by Alicia Boemi, Dogly Wellness Advocate & Canine Nutritionist
Pet parents are often immediately concerned when their dog has an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting and want to do their best to alleviate their dog’s upset stomach right away. It can be tricky to navigate, especially when it comes out of nowhere. This is when a bland diet can help soothe your dog’s digestive tract.
A bland diet is often used to help a dog’s digestive system get back to normal after a stomach upset, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal condition. The bland diet temporarily replaces a dog’s regular diet to reset the digestive system and provide supportive foods while your dog is under the weather. A bland diet is not a diet that should be used long term unless you’ve worked with your veterinarian or canine nutritionist to ensure that the bland homemade diet you’re feeding is meeting all nutritional requirements for your dog, which will require the addition of vitamins and mineral supplements. In this article, we’ll go over how to safely feed your dog a temporary bland diet composed of minimal, highly digestible ingredients as a home remedy for mild cases of gastrointestinal upset.
A bland diet is used for a short period to alleviate gastrointestinal upset a dog might be experiencing for many reasons. The bland diet replaces a dog’s usual food temporarily to calm down a dog’s stomach and allow it a chance to heal. In the simplest explanation, your dog’s regular pet food will be replaced with bland foods consisting of a lean meat protein source, starchy carbohydrate, with a bit of fiber. These bland foods are fed to your dog as a home remedy to stop vomiting or diarrhea so your dog can return to everyday pet food with regular bowel movements.
Whether kibble, freeze-dried, raw, or cooked, adult dogs fed any diet can experience digestive issues and may temporarily need a bland diet. Before starting any diet change or treating your dog with a bland diet, it’s best to have your veterinarian rule out any major underlying gastrointestinal issues your dog might have.
Severe conditions that affect the gastrointestinal system need much more specialized treatment, medication, and diet than a mild case of a one-time upset stomach would need. Serious gastrointestinal ailments such as pancreatitis, intestinal blockage, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, and other pancreatic conditions such as exocrine pancreatic insufficiency should be overseen by a veterinarian with the help of a canine nutritionist. Especially if your dog cannot keep food down, has persistent diarrhea, is lethargic and/or in pain, has blood in the stool or vomit, you should seek treatment at an emergency hospital and not wait to see if a bland diet might work.
Puppies should be fed a bland diet under veterinary supervision. Since puppies need particular nutritional requirements daily for growth and development and are prone to illness because of their developing immune system, they need additional medical support to ensure they are on the right path to healing from whatever might be causing their upset stomach. For puppies struggling with digestive issues, it’s best to seek an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
In mild cases of digestive upset when your adult dog is under the weather with some diarrhea or vomiting, you can start feeding a bland diet after a fasting period. Pet parents are usually pretty good about recognizing that their dog gave himself a temporary upset stomach by eating a new vegetable the dog has never tried, chewing on some grass, or maybe a new treat that didn’t sit well with your dog. The important part is to make your veterinarian aware and get the "ok" to feed a bland diet. If you know for a fact that a bland diet will help your dog get over this small hump, then inform your veterinarian of your plans so they can keep a record of it in case the issue does not resolve. We’ll talk more about how to prepare and feed your dog a bland diet for a mild stomach upset, including the recommended fasting period.
If an adult dog has been diagnosed with gastrointestinal parasites or worms and is undergoing treatment, a bland diet might be helpful until medication can kick in. Often parasites like giardia or coccidia will present themselves with an onset of diarrhea. Dogs need medications from their veterinarian to get rid of the parasites in the body, but a bland diet paired with medications can be calming and soothing for the digestive system inflamed from the parasites. This recommendation also applies to dogs who might have worms in their systems. You would not need to fast your dog before feeding a bland diet - you would start to incorporate a bland diet for a few meals and then work to transition your dog back to regular pet food. You would keep your dog on the prescribed medication to treat the parasites or worms during this time.
The fasting period is recommended for at least one meal. To do this, pet parents would skip feeding their dog any food for one meal and then begin the bland diet at the next meal. If the issue is vomiting, it’s recommended to wait 2-3 hours after vomiting before offering water. Once you’ve waited 2-3 hours, you can provide ¼ cup of water. If your dog can hold down the water, you can offer more every 2 hours. Otherwise, dogs should have access to plenty of water during this time to avoid dehydration.
Your veterinarian might have specific instructions for feeding a bland diet their preferred way, but often the ratio of starchy carbohydrate to lean meat is 2:1 or 1:1. Therefore you’d choose one or two starchy carbohydrates and one protein and feed them in your preferred ratio or follow your veterinarian’s instructions. We’ll talk about choosing and cooking specific bland foods to feed your dog below. You can use a combination of bland foods to create bland diet recipes based on your dog’s individual needs and preferences.
