Improve Gut Health in Dogs: Amazingly Easy!

Does your dog have a sensitive stomach? Are you simply not sure? My dog Henry has a very sensitive stomach. I often worry about him. But I’ve consulted his vet and developed a plan that has helped his stomach issues, while not costing me much money. Today, let’s dig in and discover how to improve gut health in dogs simply without busting your budget. 

a german shepherd looks down in a field of lavender
disclaimer note

*Update: March 13, 2024

Budget tip:

While it can be worrisome when your dog has gut issues, you can easily make adjustments that make a big difference. Surprisingly many don’t cost much either. I’ve been very pleased with the addition of Metamucil, pumpkin, a bit more exercise, fish oil, and massage. These simple tricks have allowed me to improve Henry's digestive issues. Thus, it’s been a big win-win for Henry and my dog expenses.

What are the symptoms I should look for that my dog may have a gut issue?

There can be a few signs your dog will give you when he/she has poor gut health. These signs include:

  • Paw licking
  • Itching, especially in the stomach area
  • Anxiety
  • Panting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloat
  • Gas
  • Lip licking
  • Drooling
  • Audible gut sounds 
  • Lethargic 
  • Not interested in food
  • Dehydrated or lack interest in drinking water

What causes a dog to develop stomach issues?

There could be many reasons why your dog develops gut issues. For example, when I adopted Henry I was told his prior parents only fed him human fast food. It took me months to convince Henry he didn’t need that kind of food and to get him to regularly eat good vet-approved dog food. But now he loves mealtime! Of course, Henry also had a few changes in his environment from his original home to being tossed out, to his foster home, and finally to me. These all most likely contributed to his digestive tract issues.

However, there could be other reasons for poor dog gut health. These included, but are limited to:

  • Change in environment
  • Eating something they shouldn’t 
  • Change in food or switching food too quickly
  • Anxiety
  • Allergic reaction to food, pollen, chemical, or environmental
  • Lack of water or dehydration
  • Parasites
  • Infections (specifically, Parvovirus)
  • Malabsorption issues
  • Car sickness (or motion sickness)
  • Ulcer
  • Cancer (of the bowel, intestines, colon, rectum, or related areas)
  • Obstruction of the bowel
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease 
  • Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (sudden bloody diarrhea or vomiting)
  • Gastric dilation (twisted bowel)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (basically, anything else that causes the bowel to be inflamed)

What should I do if I see any signs of poor gut health issues in my dog?

First, call your veterinary medicine clinic. If your dog is in dire need and it’s after hours, then rush your dog to the emergency vet. The bottom line is if your dog has an obstruction, or is bleeding, or has any of these symptoms, then time could be a factor in seeking assistance. At the very minimum, call your vet, or your pet insurance virtual or hotline vet to ask for guidance. 

Are you looking for a great vet that fits you best? In this article, I walk you through all the steps to find the vet you’ll love. 

Do home allergy tests help discover what to avoid for a healthy dog gut?

I would’ve thought a home dog allergy test was a great idea for improving the overall health of your dog. In fact, I did one for Henry and took it to his vet. All I had to do was snip some fur and send it to the company. However, when I took to his vet, I discovered that despite the results, which I thought were enlightening, it was worthless. My vet explained that in vet school they did controlled studies with these at-home pet allergy tests. They would get the same results no matter if they sent in real pet fur or a stuffed toy fur. I learned my lesson.

Consequently, my vet, suggested that the only good way to do an allergy test, at least on dog food, is with an elimination diet. We did that for Henry. Although, he’s great at surfing for crumbs, so who knows how great it was either. 

Interested to learn more about at-home pet allergy tests? In this article, I walk you through the one I did for Henry and the results I took to his vet. 

What are the best home remedies for my dog with a sensitive stomach?

There are many actions you can take at home to help your dog with an upset stomach or digestive issues. Admittedly, I’ve tried many for Henry. But for the most part, they fall into four distinct categories – supplements, herbs, food, and other. 

