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16 Signs Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach: Vet-Approved Health Facts

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

close up pitbull lying on the floor

16 Signs Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach: Vet-Approved Health Facts

VET APPROVED

Dr. Nia Perkins  Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Nia Perkins

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’ve ever been woken in the middle of the night by a symphony of gurgling and rumbling coming from your dog’s stomach, you know that your pup isn’t immune to tummy trouble. Whether they’ve eaten something that doesn’t agree with them or are suffering from something more serious, you’ll want to solve your dog’s stomach issues as soon as you can.

In this article, we cover 16 signs that your dog has an upset stomach. Remember to consult your veterinarian about any medical issue, even if you aren’t sure whether it’s serious.

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Top 16 Signs Your Dog Has an Upset Stomach

1. Eating Grass

Chances are you’ve heard that when a dog eats grass, it’s because they don’t feel well and are trying to make themselves vomit. While this is sometimes true, dogs also eat grass for other reasons, so it is not the most reliable sign that your dog has an upset stomach.

Researchers have also done several studies to determine if this popularly held theory is actually true. Most of the results suggest that eating grass is not definitively linked to an upset stomach in all dogs, but it does occur in some. To be safe, monitor your dog to see if they develop any other signs of an upset stomach besides just eating grass.


2. Loss of Appetite

dog not eating its food
Image Credit: Daria Lixovetckay, Shutterstock

Much like how humans don’t feel like eating when they are nauseated, your dog may steer clear of their food bowl if they have an upset stomach. They may stop eating completely or eat less than usual. Some dogs stop eating their regular food but may continue to eat treats or people food, such as chicken or hamburgers. Decreased appetite can be a non-specific sign in dogs. This means it can be a sign of many different diseases and conditions, not just an upset stomach.


3. Excessive Licking

Dogs with upset stomachs often lick excessively. They may lick their lips or objects around them. Some dogs will even stick their tongues out and appear to be licking the air. Dogs may perform this behavior in an attempt to control waves of nausea. Like many of the other signs of an upset stomach, this one can also indicate different issues with your dog. Lip licking can be a sign that a dog is anxious or stressed. You may need to observe your dog for other signs to confirm they are suffering from an upset stomach.


4. Changes in Water Drinking

dehydrated pug beside a bowl
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

If your dog’s water consumption suddenly changes, they may be dealing with an upset stomach. Often, you’ll notice that your dog is drinking less water, similar to how their appetite may decline. Some dogs drink more water when they have an upset stomach because they continuously vomit.

Guzzling a lot of water can also signal other medical conditions, including diabetes. Take this sign seriously because even if it’s just a sign of an upset stomach, your dog could become dehydrated if they aren’t drinking enough.


5. Gulping

If your dog is battling reflux and nausea, you may notice that they seem to be gulping and swallowing more often. Suspect an upset stomach if you spot your dog performing this behavior when they aren’t eating or drinking. The owners of large, deep-chested dogs should be extra cautious if they observe this sign. Gulping excessively could lead to the dog swallowing a lot of air, which is one risk factor for developing a life-threatening condition called bloat.


6. Fatigue

Senior dog resting at the floor
Image Credit: Larissa Chilanti, Shutterstock

A pup that suddenly seems extra tired and reluctant to play or go on walks could be dealing with an upset stomach. Not feeling well can be exhausting for dogs, just like for us. Their bodies know when they need a little extra rest. However, fatigue is another sign that can indicate many different conditions, some of them serious. Before assuming your pup is tired from tummy trouble, see your veterinarian to rule out additional concerns.


7. Depression

Depression and fatigue are somewhat interchangeable. Depressed dogs may seem “checked out” or uninterested in their daily routine. They may not respond when you call them or acknowledge the attention of other pets in the house. When they’re depressed, dogs aren’t just tired physically but mentally too.

In the case of an upset stomach, your dog may be uncomfortable or painful, which makes them feel indifferent to life. Dogs can show signs of depression for other reasons as well, so you may need to look for other signs to determine whether an upset stomach is to blame.


8. Adopting the “Prayer Position” or “Downward Dog”

beagle in downward position
Image Credit: jukgrapong, Shutterstock

Dogs with upset stomachs often feel discomfort or pain in their bellies. One sign of this pain is if you notice your dog stretching low on their front legs but leaving their rear in the air. This position, similar to the “downward dog” yoga pose, is sometimes called the “prayer position” as well. Your dog may want to lie down and get comfortable but find it too painful to put weight on their upset stomach. They may also use this position to stretch out a cramping gut or relieve pressure from built-up gas.


