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Before you start searching for the best dog food for sensitive stomachs, it’s important to start out by figuring out what’s causing your dog’s digestion issues. Some dogs—just like some people—are sensitive to certain food ingredients. For others, a sensitive stomach could be a sign of a more serious problem. Make an appointment with your vet to talk about what symptoms your dog is experiencing (vomiting, diarrhea, soft stools, gas, or something else) and do an examination. Your vet might ask you to bring in a stool sample to help diagnose any issues or test for parasites. While this might seem like a lot to do up front, remember that dog food isn’t cheap! You could save money in the long run by working with your vet to figure out how best to resolve your dog’s sensitive digestion, and whether it’s their food or something else causing their tummy troubles.

What Causes Dogs to Have Sensitive Stomachs?

Once serious conditions like stomach cancer are ruled out, it’s time to examine other possible causes of sensitive stomachs in dogs. There is a wide variety of food items that dogs can have trouble tolerating. Some dogs are sensitive or even allergic to certain proteins, like chicken or beef. Another possibility is that your dog’s diet is lacking something, like fiber, vitamins, or minerals. It could even contain too much of something, like fat. Your dog’s dog food might not even be the problem! If your dog has a habit of getting into the trash, or if your dog eats a lot of treats and table scraps, something other than their dog food could be causing their upset tummy.

How to Know if Your Dog Has a Sensitive Stomach

The term “sensitive stomach” is usually used to describe mild intestinal upset in dogs.

Symptoms of sensitive stomachs in dogs include:

  • Occasional vomiting
  • Loose stools
  • Flatulence

Your dog could have one of these symptoms, or they might have all of them. If any of their symptoms are severe, it’s critical to talk with your vet immediately. Vomiting and diarrhea can be signs of many serious illnesses and even gas can be a sign of a disease or condition that requires urgent veterinary attention.

Elimination Diet for Sensitive Dogs

One possible cause of your dog’s sensitive stomach is their diet. You can test out different varieties of food for dogs with sensitive stomachs to help learn what will reduce or eliminate your dog’s symptoms and get their digestive system back on track.

Finding out if your dog’s food is the issue is easy, but it will require some discipline on your part. In consultation with your vet, start by eliminating any food items from your dog’s diet other than their actual dog food. This includes table scraps, treats, and anything else your dog might eat throughout the day.

Monitor your dog to confirm that they aren’t sneaking into the trash (indoor and outdoor), recycling bin, cat itter box, compost pile, garden, barn, chicken coop, or any other hidden cache of food or snacks (pet or human) where they can eat things they should not be eating. If your dog’s stomach is still upset after a few days of eliminating all other food, and you are positive that they are not sneaking into other food sources, then it’s time to evaluate the food you’re feeding.

Dog Food Ingredients That Can Upset Stomachs

Dog foods are formulated to be complete and balanced, which means they can include a range of different sources of nutrition, including proteins, fats, grains, vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients like vegetables and fruits. For dogs, there are a few key areas of these nutrition sources that can trigger sensitivities in some dogs.

Food-related causes of sensitive stomachs in dogs:

  • Protein source
  • Fiber source
  • Fat content
  • Adequate vitamins and minerals
  • Quality of ingredients


Some dogs just don’t digest certain types of protein well. For example, if your dog’s current dog food is made with chicken as its protein source, talk with your vet about switching to a dog food that’s formulated with a different protein source—often beef, lamb, or fish—to do a food trial and see if that resolves the issue. Be sure you’re not feeding your dog any treats or table scraps while you try out a new food, or your findings won’t be very helpful.


Some dogs do better with extra fiber in their diets. Beet pulp is an excellent source of fiber, according to Merck Veterinary Manual, and “provides good fecal quality in dogs without affecting other nutrient digestibility.” Other recommended sources of fiber in commercial dog food include inulin and psyllium. Talk to your vet about adding fiber to your dog’s current diet, or choosing a specially formulated high-fiber dog food.


Dog food diets that are high in fat are harder to digest than ones that are higher in protein or carbohydrates. Read the ingredient label on your dog’s current food and see if fats and oils are listed in the first four ingredients. This is an indicator that the food might be too high in fat for your dog’s digestive system. In consultation with your vet, compare your current dog food to other formulas or brands and find a food that is lower in fat. The crude fat percentage that the food contains will be listed on the “Guaranteed Analysis” section of the dog food’s label.

Vitamins and Minerals

Commercial dog foods produced to AAFCO standards are formulated to contain at least the minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals required in order to be “complete and balanced.” However, if you are feeding a specialty diet, like a raw diet or a home-cooked diet, or if you aren’t feeding a commercial food balanced for your dog’s life stage (ie, puppy, adult), it’s possible that your dog could have a nutrient imbalance or deficiency. Talk with your veterinarian to make sure you are feeding your dog all of the nutrients they need for proper health and digestion at their life stage, and if you need to, adjust your dog’s food accordingly.