1. Supplements and aids

You can buy a multitude of supplements marked for easy digestion or digestive health. These can include products such as:

  • Prebiotics – helps with gut flora
  • Probiotics – beneficial bacteria (this is the one I use for Henry)
  • B-complex
  • Multi-vitamin
  • B12
  • Fish oil
  • Metamucil
  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Turkey tail mushrooms
  • Antibiotics (this is needed when a virus is the culprit)

For example, while I don’t give Henry a probiotic all the time when he has an upset stomach or gastrointestinal tract issues flare up, I will get him several days of probiotics and he’ll get back on track. These basically help balance out the good bacteria in a dog’s gut. Additionally, Henry’s vet recommended fish oil and Metamucil several years ago. While the Metamucil helps to keep him regular, the Fish oil serves several purposes. They are to help improve overall health and thus the immune system. Specifically, they are:

  • Gut health
  • Heart health
  • Joint health

Curious about how fish oil can help your dog and your pocketbook? In this article, I go into all the details. 

2. Herbs

  • Anise seeds (NOT – Star Anise, which is toxic)
  • Chamomile (can open plain Chamomile only tea bag)
  • Cilantro or coriander 
  • Dill 
  • Ginger 
  • Mint (Not – English pennyroyal, which is very toxic)
  • Oregano 
  • Peppermint 
  • Sage (dried or fresh)
  • Turmeric  
  • Chaga
  • Slippery elm
  • Marshmallow root

While herbs can be amazing at helping to improve your dog’s gut health, you have to be gentle with introducing them. Always talk with your vet about adding them to your dog’s diet. Additionally, keep in mind that some dogs just won’t like the taste or smell of some herbs. 

For instance, I tried chamomile for Henry and he wouldn’t touch it. Although, if it’s mixed into a homemade dog treat that’s a whole different ball game. Thus, if you’re trying an herb for your dog’s digestive health, you will want to introduce it gently (at a low dose). Additionally, you may need to try different ways to give it to your dog. Specifically, if your dog doesn’t care for an herb fresh or dried sprinkled on food, then try it mixed in pumpkin or in a homemade dog treat. 

Curious about how turmeric can help your dog? In this article, I reveal everything you need to know.

3. Food

It’s amazing the foods that can help your dog’s gut health. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s a good place to start. 

  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Berries
  • Oatmeal
  • White Rice 
  • Lean chicken
  • Turkey
  • Rice water
  • Water
  • Bone broth
  • Yogurt (works like probiotics to balance beneficial gut bacteria)
  • Whitefish
  • Green beans
  • Apple sauce
  • Carrots
  • Eggs

Dog treats made with any of these foods can be beneficial. It can also save you a lot of money. In this article, I break down the cost savings.

Henry absolutely loves his twice-daily pumpkin. Additionally, if he’s more constipated, then I’ll give him a smidge more or back off as needed. Honestly, pumpkin is like one of those great balancing aids. Think of it as a perfectly balanced titter-totter at the park. Moreover, some dogs’ digestive tract issues improve well with a raw food diet. However, always talk with your vet before switching diets. 

Want to learn how pumpkin can cut your dog’s expenses? In this article, discuss all the details.  

I've learned that gut health in dogs is important and give Henry pumpkin and fish oil daily. Here he's licking off pumpkin from his fur.
Henry LOVES pumpkin and fish oil. He always licks his chops after eating the mix.

4. Other

If your dog has a sensitive stomach or you’re trying to improve your dog’s gut health, then you have to be strict about what he/she eats. This can be a difficult one for folks to grasp when they want to give your dog a treat. But when you see your pup struggling with constipation or dealing with diarrhea, then you become a firm gatekeeper. 

Of course, there are evolving holistic remedies that may help your dog’s gut as well. But this list will give you a great place to begin. Moreover, you can discuss this with your vet and I’m certain you’ll walk away with even more suggestions that will work specifically for your dog. 

  • Massage
  • Walking or exercise
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Acupuncture
  • Reducing triggers (such as not giving your dog a nibble of your dinner)
  • Setting boundaries with friends, family, and community (not allowing people to give your dog a dog treat that could cause a gut issue flare)

Want to learn more about giving your dog a massage? In this article, I provide a step-by-step guide.

It may seem strange to include exercise on this list, but it does help your dog to keep him/her moving. Basically, it’ll keep the blood, heart, and organs as healthy as possible and the bowels more likely to move easier. Think of it as improving overall health thus improving the immune system and consequently the digestive tract. 

Additionally, I’ve been surprised when Henry’s had a flare-up in gut issues I’ve been able to help him with a gentle stomach massage. 

Curious about holistic care for your dog? In this article, I go through free at-home holistic dog care treatments.

What are the cost savings for treating my dog’s stomach issues early?

