9 Common Stomach Problems in Dogs [+Signs, Causes & Prevention]

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vet checking dachshunds stomach

 A study of the prevalence of digestive disease among dogs examined in 2013 at the Cairo University Veterinary Teaching Hospital revealed that 56.5 % of the dogs had digestive issues. Digestive issues are common in dogs, and many conditions can affect the stomach.

The most common stomach problems in dogs include:

  • Canine parvovirus
  • Bloat
  • Gastritis
  • Obstruction
  • Ulcers
  • Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome
  • Constipation
  • Colitis
  • Flatulence

In this article, we’ll talk about common stomach problems and where each condition might occur in your dog’s life cycle. After that, I’ll offer a list of common symptoms to watch for and some tips for prevention and health care.

Common Stomach Problems

Stomach problems in dogs can range from mild upsets to life-threatening conditions. It helps to understand common issues in dogs so that you can identify trouble and seek appropriate care as soon as possible.

Canine parvovirus

Commonly called parvo, canine parvovirus is an extremely contagious, deadly disease that attacks the white blood cells of the digestive tract and causes severe illness.

Parvo usually affects puppies, but it can also infect unvaccinated adults.

Signs of parvovirus in dogs include:

  • Lethargy and dullness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Severe bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain/bloating
  • Fever or hypothermia

Parvo is caused by canine parvovirus type 2. All dogs can be affected, but certain breeds, including Rottweilers, Springer Spaniels, Doberman Pinschers, Bull Terriers, and German Shepherds, have a higher risk of getting the disease.

Without treatment, the virus triggers continuous vomiting and diarrhea that leads to dehydration and death. Even with appropriate veterinary care, the survival rate is 68-92%.

Prevention of parvovirus starts with vaccinations. You can vaccinate puppies as early as 6-8 weeks old and continue with boosters as directed. Other preventative measures include avoiding other dogs when they’re sick, keeping unvaccinated puppies/dogs away from dog parks and doggie day cares, and practicing good hygiene.

Treatment for parvovirus is primarily supportive and includes hospitalization with fluid administration, antiemetics, antidiarrheal drugs, and nutritional support.  


Bloat or gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air or gas and twists on its axis.

GDV is most likely to occur in adult dogs that are about 5 years or older.

Signs of bloat in dogs include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Standing and stretching/praying posture
  • Distended abdomen
  • Turning and looking at the abdomen
  • Dry heaves/retching
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Pale mucous membranes

Dogs prone to developing GDV include those with deep chests, older pups, dogs that eat one large meal a day, food gulpers, and dogs with a familial history of bloat. Large and giant breeds, including Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Standard Poodles, German Shepherds, Saint Bernards, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, and Weimaraners.

Without treatment, bloat can quickly become life-threatening. As the stomach fills with air and fluid, it may twist on its axis, disrupting blood flow and causing your dog to go into shock. 

Preventative measures for GDV in dogs include dividing your dog’s food into at least two daily meals, using a slow-feed dog bowl to discourage food gulping, and choosing puppies with no familial history of bloat.

Treatment for GDV starts with patient stabilization. Your veterinarian may administer IV fluids and attempt to pass a stomach tube to decompress the stomach. If there’s a torsion, the tube won’t be able to enter the stomach, so your doctor may insert a large bore catheter through the abdominal wall and into the stomach. Once the patient is stable, the GDV can be corrected surgically.


Gastritis is inflammation in the stomach lining that causes stomach upset with vomiting or loss of appetite.

Gastritis can occur in dogs at any age.

Signs of gastritis include:

  • Sudden, repeated vomiting
  • Nausea 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Abnormal stool
  • Increased thirst
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss in chronic cases

Causes of gastritis include dietary indiscretion, spoiled food, toxins, bacterial or fungal infections, parasites, food allergies, medications, and systemic diseases.

Dogs can recover from some mild gastritis cases without treatment. However, leaving most cases untreated can prolong the symptoms and may lead to dehydration and other conditions that negatively impact your furbaby’s quality of life.

To prevent gastritis in your dog, try to keep him from eating anything harmful and use covered trash cans in the home.

Treatment for gastritis varies depending on the underlying cause. Generally, management includes fasting for 1-2 days, followed by multiple small meals. If vomiting is severe, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-emetic drugs and gastrointestinal protectants. Antibiotics or antifungal drugs may be administered if needed.


