Sometimes dogs suffer digestive distress that makes it impossible for them to "keep their food down" and require a bland diet to consume any nutrients and get their digestive systems working normally again, just like people do. There are many reasons a dog may need a bland diet. You may also be trying to picture exactly what a bland diet for dogs would be like. This post covers when your dog may need to eat a bland diet and how to go about feeding them one.
What is a Bland Diet for Dogs?
A bland dog diet is a diet that is very gentle on the dog's digestive system so they can continue to process foods and get some nutrients without much risk of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive issues. It uses the same concept as the BRAT diet in humans, though the foods vary because humans and dogs have different needs.
Bland food for dogs avoids potential food allergens, and fats, proteins, and other things that are hard for ailing digestive systems to process. Most commercial dog food is intended for the average, healthy dog, and a lot of it isn't really all that healthy even for them. But even the healthiest commercial dog food is too rich for dogs with food allergies and sick digestive systems.
Commercial bland foods for dogs?
It would be very convenient to just pick up a new dog food, but trying to make and sell a shelf stable food bland enough is quite a challenge.
Some companies do try, reducing the number of potentially irritating ingredients and/or avoiding certain triggers for common food allergies in dogs. If a food allergy is your dog's problem or the problem is not very severe, one of these foods may help.
Most dogs with serious digestive problems will need a homemade diet of very few ingredients.
When do dogs need bland dog food?
Dogs need a bland diet when they have:
- internal and external symptoms of food allergies
- lack of appetite
- avoidance of water
You know how you get to that point where your body just don't want to digest food? You may even throw up every time you eat. You may even get so nauseated that you don't want to eat or drink for fear of throwing up or how bad it will make you feel. Well, it's the same way with dogs. A bland dog diet can help their digestive systems function somewhat normally for a while, so the dog can maintain some nutritional intake and their digestive system can straighten out by processing less irritating foods.
The problem may be a sign of an illness or poisoning or the dog may just be under the weather from stress. A bland dog diet can help them recover from an illness or get their digestive systems back in shape from a stressful event.
The vet is still needed
Don't try to treat your dog yourself with a bland diet without ensuring they have been seen by a vet.
Number one, a dog with these digestive symptoms may have something wrong with them requiring treatment, perhaps emergency treatment. For instance, they may have ingested a toxin. They may also have a disease that has to be cured with medication.
Number two, the dog can only stay on the bland diet for a few days. They get nutrients to carry them through but not enough to live off of for any length of time. You will need to know the dog has a good chance of improving in that period of time.
Number three, you need to know that the bland diet is indeed the answer for your dog's ailment. Unless it's strictly because it's softer, a bland diet won't help a dog with bad teeth.
Number four, homemade diets are notorious for causing nutritional problems. You need the vet's approval of your proposed diet to ensure you are feeding them the right nutrients in the right amount for their breed, age, size, and health.
The only time you should try a bland diet without taking the dog to the vet first is if you are pretty much 100% sure why the dog is having the stomach problem and that it isn't serious. The duration of their symptoms is also a factor. Without the presence of other alarming symptoms, a single bout or two of stomach problems may not be a sign of anything serious.
You should take the dog to the vet if the stomach problems persist, if they are accompanied by other symptoms, or if you suspect they may have ingested a toxin. Watch the dog for signs of dehydration.
Symptoms indicating the dog needs prompt or emergency treatment:
- blood in vomit or stool
- everything they eat or drink makes them vomit or have diarrhea
- they have had multiple bouts of vomiting and diarrhea
- neurological symptoms indicating a toxin, such as convulsions or inability to walk or stand
- signs of pain
- anything else weird or alarming. You know your dog.
You should also be quicker to see the vet if you are dealing with a puppy. They may have canine parvovirus. They are also more susceptible to dehydration, so you can't wait much time at all for them to be able to eat or drink.
How to administer the bland diet for dog digestive problems
Veterinarians often suggest that you wait a few hours after their last episode of vomiting or diarrhea before starting the bland diet as their digestive systems are more likely to tolerate the addition of food or water at that point.
Give them just a little water first to ensure they can keep that "down." If they can go three hours without vomiting or having diarrhea, feed them food as per bland diet guidelines, which we'll discuss later.
A small amount of food is best. Just being full can make a dog, or human, with an ailing digestive system react poorly.
If they can't eat any food without being sick, take them to the vet, or call the vet if they have already been.
If they can eat, feed them the food and the amount of it that works for them every few hours. Ensure they have access to clean water at all times. And keep track of how much they are drinking by measuring it out, marking when they go to the water bowl and drink, or whatever works for you.
Your dog should show marked improvement in two to three days. If so, you could add the bland food to their regular food to help them work back up to a normal diet. Do this for a week so you can be sure their digestive system has fully recovered from whatever was ailing it. If the dog isn't almost their usual self in three days, call the vet.
Dogs can't eat the bland diet for more than five days at the most. It simply doesn't contain enough calories or nutrients for long-term feeding. Its sole purpose is to give dogs enough time for their digestive system to recover from a short-term problem.
Should the bland diet not work for your dog for some reason, they won't eat it, they develop new symptoms, or they won't drink enough to prevent dehydration, you'll have to contact the vet for advice. They may have to keep the dog to ensure they get the proper nutrition and water or treat them for dehydration.
Dog bland diet recipe
While the food may be bland, that doesn't mean your dog can't have options. There are several recipes for bland dog food. This way you can make what works for you, what your dog likes, what will provide enough variety that your dog won't get bored, and what will give them a broader range of nutrients.
Boil a chicken breast. Don't season it before, during, or after cooking. When it is done, shred it into small pieces.
You can easily store it to give some to your dog throughout the day and it is a great source of lean, fairly easy to digest protein.
