Andy Bowen, Josh Stilwell, Mason Romero, DVM , and Erica Bowen, DVM
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The best food for dogs with sensitive stomachs

Updated June 23, 2020

Created By

Andy Bowen, ,

🔍 How we picked our favorites

We ignored formulas with sketchy and often-debated ingredients — We analyzed the ingredients list of the most popular limited-ingredient dog foods on the market. Then we put them up against a list of 30+ highly debated ingredients and chemicals, including meat meal, carrageenan, byproducts, food dyes, and fillers.

We focused on high-quality proteins — We skipped over any dog food that didn’t have a specific type of meat (lamb, chicken, venison, etc.) as the primary protein. A higher percentage of real meat signifies a higher quality of ingredients and production process.

We avoided grain-free formulas — This might be surprising, but there’s evidence that grain-free diets contribute to heart disease in dogs. We chose to be overly safe with our recommendations.

We focused on limited-ingredient diets with high fiber and low fat — Many specialized diets are already formulated this way. We focused on the standout formulas that excelled in both categories.

the essentials

  • Diet is the key. Serving your dog high-quality, limited-ingredient dog food is the best way to improve their quality of life.
  • You’re going to pay more. Whether it’s wet dog food or dry dog food, limited ingredient formulas often cost at least 30% more than our average kibble.
  • The occasional upset stomach is OK. Chronic sensitive stomach symptoms can be indicative of a deeper problem with your dog’s digestive system.
  • Always talks to your vet. If you think your dog’s experiencing sensitivities to a new food, call your vet.

At a glance: The best dog food for sensitive stomachs

How to diagnose sensitive stomach issues

Like humans, every dog is different. Some dogs may have stronger stomachs than others, while some need dietary restrictions in order to stay active and healthy. Also: The average puppy loves chewing on stuff. Adult dogs chew too. So it’s not uncommon for dogs to occasionally get an upset stomach because they ate something that isn’t food.

When you should start to be concerned is when your dog shows symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea on a pretty regular basis. Chronic upset stomach symptoms suggest that your dog might have a sensitive stomach, but they can also point to more serious chronic conditions like food allergies and pancreatitis.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether your dog has a sensitive stomach or more serious condition. If your dog shows symptoms like vomiting, gas, and diarrhea but still maintains their same energy level day-to-day and aren’t losing weight, it’s likely a diet-related issue.

Symptoms of a sensitive stomach in dogs

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas

👉 Occasional symptoms are OK, but always talk to your vet if your dog shows prolonged symptoms 

Dog food ingredients to avoid

A dog’s digestive process is different from a human’s. There are certain foods, preservatives, and flavorings that we can eat that dogs should stay away from — especially if they have sensitive stomach problems.

Highly processed ingredients

  • Rendered fat. Animal tissue melted into a goop that’s loaded with grease and food waste.
  • Corn syrup. Zero nutritional value, and known to cause problems when eaten in excess.
  • Animal by-products. The “leftovers” of slaughtered animals with a super low nutritional value.

Chemicals and preservatives

  • BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. Common chemical preservatives that are illegal to use in human food and are considered toxic.
  • Artificial flavors. Unnecessary additives common in dog treats and food that have no nutritional value.

Dog food manufacturing standards are low

Pet food ingredients are “feed-grade” rather than “human-grade,” which means they’re held to a lower standard. Even if an ingredient on a dog food label might impact your dog’s digestive health, companies aren’t allowed to show the quality or grade of that ingredient


Why do dogs develop sensitive stomach issues?

Dogs can develop food sensitivities in all life stages, but age, size, and breed are a big part of a dog’s propensity to develop tummy issues. For example, older dogs (7 years or more) and puppies are more susceptible to digestive problems. Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Yorkies are genetically more likely to be born with or develop a sensitive stomach.

Food allergies are also a big instigator of digestive conditions and more. Low-quality ingredients (fillers, wheat, corn, etc) can also lead to chronic digestive issues and cause flare-ups.

What are the long-term health effects of improper nutrition?

Dogs are members of the family. Dog owners are responsible for making sure the food they buy has the nutritional value their pets need.

Low-quality ingredients can cause more than your dog’s sensitive stomach issues. Digestive issues often mean your dog isn’t getting the proper nutrition needed to live a healthy life. Over time, improper nutrition can lead to kidney disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

How can I soothe sensitive stomach issues?

The best thing you can do to alleviate and prevent symptoms is to make sure your pup eats high-quality food on a regular basis. Foods like banana baby food, bone broth, and canned pumpkin can be used to help treat the occasional upset stomach.
Always see a vet if you suspect your dog has chronic sensitive stomach issues — There might be health issues at play. Your vet will help you identify to root cause and determine your treatment options.