Not only can you help your dog by reducing pain, but you can reduce your costs, simply by caring for your dog’s gut. Pretty amazing, huh? I know Henry is grateful as am I. With this in mind, consider the following expenses that could occur:

Upset stomach$385
Allergies$249
Diarrhea$203
Inflammatory Bowel Disease$500-1000
Intestinal blockage$2000-10000

Related articles:

Summary of how to improve gut health in dogs simply

I know I was certainly worried when I saw Henry in discomfort from his poor gut health. While I knew he had digestive health issues, I didn’t know to what extent. Moreover, I didn’t know how I could help him. But I knew I needed to move as many mountains as possible. First, I talked to his vet. He reassured me that Henry didn’t have any major digestive issues. However, he did have a very sensitive stomach, which could at some point develop into inflammatory bowel disease. 

Of course, I didn’t want Henry to endure that painful disease. So, I listened intently and implemented things slowly, monitored Henry’s process, and reported back to his vet as needed. Thankfully, Henry’s stomach issues have mostly stabilized with pumpkin, Metamucil, fish oil, a limited diet, and massage. However, there are days when he has a flare-up of gut issues. That’s when I will adjust his pumpkin dose and give him an additional gentle stomach massage. 

Thankfully, Henry has responded well, and surprisingly it hasn’t cost much. Yet, his immune system is better than the day I adopted him. That’s what I call a powerful gut response to a worrisome situation. 

a cute Husky dog looks up anxious for dinner now that his dog parents have learned how to improve gut health in dogs

Does your dog have gut issues? What do you do to help your dog’s sensitive stomach? 

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About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

8 thoughts on “Improve Gut Health in Dogs: Amazingly Easy!”

  1. Wow, there is enough here to make into an ebook I can carry around with me!

    I am impressed with the lists of things that can be used to help gut health. Some are so obvious but others I thought ‘really I didn’t know that’

    I know Humarian do Probonix which is good for doggy gut health (I used their cat stuff until Covid when shipping became really expensive).

    Reply
    • Now, that’s something I would never think of – an ebook on dog immunity boosting. Maybe you’re on to something????

      A lot of what I’ve listed, is transferable to cats, which is great. Gosh, I can’t imagine the shipping to New Zealand. That must be insanely pricey! But we do everything possible for our fur kids.

      Thank you so much for your continued support and great ideas! I truly appreciate it!

      Reply
  2. Layla with age has GI problems but I have solved them by putting pumpkin (I buy the dog Fruitables one) which is working wonders plus she gets mushroom supplements which have made a big difference also. She has probiotics in her food on a daily basis because of her UTI and it is one preventative for that. Great article so important for pet owners to know about

    Reply
    • Oh my, yes pumpkin and mushroom supplements are almost like a magic wand. Thank you for sharing about mushrooms with me! They truly have made a big difference in Henry’s overall health. In fact, I think I need to start taking a mushroom supplement.

      I’m so glad that Layla is doing so well with pumpkin, mushrooms, and probiotics. Hearing this truly does make me smile! Thank you for sharing and for always being so supportive!

      Reply
  3. Icy has always had a bit of a sensitive stomach. Her main symptom is that she won’t eat, usually in the morning. I give her a Probiotic, which helps a lot, as well as pumpkin. This is great information!

    Reply
    • You know, Cathy, sometimes Henry doesn’t like to eat in the morning either. I talked with his vet and that’s just something some dogs do. It may go back to their wild pack gene. Henry always eats his pumpkin as well. But in the evening, I will play a mealtime game, especially if he thinks he shouldn’t eat. That always helps to turn a meal into a game. Maybe that would help Icy too. Here’s an article I wrote on mealtime games, Mind Games for Dogs Every Dog Loves! Although, Henry LOVES the throw game generally the best. I hope this helps you and sweet Icy!

      Reply
  4. An excellent and informative article! And, oh boy, gut/GI issues I am very familiar with! Two of my five Huskies had some nasty bouts, including HGE. Your list is great. So many of the supplements and all of the foods I gave my pups. And fish oil and pumpkin was my FiveSibes favorite, too! Mushrooms are new, so I did not have those, but they sure have been making their mark as a healthful additive. And, as always, I love your budget! Sharing this with my followers!

    I hope you and Henry have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

    Reply
    • Isn’t it worrisome to have a pup GI issues? Gosh, two with stomach problems would be stressful. But I do agree knowing what to do is very empowering. It’s amazing how some of the simple things can make such a big impact and save your budget at the same time.

      Thank you for your kind words, continued support, and encouragement! I greatly appreciate it.

      I hope you and your family have a blessed Thanksgiving as well.

      Reply

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