Open some canned pumpkin that contains no seasonings and serve tablespoons of it to your dog. It contains vitamins the dog needs and fiber to bulk up their stool. Four tablespoons is a good amount for the average size dog, if they will eat that much. You can also mix it with other foods in the bland diet.
Cottage cheese has a lot of protein and the fat will bulk up their stool. Do choose the low-fat kind so as not to overdo it on the fat as fat can detract from the benefit of the bland diet. You can mix it with other food from the bland diet. Lactose intolerant dogs can't have cottage cheese, of course.
Dogs can also eat yogurt for the protein and other nutrients but do choose a low-fat kind.
Cooked, unseasoned, plain oatmeal can be served to your dog alone or added to other foods.
Slice some watermelon into small pieces and remove the seeds. The fiber will bulk up their stool and the high water content will prevent dehydration. Watermelon also contains helpful vitamins.
Scramble some eggs without any butter, milk, or seasoning. You might also boil the eggs. Eggs are super foods with a lot of protein, and they are also easy to digest.
Meat baby food
Baby foods are unseasoned, nutritious, and easy to digest. The meat ones will be appetizing to your dog and you can buy the different options to vary the dog's diet some.
Chicken and rice
Boil a chicken breast, cook some rice, season neither of them. Shred the chicken and mix into a larger portion of rice. Save the remaining chicken to be served alone or with something else, like more rice.
Hamburger and rice
Boil lean hamburger meat and drain the fat from it. Also cook some rice. Mix the two together with rice being the larger amount. Save the remaining hamburger for another time.
Turkey and pumpkin
Boil ground turkey and serve with canned pumpkin with no seasonings. Again, you get nutrients and protein from the turkey as well as vitamins and fiber from the pumpkin.
Get some beef marrow bones and cook them on low in a crock pot with two to three inches of water for 24 hours. Then cool it and serve it to them in a semi-solid state. It can also be added to other foods. Make sure there are no bones in it when you give it to your dog.
Fish and sweet potato
When your dog is nearing the end of the bland diet, you can fix them white fish and sweet potatoes. Bake the white fish for 35 minutes in sunflower oil. Peel the sweet potato, cut it into cubes, and boil for 12 minutes. Fish offers protein and other important nutrients and sweet potatoes contain many vitamins and fiber.
Hamburger and cottage cheese are the riskiest foods on this list. If your dog gets a little worse after eating them, cut them out. You might save them until nearer the end of their bland diet or avoid them for dogs with the most severe cases.
Bland diet for puppies, seniors, and large breeds
The foods suitable for the bland diet are pretty much the same for adult dogs, puppies, and senior dogs. if they are lactose intolerant, they need to avoid dairy. The rest of the difference has to do with their size, overall health, and their teeth. Some dogs will require softer foods because of their teeth or youth or advanced age.
Larger dog breeds will need more food.
Determining whether to go homemade or buy commercial bland dog food
It depends on what's wrong with your dog and how severe their case is. Commercial bland dog foods are great for dogs with food allergies who may develop digestive symptoms or skin problems after eating certain foods. Dogs who have mild digestive issues, particularly chronic ones, may benefit from the reduced ingredients in these foods also.
Preparing homemade bland diet foods isn't that hard or complicated. Your greatest concern will be how long to keep the dog on it and whether the dog is picky about which foods they want to eat. So, it should be something you can feel comfortable managing. Your vet will need to advise you about when the homemade bland diet is necessary, how long to keep your dog on it, and specific things to avoid. With the latter, they may tell you it is okay or not okay for your dog to have the fat in hamburger and cottage cheese.
The homemade bland diet is for dogs who are in danger of not being able to eat, keep down their food, or stop having diarrhea. Diarrhea is not only inconvenient and uncomfortable, it also leads to dehydration and other health problems in the long term. Vomiting can cause dehydration, esophagitis, weight loss, and eventually death. And of course, dogs have to keep their food down long enough to digest the nutrients.
If the bland diet is not necessary, the vet can help you choose between highly digestible dog food brands to find a food that will meet your dog's unique needs. These dogs will probably have a chronic case of what is called a sensitive stomach or a food allergy. Dogs can experience of range of symptoms in these cases, including gas and skin problems. The vet can help you rule out foods that won't help and choose a food that will meet your dog's dietary requirements because of their breed, size, age, and overall health.
How CBD Oil Might Help with Dog Digestive issues
CBD oil is not likely to be recommended when the dog's digestive system is in such bad shape that they need to eat the bland diet because it is oil. But it can help prevent the dog from ever needing the bland diet.
Dogs with less severe digestive issues may see improvements in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite when taking CBD oil.
CBD oil is commonly used in humans, dogs, and other pets to address anxiety. If your dog is suffering chronic or acute stress, giving them CBD oil may help them get better before it causes major digestive problems. If you know your dog is going to have to undergo a situation that will cause them anxiety like a move, a storm, or a change of some kind, giving them CBD oil may ease their anxiety before it causes them any real problems.
Depending on what is wrong with the dog, whether they have another illness that CBD oil may help or other symptoms that CBD oil addresses from that other illness, the risks of using CBD oil for dogs with severe digestive problems may be less significant than the benefits. For instance, a dog with epilepsy may need the CBD oil to potentially lessen the frequency and severity of their seizures and the risk that the oil may worsen their digestive situation may seem smaller in comparison. If such a situation arises, you could discuss the risks versus benefits of CBD oil for your dog's unique case.
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Sources:Blah, Blah, and More Blah! Bland Diet Instructions for Dogs and Cats
Bland Diet Feeding Instructions
Bland Diet Recipes for Dogs With Upset Stomach
Bland Food to Help Sick Dogs Recover Faster
Alternative Bland Diet Option for Dogs