9. Vomiting

This is one of the two most obvious signs that your dog has an upset stomach, though vomiting can be a sign of other illnesses as well. Dogs may vomit food, water, or yellowish-green stomach bile. If your dog begins vomiting, try to observe how long after eating or drinking they throw up, how many times, and what the vomit looks like. This information will be helpful to your vet as they try to diagnose what’s going on.

If your dog looks like they are trying to vomit, but nothing is coming out, this could also be a sign of bloat, especially in a large dog. Bloat is an emergency, but you should always consult your vet if your dog is vomiting because they can become dehydrated.


10. Diarrhea

labrador retriever pooping on the grass
Image Credit: Wasitt Hemwarapornchai, Shutterstock

Diarrhea is another sign that your dog has an upset stomach. Dogs often develop diarrhea if they eat something that doesn’t agree with them or if their food is changed too quickly. This sign can also have other causes, especially in puppies.

Intestinal parasites or parvovirus are two common culprits for diarrhea in young dogs. If your dog has profuse diarrhea, dehydration is a concern, particularly if they aren’t eating and drinking well either. Contact your veterinarian if you notice this sign of an upset stomach.


11. Drooling

Nauseated dogs—especially those with reflux—often produce an excessive amount of drool. We already mentioned that lip licking is a sign of an upset stomach, and sometimes that behavior also serves to try and keep the drooling under control. This sign may be hard to pinpoint in some breeds, like the Mastiff or Saint Bernard, which naturally drool more than others. Drooling can also be a sign of anxiety, adding a bit more mystery to interpreting this sign.


12. Noisy Stomach

We mentioned this one in our introduction, and it’s certainly one of the harder-to-miss signs that your dog has an upset stomach. The official term for stomach noises is borborygmi, and they can be a perfectly normal part of the digestive process. Muscle movement along the dog’s digestive tract typically causes some noise as food and water pass along. However, excessive gurgling or rumbling in your dog’s stomach can be a sign that something is amiss, especially if it accompanies other signs on our list.


13. Excessive Gas

Dogs typically have some gas in their stomach. It can occur as a side effect of digesting certain foods or because the dog has swallowed a lot of air when panting. However, if your dog builds up too much gas, it can result in an upset stomach. You’ll recognize this sign by your dog burping or passing gas excessively, making it one of the smellier and more unpleasant signs on our list. For big dogs, a stomach full of gas can quickly become life-threatening if they bloat.


14. Restlessness

french bulldog panting
Image Credit: Lee Waranyu, Shutterstock

If your dog is pacing, panting, or can’t seem to lie down and get comfortable, they could be restless due to an upset stomach. Nausea can make a dog uncomfortable, if not outright painful. Dogs show pain in many different ways, one of which is restlessness. Without other signs of an upset stomach, however, it can be hard to determine if your dog is restless from a painful belly or some other cause.

Stress and anxiety can also cause similar signs, especially thunderstorm fear. Pain in any area of the dog’s body can cause them to act restless, especially in their back or neck.


15. Sensitive Belly

If your dog eyes you suspiciously when you try to pet their belly, they could be experiencing pain from an upset stomach. Sometimes, it becomes so painful that they growl or snap at anyone who comes too close to their belly. You may notice your dog scratching, biting, or chewing at their belly if it hurts. Their abdomen may seem tense or even look swollen.

Obviously, you don’t want your dog to be in pain, so see a veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice this sign. Very painful bellies can indicate your dog has progressed from having an upset stomach to a more serious condition, such as pancreatitis.


16. Behavior Changes

dog in pain aggressive
Image Credit: Bonsales, Shutterstock

Any sudden change in your dog’s behavior can be a sign that they aren’t feeling well, possibly with an upset stomach. A normally gentle dog may display aggressive behavior, or a typically outgoing pup may hide away from household activity. Unlike a painful belly, which is a fairly obvious sign of an upset stomach, behavior changes can have many causes.

General pain or discomfort can be one cause, while older dogs could be developing cognitive dysfunction or doggy dementia. Brain conditions, including tumors, are another possible cause of behavioral changes. If your dog’s behavior changes without other signs of an upset stomach, especially if they seem to be progressively getting worse, you may be dealing with something more serious.

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Conclusion

Upset stomachs are among the most common afflictions for our canine friends due to their tendency to eat anything and everything. If you notice any of these 16 signs or are concerned about your pup’s health in any way, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Featured Image Credit: Mikorad, Pixabay

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