special process to break down animal proteins into small enough particles that the immune system of your pup does not recognize them as an allergen. Sometimes these ingredients are referred to as “hypoallergenic.”
In both cases the dog is put on the special diet for a period of 4-12 weeks until symptoms totally abate. Then, one by one, new ingredients are added under careful observation to identify offending ingredients. Your veterinarian will probably encourage you to keep track of foods and symptoms during the elimination trials in order to track progress.
Unfortunately, unlike with inhalant and contact allergens, there are no good blood or patch tests to identify what may be causing your pups sensitivities.
The good news, however, is that now more than ever there are lots of great options for canines with sensitive stomachs. Our review will offer three from each category: limited ingredient and hydrolyzed protein foods so that you can be sure to find something that meets your vet’s specific recommendations. In addition, we will review two dog treat options in each category so that you can be consistent with your dog’s new diet.
Best Sensitive Stomach Dog Food | Highly Digestible Brands
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient - Sweet Potato
Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient Dry Senior Dog Food
BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Biscuits Dog Treats
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dog Treats
Blue Natural Veterinary Diet HF Hydrolyzed for Food Intolerance
Royal Canin HP Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Purina HA Hydrolyzed Dog Food
Purina Gentle Snackers Hypoallergenic Dog Treats
Hill's Prescription Diet Hypoallergenic Canine Treats
Best limited ingredient dog meals
Contrary to popular belief, it is actually commonly used meat protein such as beef, lamb, chicken and eggs that trigger allergic or food intolerant reactions in dogs. However, among the grains, wheat is also sometimes an offender.
We have chosen the three best limited ingredient foods and two limited ingredient dog treat options to help you find something right for your pup to try to eliminate the culprit from their diet. They each are grain free, and they all have a different novel protein to try so that you can find what works best for your dog. Check out our full guide to limited ingredient dog foods.
1. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient - Sweet Potato & Venison Formula
The star of the show in this limited ingredient formula is the novel protein venison. Because it is rarely used in commercial dog food, few dogs have developed allergies to this protein, although it is still possible that they can be sensitive to it (the only way to know is to try it).
This is also a grain free dog food, using nutritious sweet potatoes as the primary source of carbohydrates. There are no grains in this formula which helps to isolate wheat as an allergen further along in an elimination trial diet.
Natural Balance has an entire line of limited ingredient dog foods, so if this is not the novel protein you are looking for, check their other formulas that include: Lamb & Brown Rice, Chicken & Sweet Potato, Bison & Sweet Potato, Potato & Duck, and Sweet Potato & Fish.
At around $2 a pound, this is one of the more budget friendly limited ingredient diets, another reason why we wanted to make sure it made our list of top picks and a one of the best dog food for gastrointestinal problems.
2. Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food – Salmon and Potato
Wellness is another brand name in dog food that has been expanding their limited ingredient formulas to include a wide variety of novel proteins and carbohydrates in different formulas including Duck & Oatmeal, Lamb & Oatmeal, and Turkey & Potato.
There are no wheat products used in the entire line of limited ingredient products from Wellness, which is very helpful since wheat is the top grain that canines can sometimes have intolerance for. Although grains are not usually the source of food sensitivities in dogs, it none the less reduces one more possible offender from the first stage of an elimination trial which can be helpful.
We love the Salmon & Potato recipe because of the high content of Omega fatty acids this nutritious fish offers. Subscribe for auto delivery and save even more on this reasonably priced doggy dinners.
3. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited-Ingredient Dry Senior Dog Food – Turkey and Potato
The Blue Basics line includes a variety of limited ingredient formulas worth checking out. We wanted to highlight this particular formula because it takes older canines into account with added Glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint health.
There is lots of natural fiber in this Turkey and Potato recipe from the added pea fiber and pumpkin, which both aid with digestion. This formula uses no poultry by-products and avoids common fillers like corn, wheat and soy.
Long considered a favorite among dog lovers, the Blue Basics line of dog food is definitely worth checking out for any elimination routine for your pup. Although newer than some other brands, Blue Buffalo is still a well-established line of high quality dog foods that you can trust.
4. BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Biscuits Dog Treats
No matter which limited ingredient dog food works best for your pup, you will want to supplement their diet with a similar limited ingredient dog treat in order to successfully identify the allergen. One of the best options is the BLUE basics line of limited ingredient dog treats.
These small biscuits are crunchy and tasty. Break them in half for us as rewards for positive reinforcement training, or leave them whole for a big reward. They come in both Salmon and Potato as well as Turkey and Potato. All of these ingredients are considered novel carbohydrates and proteins.
5. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dog Treats
No matter what novel ingredients you and your veterinarian choose for your pooch’s limited ingredient diet, you are likely to find the right complimentary treat in the Natural Balance line of limited ingredient dog treats. Here are your flavor options:
- Brown Rice and Lamb Meal
- Potato and Duck
- Sweet Potato and Bison
- Sweet Potato and Chicken
- Sweet Potato and Fish
- Sweet Potato and Venison
There are two great advantages to the wide selection of novel protein and carb recipes available through Natural Balance. The first is that if you already have identified the offending allergen, then you have several options to give your furry friend some tasty variety well within their diet needs. The second advantage is that you can use them in the later stages of an elimination diet to identify possible offending ingredients.
Either way, we love this line of crunchy dog treats and your pup will too!
Best Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food For Sensitive Stomachs
If your pup has extreme food allergies, or other sensitive stomach related issues, your veterinarian may recommend jumping straight to a hydrolyzed protein diet. Although these dog foods are typically quite expensive, they are the least likely to continue to bother your pups stomach.
As with any major dietary change, you should check with your vet first.
1. Blue Natural Veterinary Diet HF Hydrolyzed for Food Intolerance
The protein source for this high-quality canine food made by Blue Buffalo is hydrolyzed salmon. It is one of the few hydrolyzed animal protein diets available online without a veterinary prescription. An advantage to salmon are the Omega 6 fatty acids they provide.
This option also avoids poultry by-product meals (a low-quality canine food ingredient), all artificial preservatives and colors and flavors, as well as corn, wheat and soy products.
This formula does include Blue’s famous LifeSource Bits which add vital nutrients and antioxidants prepared in a low heat environment to preserve their full nutritional value. This is a complete and balanced dog food for sensitive digestive systems, definitely one to consider for your pup.
2. Royal Canin HP Hypoallergenic Dog Food
This dog food is extremely easy for most pups with sensitive stomachs to digest. The primary protein is hydrolyzed soy for easy digestion. The soul source of starch is rice, a grain that most dogs tolerate very well.
In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids and chelated minerals which are easily absorbed are added to the formula for complete nutrition. Probiotics have been added to boost the gut flora of dogs with sensitive stomachs who may be struggling to maintain a healthy balance of the good digestive bacteria in their intestinal tracts.
This option also happens to be a vegetarian formula, which is a bonus for some owners looking to avoid animal proteins all together. Because of this, it may be a very good start to a complete elimination diet, slowly adding proteins and/or grains one by one after all symptoms abate to identify the source of your pups sensitive stomach.
3. Purina HA Hydrolyzed Dog Food
Purina, longtime leader in commercial canine food, has been expanding into the prescription and specialized dog food realm. Their HA formula is a vegetarian diet listing hydrolyzed soy as single protein source.
The starch used is designed to be low irritation and low allergen. If your pup has been suffering from allergies or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, your vet may well want you to give this food a try to see if they can get the reactions under control.
One of the advantages of going with Purina is that they have a long history of working with the top veterinarians to develop nutritionally sound foods that take your canines total health into account. Another advantage of going with a bigger name is that due to their popularity, such foods tend to have a higher turn-over which means the food is likely fresher when it arrives.
4. Purina Gentle Snackers Hypoallergenic Dog Treats
When it comes to hypoallergenic dog treats, this is one of our favorites. The formula for these vegetarian snacks was carefully developed by the veterinarians over at Purina. A long trusted name in dog food, Purina does have the resources to develop excellent foods for our dogs with special dietary needs.
These treats have a low molecular weight, which translates to more digestibility for dogs with sensitive stomachs. The advanced formula also has a variety of nutritional supplements that are carefully selected for your pooch’s total health.
5. Hill's Prescription Diet Hypoallergenic Canine Treats
Once available only by a veterinary prescription, Hills is a long-time leader in specially formulated dog foods and treats for canines with special dietary needs. These hypoallergenic dog treats are from a name you can trust.
The primary source of protein in these hydrolyzed treats is chicken. However, even if your dog is allergic to chicken, your veterinarian may still recommend these since they have been processed in such a way as to not trigger the allergic reaction.
The ingredients also include added antioxidants as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for optimal skin, coat and immune system support. The taste and crunchy texture of these small dog biscuits will make them a hit with sensitive stomach dogs everywhere!
Hill’s also offers a 100% money back guarantee so you can give these treats a try without worry.
We hope that the information provided in this article helps you find the right dog food for your pup with special dietary needs. Remember that even if you work closely with your vet, it is not uncommon for finding the right dog food to be a bit of a trial and error process.
The symptoms of food sensitivies and allergies can dramatically reduce your furry friend’s quality of life. Once you find the right combination of sensitive stomach dog food and treats, you will realize the trials were worth it.
Remember to work with your vet to identify the best diet for your dog. They work with food sensitivities all the time and have the experience to make the search for the right food much easier. Your dog will thank you for it!
Sharon Elber (M.S. in Science & Technology) - Professional Dog Trainer
Sharon is a professional dog trainer with over 10 years experience. She is also a professional writer that received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech.
For more info on Sharon click here