How to Handle Sensitive Stomachs and Food Adversion
It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed when caring for a dog with a sensitive stomach; especially for the first time. After all, your dog only gets one life like the rest of us and it's our job as owners to make it as amazing and wonderful as we can.
Truthfully it's a challenging problem to solve and what may work for one dog is not guaranteed to work for your own. One thing is certain though. With your buy-in and dedication to being patient and providing the best care you can, you will create improvements to your dog's eating and digestive health. Taking 5 minutes to read this will be a great first step.
It's important to note, if your dog is showing significant signs of distress (e.g., chronic diarrhea, vomiting, &/or excessive weight loss) please reach out to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
In this article I'm going to explain who I am, why I started Onward Hound, and everything I know about caring for a dog with a sensitive stomach. Here we go..
I'm Will, the founder of Onward Hound. Like many of you reading this, I went through the initial shock of not knowing what to do when I discovered my dog had a sensitive stomach. From the time I brought Rue home I knew that she was unlike the "typical dog" when it came to food. For the first few months I wrote it off to her adjusting to her new home and then later to her just being a picky eater. After working with multiple vets and running every test imaginable we discovered that Rue had Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). Rue is now on a prescription diet and medicine regimen that has her eating consistently and living her healthiest life!
Through my time working with vets and after extensive independent research online, I felt that there was a lack of unbiased guidance to help owners of dogs with sensitive stomachs (including dogs with IBD). I also didn't want my dog to miss out on the training and enrichment that other dogs got just because she had a health issue. That's why I started Onward Hound. To make sensible treats for dogs with sensitive stomachs. By focusing on the ingredients and giving people the resources they need to find the perfect fit for their pup, Onward Hound is inspiring others to buy in to our mission. It's YOUR dog's world. We're just living in it.
The first thing to know about what causes stomach sensitivities is that almost everything plays a factor. That's why establishing a routine is so critical to troubleshooting the root cause(s). When you establish a routine, you can separate out environmental and internal factors - if you're lucky this might be the only trick you need to learn.
A routine for your dog can take many forms and you might need to try a few. However, here are some principles to stick to no matter how you design your routine.
Wake your dog up around the same time each day. Play and walk with your dog around the same time each day making sure to not overwork them too close to any meal time. Have them use the bathroom about the same time and feed them in the same place every time. If the location you feed your dog makes them act nervous, try a new spot.
Regular feeding times are the most important for a dog with sensitivities. Feed your dog at the same time(s) every day with the same amount of food. Its worth noting here that many dogs with sensitive stomachs do better with being fed once a day. You want them to understand that food is not available at any time of the day. This will naturally encourage their appetite and assist with understanding the best food for them as they'll be more consistent around how much they eat. Leave their food out until they show you they are done and remove the food bowl from them. If there is any food remaining toss it out and clean the bowl.
You will find that people (including vets) can be very opinionated on what to feed a dog with food sensitivities. There is literature out their to support almost all of them but the thing to remember is that you need to find what works best for your dog. One constant no matter what is to make sure to never transition a dog directly off one type of food (or brand) to another. You should always follow a transition plan and ideally the more gradual the better.
Elimination diets are challenging but they are the most effective way to find what exactly causes your dog's flare ups if you are having a difficult time doing so. An elimination diet works by feeding your dog specific proteins and grains to narrow down the allergen(s). Prescription dog food or home-cooked meals are commonly used for elimination diets, but store-bought options can also be used if the ingredients are considered carefully. Reintroducing other foods after the allergy symptoms subside is sometimes recommended to provide more dietary options.
The most common thing for a dog to be allergic to is the protein that they're fed. No matter what you choose to feed your dog or how you go about it, you will benefit greatly from a limited ingredient diet with a single source of protein (including their treats). Other common allergens include eggs, corn, wheat, dairy, soy, and yeast.
Shameless plug, Onward Hound Belly Benefits are limited ingredient, single source protein treats made in the US, corn and soy free, and fed to my dog Rue every single day.
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