What to feed a sick dog with no appetite: food choices and tips

What to feed a sick dog with no appetite

Vomiting and diarrhea are extremely common in dogs – an upset stomach is something that most dog owners will have to deal with at some point in their pet’s life.

In this article, we will look at the causes of vomiting and diarrhea in dogs, explore the best foods to feed your dog if they have an upset stomach, and provide hints and tips to help your best friend feel better.

Table of Contents

Why do dogs get vomiting and diarrhea?

Dogs are natural scavengers, meaning they eat all sorts of things that they shouldn’t. Eating rotten and stinky things may be a doggy delight, but it’s also one of the main reasons dogs get stomach upsets more often than we do.

Dogs have very strong stomach acid, and generally speaking, are able to digest things that would certainly make a human ill. However, sometimes it turns out that the decomposing rodent in the backyard wasn’t the best choice of snack.

Other reasons dogs may get vomiting and diarrhea include viruses from other dogs, parasites, internal obstruction, heat stroke, poisoning, or sudden dietary changes. 

Diarrhea and/ or vomiting can also be symptoms of medical conditions such as pancreatitis or inflammatory gastrointestinal disease. Side effects of medication, and stress, may also cause an upset stomach or a loss of appetite.

Although vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes be treated at home, it is important to speak to your vet if your dog becomes unwell. If there is a serious underlying cause, delaying treatment could be life-threatening. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

When to see a vet for a dog stomach upset

It is advisable to contact your vet if you notice any of the following symptoms:

If you think your dog has been poisoned or has swallowed a foreign body, contact your vet immediately.

What to feed a dog with an upset stomach

If your vet has ruled out more serious causes of vomiting and diarrhea, they may advise you to treat your dog at home. This may involve keeping your dog quiet and avoiding stress while they recover.

It is vitally important that your dog stays hydrated, so ensure they have fresh water available at all times. If your dog is not drinking much, you can also offer chicken broth (low sodium) to encourage them to drink.

Traditionally, owners were advised to withhold food for 12-24 hours if their dog had an upset stomach. However, recent advances in veterinary medicine suggest that this may not be the best course of action. 

The dog’s gut actually recovers more quickly if it contains some food, so smaller frequent meals (every two hours or so) are often recommended- follow your vet’s advice on this.

What to feed a dog with diarrhea and vomiting? 

Food for dogs with an upset stomach should be bland- no salt, spices, strong flavors or fatty food. It should also be easy to digest and provide the dog with enough energy to recover.

Boiled chicken and plain rice is a good place to start, and is often recommended by vets. 

Make sure you remove all bones and also the chicken skin as it is too fatty. Cooked turkey or white fish with the bones removed can also be fed instead of chicken. 

If you don’t have white rice, plain cooked potato is a good alternative. 

As your dog begins to recover, you can add in some cooked vegetables such as carrot, pumpkin or green beans to add vitamins, minerals, and fiber to the diet.

Once your dog has recovered, you can very gradually start to mix in a little of their usual dog food and increase it over the coming days.

If your dog’s upset stomach flares up again, revert to feeding a bland diet and speak to your vet.


What to feed a sick dog with no appetite

If your dog has no appetite it can be challenging to get them to eat. If your vet has ruled out serious underlying problems, it might just be that your dog is feeling so unwell that they don’t feel like eating. 

You may need to try a few different foods to see what will tempt your dog. 

Plain, boiled chicken for dogs often works well here- it smells yummy, dogs tend to like the taste and it is highly digestible. White fish and scrambled egg (no butter or oil) are also good alternatives.

When a dog has no appetite, warming up their food can help make it smell more tempting. You may find that chicken and rice dog food does the trick. 

You can warm up canned food in a microwave (make sure it is not too hot and don’t try to heat it up while still in the can), or add warm water to kibble to make a gravy. Adding chicken broth to food can also help tempt a dog to eat.

If your dog has no appetite, avoid presenting them with large meals- this may be overwhelming. Small meals, offered frequently, are more likely to be accepted by your dog. 

You may find that you need to hand-feed your dog to encourage them to eat, but don’t put too much pressure on them to eat as this will have the opposite effect.

Home remedies for dogs upset stomach

You may be wondering ‘What can I give my dog naturally for an upset stomach?’ While there are some home remedies for dog stomach upsets, these may not always be appropriate. 

It is vitally important that you have ruled out more serious causes of your dog’s digestive trouble.

If your dog has a simple stomach upset, you may be able to treat them at home. Keep them hydrated and minimize stress. 

Offer small, frequent meals of food that is bland and highly digestible until their stomach upset improves, then gradually move them back onto their usual food. 

If your dog is unwell, they won’t have enough energy for their usual walks and rest should be a priority. As they start to feel better you can introduce short walks, building up the time gradually as they get their energy back. 

If you are unsure of the cause of the stomach upset, they should be kept away from other dogs until they have recovered.

Home remedies for an upset stomach in dogs may include the following:

When feeding herbs, spices and supplements, always follow the advice of a qualified canine nutritionist or a vet to ensure they are appropriate for your dog.


Can dogs get stomach bugs?

Yes, dogs can get stomach bugs just as humans do. They can catch viruses from other dogs or from infected dog poop. 

Dogs can also pick up parasitic infections (such as Giardia or Coccidia) from water, feces, or soil. Your dog may need to be tested for these infections by your vet if their symptoms do not resolve on their own.

My dog has thrown up brown liquid, should I worry?

Vomiting up brown liquid can occur for a number of reasons. It may simply be regurgitated food, or your dog may have been eating poop. 

Sometimes, the brown color may indicate the presence of blood, or an obstruction. Vomiting brown liquid once or twice probably isn’t anything to be concerned about, but if it happens frequently or occurs alongside other concerning symptoms, speak to your vet.

Is it true that milk is good for dog constipation?

Because most dogs are lactose intolerant, it is true that milk may have a laxative effect and therefore help with constipation. However, too much milk may cause gastrointestinal problems and diarrhea, so proceed with caution.

It is important to find out why your dog is constipated so you should contact your vet for advice.

What to feed a sick dog with no appetite – final thoughts

Dog stomach upsets are no fun; your dog feels miserable and you can’t help but worry about them. 

It is important to rule out more serious causes, but for a simple stomach upset there is lots you can do at home to ease the symptoms and help your dog feel better. 

Careful monitoring is important, diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration, and very old dogs and puppies are particularly vulnerable. 

Most stomach upsets resolve without issue, but if your dog’s symptoms are not improving, or if they recur, contact your vet for advice.

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