9 Most Common Dog Digestive System Problems

9 Most Common Dog Digestive System Problems

Author WDF Staff


We have a soft spot in our hearts for dogs. It's easy to see why they're considered a man's best friend (or woman's best friend, of course) because of the way they always meet us at the door, tail wagging and ready to play. When we see they’re unwell, we are reminded that they are sentient beings capable of a wide range of feelings beyond excitement, happiness, and joy!

It's heartbreaking to witness a dog who is sick and miserable. If we could have one wish, it would be to take away their misery and allow them to always be their funny, adorable selves. Unfortunately, we can only wait for the medicine to take effect while providing them comfort until their illness passes. When it comes to canine digestion disorders, however, knowing the most prevalent concerns and how to manage them will help your dog get back on all four paws as soon as possible.

To that aim, here are the 9 most common dog digestive system problems.

1. Infections of the Digestive System

The most common way for dogs to get an illness in their digestive tract is through ingestion of contaminated food, drink, or (sadly) feces. The following are the three most common infectious agents:

Infections caused by bacteria

Bacteria can adhere to the inside of the digestive tract and irritate it. Vomiting is likely if the germs are present in the stomach. Diarrhea is more frequent if the bacteria is found deeper down the digestive tract. Antibiotics can be prescribed by veterinarians to treat these infections.

golden-retriever senior

Viral Infections

Contact with other sick dogs can lead to viral infections resistant to antibiotic treatment. Instead, all you can do is manage your dog's symptoms and make sure they don’t get dehydrated.

RELATED: Gastroenteritis in Dogs | Signs & Treatment


Parasites are organisms that reside inside an animal's digestive tract. They lay eggs or larvae, which pass through the digestive tract and end up in the animal's excrement. Other animals eat it, and the parasite lives on that way. White patches in your dog's feces are usually an indication of parasites (tapeworms).

2. Non-Infectious Diseases

Non-infectious disorders can affect the digestive tract as well. Dogs are prone to ulcers, kidney stones, and enzyme shortages, especially as they age. These must be identified and dealt with on an individual basis.

3. Deficiencies in Nutrients

Not all pet foods are created equal, unfortunately. Furthermore, some "complete and balanced" products fail to account for the routes required to absorb all the necessary nutrients. For their long-term health, dogs need a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Any nutritional shortage in a dog's food will result in stomach difficulties, digestive troubles, and other disorders.

old spaniel

RELATED: Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomach

Nutritional supplements for dogs

If your dog appears to be malnourished, dietary supplements can help restore their sense of well-being. Before looking for the proper dog digestive supplements, it's crucial to think about the dog's age as well as the specific vitamin shortage.

4. Bloat and Overeating

"No thanks, I'm on a diet" appears to be beyond a dog's comprehension. In fact, a dog will not be disappointed if you leave three bowls of food on the table. They will keep eating until they burst... literally.

An enlarged, hardened stomach immediately indicates that your dog has overeaten. Don't be fooled by their stomach ache into thinking this is just payback for breaking into your cupboard. Bloat, a life-threatening disease, can develop quickly as a result of overeating. Bloat is caused by a buildup of gas in the stomach as a result of eating too much or too rapidly. Instead of being expelled, the gas becomes trapped in the stomach, twisting it into a knot. The sickness becomes lethal if it rotates too far.

Stop everything and rush your dog to the clinic if you suspect bloat!

How do I prevent my dog from overeating?

You can take a few simple steps to ensure that this never happens to your dog:

  • Keep all dog food in a pet-safe container out of reach of our gluttonous canine companions.
  • Use a slow-feeding bowl to make it difficult for them to reach the food; this encourages them to take smaller bites at a time.
  • If you're concerned that your dog eats too quickly, serve smaller meals throughout the day.

samoyed puppy

RELATED: Pedialyte for Dogs

5. Ingestion of a Foreign Object

Our furry buddies are known to be a curious bunch who have one main thing on their minds: to eat or not to eat. Shakespeare was, in fact, thinking of dogs when he wrote that statement. But, truly, there is a long list of things that dogs have been known to consume.

  • Hooks for fishing
  • Bones
  • Socks
  • Stockings
  • Cobs of corn
  • String
  • Balls
  • Toys

Larger things can cause blockages in the stomach or small intestine, while tiny objects will move through your dog's digestive tract with no difficulty (but possibly some discomfort). If not caught early enough, this can be fatal. It's time to take your dog to the vet if you notice them acting strangely, vomiting, or dry heaving.