When a foreign object, tumor, or tissue overgrowth blocks the passage of food from the stomach into the intestines, it is an obstruction. Obstructions interfere with the digestive process and can be partial or complete.

Obstructions can affect dogs at any age, particularly if they swallow materials indiscriminately.

Signs of a gastrointestinal obstruction include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration 
  • Abdominal pain/swelling
  • Bloating
  • Hunched appearance

Causes of obstruction can include foreign bodies, ulcers, tumors, overgrowth of the stomach lining, and polyps.

Gastric obstructions require veterinary treatment. Without intervention, they can become a life-threatening emergency, causing bloating, sepsis, shock, and death.

Prevention of obstructions includes only allowing your dog to play with toys under supervision, discouraging foraging behaviors when outdoors, and scheduling regular health checkups.

Depending on the location and severity of the obstruction, your veterinarian may provide supportive medical care, including anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, and IV fluids. Complete or severe obstructions may require surgical correction.


If your dog’s stomach lining becomes damaged or erodes, it creates an ulcer.

While stomach ulcers can affect dogs at any age, they’re more prevalent in adult and senior dogs.

Signs of stomach ulcers include:

  • Anemia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting with or without blood
  • Tarry, black stool
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Excess salivation
  • Abdominal pain/distension
  • Weakness

Causes of stomach ulcers include chronic gastritis, tumors, liver or bowel diseases, toxin ingestion, long-term use of corticosteroids or non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, and Helicobacter bacteria.

Leaving ulcers untreated can allow them to continue eroding the stomach wall. Long-term results can be anemia, blood loss, and septic infections.

Preventative measures for ulcers in dogs include administering any medications according to your veterinarian’s instructions and treating underlying conditions that can cause ulcers.

Treatment for ulcers focuses on finding and eliminating the underlying cause and promoting healing. Depending upon the condition’s severity, medical management may include IV fluid support, blood transfusions, antacids, cytoprotective drugs, and antibiotics. If the ulcer is hemorrhaging, surgery may be needed.

Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome (AHDS)

Formerly called hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome(AHDS) occurs when dogs have a sudden, unexplained onset of vomiting and profuse bloody diarrhea.

Any age or breed of dog can develop AHDS, although small and toy-breed dogs are more commonly affected.

Signs of AHDS include:

  • Sudden vomiting
  • Bloody raspberry jam diarrhea
  • Painful abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy 
  • Fever

Although the cause of AHDS is unknown, possible factors include hypersensitivity to Clostridium perfringens, stress, ulcers, infectious diseases, food sensitivities, tumors, or other triggers. Some breeds that are predisposed to developing the disease include Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Poodle, and Miniature Schnauzer.

Without treatment, dogs are at risk of dehydration, which can cause weakness and eventual death. 

AHDS  is difficult to prevent because the causes are uncertain. However, you can focus on feeding high-quality food and avoiding any known allergens. Stay up to date on vaccinations and other health preventatives to prevent gastrointestinal issues.

Treatment for AHDS begins with supportive IV fluid/electrolyte replacement and antibiotics. If needed, your veterinarian may also administer gastrointestinal protecting drugs and anti-emetics.


When dogs can’t pass stool or only pass hard, dry feces, it’s constipation.

While constipation can affect dogs at any age, seniors are more prone to developing the condition.

Signs of constipation in dogs include:

  • No signs of defecation for a few days
  • Hard, dry stools
  • Straining to defecate and producing no feces or small amounts mixed with blood
  • Pain and difficulty during defecation

Causes of constipation include diet, age, tumors, anal gland problems, dehydration, surgery, spinal disease/injury, and stress.

Leaving constipation untreated can cause fecal blockage of the colon, known as obstipation, or lead to chronic problems with defecation. 

You may be able to prevent constipation in dogs by feeding your dog canned dog food to increase fluid content, increasing fiber in your dog’s diet, providing access to ample water, and regularly exercising your dog.

Treatment for constipation may include manual removal of the feces, enemas, and medications to activate normal colon function. Some severe cases require surgery.


Colitis is inflammation of the large intestines that usually causes diarrhea.

Dogs can experience colitis at any age.

Signs of colitis include:

  • Small quantities of feces that are liquid or semi-formed
  • Mucus or red blood in stool
  • Cramping
  • Frequent, urgent defecation
  • Straining during/after pooping

Causes of colitis include diet, stress, infections, parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, trauma, and allergies.

