Some dogs seem to have dodgy doggy tummies, and easily get upset stomachs leading to vomiting and diarrhea with any changes to their diet, environment, or routine. Other dogs seem to be able to eat almost anything, and that is the problem, they do eat almost anything. Eventually, their luck runs out, and they ingest something that makes them sick!
When digestive problems occur, pet owners should determine the cause, if possible, and obtain appropriate veterinary attention to address possible blockages, poisoning, or other digestive conditions. Some digestive conditions require medication, or even surgical intervention. However, if it is determined your dog is just suffering from some run of the mill tummy upset, recovering from surgery and anesthetic, or if they need help recovering from more serious digestive conditions after appropriate medical attention has been provided, a bland diet to help their digestive system recover normal functioning may be recommended.
What should I do if my dog is sick?
If your dog has experienced a bout of tummy trouble with vomiting and/or diarrhea it is usually advisable to withhold food for around twelve hours to allow the dog’s system to clear whatever is causing their digestive issues. If a day or two is required without food, water should be given to avoid dehydration. Water should be offered in small amounts, and if no vomiting occurs, then a bland diet can be introduced slowly. It is important to ensure your dog stays hydrated, so if they are vomiting on water, you must seek supportive care from a veterinarian that can provide intravenous fluids if necessary. It is important to note that if you have a puppy that is vomiting or has diarrhea, do not attempt the bland diet trial. They should be seen by the vet without delay.
What bland foods can I give my dog?
The key to a bland diet is to provide foods that are easily digestible while reintroducing lost nutrients to your dog. Quantities should be minimal and without seasonings or fat that can cause further gas or stomach upset. For example, if your dog is small, give them a teaspoon of food and then wait to see how they tolerate it. If they keep the food down, you can slowly increase the quantity.
Examples of bland diets include:
- Boiled lean meat, including chicken, hamburger, or turkey, mixed half and half with boiled white rice
- No spices or seasoning should be added
- Fat should be skimmed off boiled meat
- White fish and cooked sweet potato offer nutrition and are mild on the stomach
- Potatoes or oatmeal can be used if rice is unpalatable to your dog
- Plain yogurt can be provided to re-establish healthy gut flora and can make bland food more palatable
- Canned pumpkin (plain, without spices) may help firm up stool after diarrhea
- Stage II meat baby food is sometimes recommended by vets as a bland diet
- Commercially available bland diets are usually available from your veterinarian, if you are unable to, or do not wish to make your own
Small amounts, about 1 tablespoon, should be offered at first, and then wait to see if vomiting occurs. If not, you can gradually increase the amount, and the frequency of bland food offered, to ¼ of their usual diet 4 times a day. After a day or two, you can start combining bland food with their regular food, until they are gradually back on their usual diet. Bland diets should not be continued for the long term as they lack some nutritional requirements your dog needs.
On the road to recovery
When dogs experience a distressed digestive system due to something they have eaten, digestive disorder, disease, or after a surgical procedure, a bland diet that does not further stress their digestive system allows the dog time to recover while providing food that soothes their digestive system and gets things “moving” again, so to speak!
Boiled meat, rice, and potatoes are good components of a bland diet that can be fed for a few days until your dog is able to process their normal diet again. Commercial foods are also available to meet the requirements of a soothing bland diet. We all know what it's like to feel sick and queasy, and a simple bland diet for a few days helps support your dog's digestive system and allows it to return to normal functioning without causing further distress.