6. Chocolate poisoning

The bottom line is that you should keep all chocolate out of your dog's reach. Chocolate, notably cacao, contains the bitter chemical theobromine, which is enjoyed by humans but deadly to their canine partners. This alkaloid, in combination with the caffeine in chocolate, is highly toxic to dogs. The amount and type of chocolate your dog consumes will influence the severity of their symptoms (dark chocolate is considerably more harmful than milk chocolate due to the increased cacao content).

wet border collie

However, in the event of accidental chocolate consumption, a medical professional should always be consulted.

7. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is similar to its human counterpart, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBD is a chronic disorder characterized by a wide range of symptoms that point to underlying damage to the digestive tract as well as extensive intestinal inflammation.

Rather than being an illness, inflammatory bowel disease is a syndrome. The syndrome is brought on by an unusual reaction to prolonged intestinal irritation. The majority of dogs with IBD have a history of recurrent or chronic vomiting or diarrhea, as well as a lack of appetite. The dog may lose weight during episodes of vomiting or diarrhea, but the dog otherwise appears healthy. While little is known about what causes IBD, the relief of symptoms is highly probable with a multifaceted treatment plan that includes a nutritious diet, medicine, and supplements.

RELATED: What to Do if Your Dog Ate Aluminum Foil?

8. Gastritis

While vomiting is not uncommon in a dog's life if it occurs regularly and in conjunction with other symptoms, your pet could be suffering from gastritis. This disorder is marked by an irritated intestinal lining, frequently followed by infection. This is usually caused by your dog eating waste, ingesting poisons, or contracting a viral infection. While gastritis is usually an acute illness, it can also be a chronic condition.

nova-scotia-duck-tolling-retriever adult

9. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is one of the most dangerous digestive illnesses for dogs, and it poses a severe threat to your best friend's health. When food meets the small intestine, the pancreas releases digestive enzymes that aid in the breakdown of food and other necessary processes. When a person has pancreatitis, the pancreas releases enzymes that activate almost instantly, damaging the pancreas. For dogs, this illness can be excruciatingly painful and life-threatening.

Symptoms of dog digestive system problems

It's perfectly natural if your dog's appetite changes or the dog becomes a picky eater. After all, dogs may be unpredictable! However, it could also suggest an underlying medical problem. Get veterinary assistance if you are concerned about their health. If you don't believe the issue is related to their digestive system, here are some of the most common symptoms of dog digestive system problems that should let you know your dog is dealing with digestive issues;

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, it could be a sign of gastrointestinal issues such as gastroenteritis, colitis, stress diarrhea, or constipation.

Getting to know your dog's digestive system

It's just as vital to understand your dog's digestion process as it is to know about typical digestive issues that your dog might have. Your dog has a propensity for devouring anything and everything. If it looks or smells even slightly edible, they'll probably try to eat it before you can say, "Drop it!" Knowing the most frequent dog digestive problems and how to treat them will help you discover the underlying reason and treat them properly.

Nobody loves to see their dog suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, or other digestive problems. To minimize stomach problems and to preserve your dog's long-term health, make sure you feed them high-quality, balanced food on a daily basis.

General digestive health tips for dogs

Although your dog's digestive system is pretty resilient, it's still wise to keep an eye on their appetite and behavior. Aside from what you give them, keep in mind that your family and friends will naturally enjoy lavishing your dog with extra love, attention, and treats! Here are some general tips for keeping your dog’s digestive health peachy:

  • Your dog will love good quality, complete dog food the most because it will not only contain the proper balance of nutrients, but it will also have a high level of palatability, ensuring that they enjoy it.
  • Adding human food to a high-quality, balanced commercial dog food can create digestive difficulties in dogs. It might be tempting to offer your dog some of your snacks, but you have to resist the urge.
  • Your dog most likely has a variety of tricks up their sleeve to get you to feed them table scraps! Ignore their requests for more food with firmness yet kindness.
  • Instead of giving your dog table scraps, give them lots of love, praise, and playtime, which you can both enjoy!
  • It's great if you feed your dog at regular intervals. Maintain your dog's optimum body condition with the right amount of food to keep them in top shape.

World Dog Finder team

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