Without treatment, dogs with colitis can become dehydrated or malnourished.

Prevention of colitis includes avoiding sudden changes in diets, supplementing your dog’s diet with prebiotic fiber and probiotics, and keeping your dog current on vaccinations and parasite control.

Treatment for colitis includes addressing underlying conditions with antibiotics, anti-anxiety drugs, or antispasmodic medications. Your veterinarian may also prescribe psyllium fiber supplements or a hydrolyzed protein diet.


The buildup of gas in the intestines and colon that can lead to gurgling or farting is commonly known as flatulence.

Unfortunately, dogs can experience flatulence at any stage in their lives.

Signs of flatulence include:

  • Gas expulsion from the anus
  • Rumbling sounds (borborygmus) from the abdomen
  • Mild abdominal discomfort
  • Mild bloating

Possible causes of flatulence in dogs include gulping air, indiscriminate eating, diet, gastrointestinal infections, obesity, food allergy/intolerance, and inflammatory bowel disease. Brachycephalic breeds, including Boston Terriers, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Lhasa Apsos, are prone to developing flatulence.

Flatulence is usually not a big deal, but it can cause your pooch discomfort and be unpleasant for you if you ignore it. Additionally, flatulence and borborygmus can be a sign of an underlying condition.

You may be able to prevent or reduce flatulence in your dog by feeding your dog a consistent diet, using a slow-feed bowl to prevent food and air gulping, using covered trash cans, and not feeding table scraps.

Treatment for flatulence usually involves changing your dog’s diet to a high-fiber, low-fat formula and supplementing with probiotics. 

Stomach Health Problems across the Lifecycle

Many common stomach issues like colitis and flatulence can affect dogs at any age. However, some health problems like parvovirus or constipation occur more frequently in a particular lifecycle stage.

Stomach Health Problems in Puppies

Because puppies explore the world with their mouths, they often eat or swallow items that cause stomach health problems. Indiscriminate eating can trigger some conditions like gastritis, obstruction, and flatulence.

Another condition that commonly affects puppies is parvovirus. Very young dogs have an undeveloped immune system and have not received preventative vaccinations.

Stomach Health Problems in Adult Dogs

Adult dogs are vulnerable to various stomach health problems. Common conditions include bloat/GDV, which usually affects dogs 5 years or older. Other stomach issues that affect adult dogs include acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome and colitis. 

Stomach Health Problems in Senior Dogs

While seniors can suffer from stomach health conditions that are common across all ages, a few issues tend to occur more frequently in older dogs. Ulcers and constipation tend to affect elderly dogs at a higher frequency than other life stages.

Stomach Problem Signs Dog Parents Should Beware of

Many common stomach problems in dogs can be effectively treated if you catch them early. Knowing which signs to watch for helps you take the best possible care of your furbaby. 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea/vomiting
  • Abnormal stool
  • Stomach pain
  • Praying or hunched posture
  • Distended abdomen
  • Turning to look at the side
  • Increased thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Straining during defecation
  • Absence of feces or dry/hard feces
  • Borborygmus 

Common causes of stomach problems

Most stomach problems in dogs share a list of possible causes. 

  • Genetic or breed predilections
  • Viral or bacterial infections
  • Dietary indiscretion
  • Allergies or food sensitivities
  • Food or air-gulping
  • Toxins
  • Medications
  • Tumors
  • Diet
  • Underlying conditions

Stomach Health Care Tips and Problem Prevention

Below are healthcare tips and preventative measures you can use to help protect your pooch from stomach health problems.

  • Feed your dog a quality diet with essential nutrients.
  • Transition your dog’s food gradually over 1-2 weeks when changing formulas/diets.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. 
  • Exercise your dog regularly to encourage healthy digestion.
  • Supplement your dog’s diet with prebiotic fiber and probiotics to promote healthy digestion.
  • Schedule regular health checkups and keep your dog up-to-date on vaccinations and preventative treatments.
  • Use a slow-feed bowl to discourage food and air-gulping.

The Final Woof

Dogs are prone to digestive issues, and many of the conditions can affect the stomach. Some common stomach health problems in dogs include parvovirus, bloat, gastritis, constipation, colitis, and flatulence. While some issues affect pups at any age, others are more common during certain parts of the life cycle. Knowing how to recognize common signs of trouble can help you take care of your furbaby. There are also general healthcare and preventative measures you can use to help protect your pooch from stomach health problems. 

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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