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Digestive Issues in Dogs

An upset stomach is a leading surface level cause of dogs needing a trip to see the veterinarian, but a litany of underlying conditions running the full gamut of severity from mild to life-threatening could be responsible for their upset tummy. Today, our Santa Cruz internal medicine veterinary specialists are here to talk about the most common digestive and gastrointestinal issues in dogs.

Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Issues in Dogs

A whole suite of symptoms presented by your dog can be indicators of a digestive or other gastrointestinal malady having befallen them. Below is a list of some of the more common such symptoms:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea, with or without blood or mucus.
  • Constipation.
  • Increased gas or flatulence.
  • A lack of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fever.
  • Dehydration.
  • Abdominal pain (you may notice a hunched posture, a “praying” posture with the forelimbs and chest on the floor while the hind end is raised, or yelping when you try to pick up your dog).
  • Abdominal enlargement/distension.
  • Distress or inability to get comfortable.

Presenting with any of these symptoms is cause for concern and likely a good motivation for an appointment with your veterinarian.

When is an emergency vet visit for stomach problems in dogs?

It is always better to err on the side of caution, at the very least you should call your vet if your dog is experiencing GI issues. They can advise you best on a path forward in their professional opinion, and since digestive problems in dogs can be life-threatening, it is best not to wait until it has progressed to that point to seek professional aid.

If your dog is in great distress, you should consider visiting an emergency veterinarian as soon as possible.

What causes gastrointestinal issues in dogs?

There are far too many potential causes of an upset stomach to list here, so instead, we will cover some of the most common conditions that afflict dogs.

Dietary Indiscretion

This one is relatively straightforward: if your dog ate something they shouldn't have, it's most likely not gonna sit well with them during digestion. Depending on what your dog ate, this could be a mild case of nausea that will pass, or a life-threatening concern (such as that which arises from dogs eating a household product that is toxic to them, like chocolate).


Stress can cause your dog to experience the symptoms of an upset stomach, just like it can in people! Most commonly if stress is causing gastrointestinal symptoms in your dog it will manifest in the form of diarrhea. 


Nasty infections can negatively impact your dog's digestive health. Internal parasites commonly infect dogs who lack protection and can wreak havoc on their health.  Parvovirus, a disease to which puppies are especially vulnerable presents as an upset stomach at its earliest stages. Parvo can be fatal, if you suspect your puppy may have been exposed contact our Santa Cruz emergency animal hospital immediately.

Pancreatitis in Dogs

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of an organ close to the stomach and intestines which produces insulin called the pancreas. Too much fatty food, like those from table scraps, can cause pancreatitis. Common symptoms of pancreatitis include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Hospitalization might be required for dogs with pancreatitis for IV fluids, medication, and pain management. Long-term consequences of pancreatitis are diabetes and chronic digestive problems - but the condition is treatable when caught.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing concerning gastrointestinal symptoms please contact our Santa Cruz emergency vets immediately for a consultation.

New Patients Welcome

Pacific & Santa Cruz Veterinary Specialists is always accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about restoring good health to Santa Cruz companion animals. We are open 24/7 to provide your pet with care, whenever they need us.

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Contact (831) 475-5400