Quality Ingredients

Figuring out the quality of the ingredients in a dog food can be tricky. Dog food label ingredient statements are not allowed to include any information about the quality or grade of an ingredient, so dog owners have to decide if ingredients are quality based on other information, like the dog food’s price, the brand’s reputation, published information, and consultation with veterinarians. In 2023, AAFCO released guidelines for labeling dog food as “human grade,” but the ingredient statement itself still cannot include quality or grade of individual ingredients.

A good way to decide on the quality of dog food ingredients is to look at any feeding trials performed on a particular brand of food. Choose a dog food brand that statistically outperforms the competition, and don’t be afraid to contact the dog food manufacturer directly. (Note that feeding trials aren’t the only way that a dog food brand can establish that it meets minimum AAFCO standards, though. Nutritional analysis is another method by which dog food brands can test the nutrition of their products.)

Newer dog food brands might not have many clinical studies or feeding trials, as studies require time to undertake and evaluate. This doesn’t mean they aren’t a quality dog food, but it’s smart to confirm that the company employs a board-certified veterinary nutritionist on its staff. This suggests that the company is knowledgeable about dog nutritional needs and how to formulate a product that meets requirements.

How to Find a High-Quality Sensitive Digestion Dog Food

Everyone has an opinion on the best dog foods, but it’s important to make a decision for your dog based on on solid research. This makes it difficult to navigate forums, blogs, and social media that offer opinions about what to feed your dog. Even a dog food company’s website can be misleading or confusing. The best place to start your research is with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist.

If you haven’t already consulted with your vet about your dog’s sensitive stomach, start there. You want to rule out any serious health condition before you start experimenting with different dog foods on your own. Your vet might suggest a few brands of dog food that they prefer, and can give you an idea of problematic ingredients for your dog and nutritional information to look out for as you start your search.

Most pet owners also do their own research. Look for articles and journals written by veterinarians and board-certified veterinary nutritionists. You want the best for your dog, so consult the best sources–the dog nutrition experts! It’s smart to be a little skeptical as you research the best dog foods for your dog’s sensitive stomach. If a company is advertising a miracle diet that sounds too good to be true, it probably is (unless it has science-based research or studies to back it up).

Best Commercial Dog Foods for Sensitive Stomachs

Commercial dog food diets are the most convenient, and often the best sensitive stomach dog food option. There is a variety of formulas to help you find a food that doesn’t irritate your pet’s stomach. Unfortunately, the number of options can be intimidating.

Popular options for sensitive stomach dog foods include Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach and Royal Canin Digestive Care.

“Complete and Balanced” Dog Food Formulas

The first thing to look for is a dog food that states that it is “complete and balanced.” This statement means that the food is formulated to provide your pet with all of the nutrients known to be necessary for dogs. Choosing a complete and balanced diet helps eliminate sensitive stomachs that result from nutritional deficiencies, and ensures that your pet is getting the nutrition they need for healthy digestion.

Dog Food Labels Analysis

Read through the rest of the dog food label. Check the protein and fiber sources, as well as the fat content. Be sure that you’re feeding your dog the correct life stage formula of the food, and consult your veterinarian about any pet food recalls.

You might not find the best dog food right away. Finding the optimal diet for your dog’s sensitive stomach often takes time. You might end up transitioning your dog through several different food, brand, or formulas before you find one that works. While it is tempting to start your dog on a new food immediately, it’s important to slowly transition your dog off of their old food and onto the new. If you don’t, you could end up worsening your dog’s sensitive stomach, or your dog could refuse to eat the new food.

Transitioning Your Dog to a Different Food

The best way to transition your dog to a new food is to start small. The first meal should contain about 80-90 percent old food and 10-20 percent new food. Change this ratio slowly over the course of 10 days. You can always talk with your vet to get their recommendation on the best way to transition your dog to a new food.

Homemade Meals for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs

Just about any dog can benefit from a bland homemade meal on occasion. A simple dinner of cooked chicken meat and boiled rice—without any seasoning or fat—may help settle an upset stomach or calm diarrhea. Today, an increasing number of dog owners are turning to homemade diets for all of their dog’s meals. This can be an excellent option for dogs with sensitive stomachs, so long as dog owners make sure that the meals they prepare meet all of their dog’s nutritional needs. This is easier said than done, so it’s important to work with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to make sure that what you’re feeding ends up meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. The website balance IT—created by board-certified veterinary nutritionist Sean J. Delaney, DVM, MS, DACVN—is a helpful tool for both veterinarians and dog owners looking to go this route.

Veterinary Prescription Diets for Dogs

Not every sensitive stomach can be resolved by a commercial diet or even a homemade diet. Your vet might recommend a prescription dog food diet if switching non-prescription dog foods doesn’t resolve your dog’s digestive issues. There is no one food that works best for all dogs with sensitive stomachs, just like there is no one food that works best for people with sensitive stomachs. Finding the best food for your dog takes time and patience, and what cured your friend’s dog might not do the trick for your dog. Don’t get discouraged. With a little trial and error, and collaboration with your vet, you can find a diet that works for your dog.
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