The key to feeding a bland diet is to feed it in small meals. Start by feeding your dog 1-2 tablespoons of the bland food mixture and make sure no vomiting or diarrhea occurs. If your dog does well and is a larger dog, you can increase the amount of bland food mixture you are feeding. For small dogs, you might not need more than 1-2 tablespoons of food per small meal throughout the day. Some veterinarians recommend feeding a similar volume of bland food as your dog’s regular dog food diet. Just be sure to split up the meals 2-4 times a day, so they are small meals that are digested easier. No treats should be given during this time at all!
If you're feeding your dog 2-4 times a day, it can be easy to forget what time you feed your dog, how they reacted, or how much water they’ve been drinking. When your dog is under the weather with digestive issues and being fed a bland diet, it can make life easier to keep track of food, water intake, vomiting, bowel movements, etc., during this time. It doesn’t have to be a detailed food diary, simply grab some sheets of paper and jot down when symptoms started, fasting period, water intake, the time you feed your dog a bland meal consisting of what. This could also be helpful if you are in this situation again and need to refer back to what worked or didn’t work for your dog.
Contrary to popular belief, many foods can be fed to dogs as part of a bland diet. It doesn’t just have to be boiled chicken and white rice. Some dogs might not do well on chicken or rice for various reasons. It’s good to have options for dogs who cannot tolerate certain foods or who are just plain picky eaters. Listed below are bland diet food options to choose from. All foods used for a bland diet must be cooked - some with specific instructions. Make sure all meats are boneless and skinless. Never feed cooked bone to a dog, and avoid feeding the skin, particularly when your dog has an upset stomach because it is often filled with added fat and oils. You want to choose lean meats with no added fat, sodium, or additional additives.
These add-on foods shouldn’t be fed all at once in a bland diet. We do not want to overwhelm the dog’s digestive system!
Here are some combinations of bland diets to consider feeding your dog based on the foods listed above. Remember to use either a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of starchy carbohydrates to proteins with the small addition of optional add-ons.
A lot of people will tell you to feed your dog bone broth as part of a bland diet for dogs. While bone broth can be soothing to your dog’s gut, it also has some drawbacks, so make sure to understand them before feeding it to your dog. Bone broth is high in histamines and can cause itchiness and redness in dogs prone to allergies. Homemade bone broth can also vary in fat and sodium content which can be very upsetting to a dog’s stomach that is already under distress. Whether you’re feeding a temporary bland diet or your dog’s everyday food, plain bone broth can serve as both a flavor and protein boost. Be sure only to serve a bone broth that has no added fillers or sodium like Native Pet’s Bone Broth Topper.
For picky eaters who do not want to eat any of the bland food listed above, or who need a bit more encouragement, use baby food. Dogs who are often sick or feeling under the weather love meat-only baby food. Just make sure the baby food has no additives, vegetables, fruits, sugars, or syrups. It should be pureed, only meat baby food. You can either feed the baby food on its own or feed the baby food to your dog as another add-on to the bland diet.
Getting your dog back to its regular diet is the ultimate goal! Transitioning back to your dog’s regular food such as a kibble, freeze-dried, or raw diet is easy as long as you take it slowly. The total transition time from a bland diet back to your dog’s regular diet after upset stomach signs are gone usually takes about 5 days. On the first transition day, you can mix 25% of your dog’s regular food with 75% of the bland diet. If your dog does well, then you can split the regular food and bland food 50/50. Continue this gradual change as long as your dog is doing well until your dog is back to the regular diet.
Bland diets should never be fed to your dog as a long-term dietary solution because they lack the required macro and micro nutrients a dog needs for overall health and wellness. As a short-term solution, a bland diet is fine, but long-term it is not. If your dog has a sensitive stomach and does better on a bland diet, then it’s best to consult your veterinarian or a Canine Nutritionist who can build your dog a diet that will meet nutrient requirements while also being digestible by your dog.
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If your dog could use some digestion help and you’re feeding a bland diet, try boosting it with Native Pet’s Probiotic, carefully created by their team of nutritionists and veterinarians.
Are eggs a bland diet for dogs?
Yes, eggs can be used in a bland diet for your dog.
What bland food can a sick dog take?
There are various foods you can use in a bland diet. This article mentions all the important food that you can feed your dog. Food like boiled lean meat, chicken, hamburger, turkey, boiled white rice, etc. are included in bland diet.
How much bland diet to feed in a bland diet?
Start with 1-2 table spoons of any food that can be included in bland diet. Then, give a gap of 3 hours before the next feed. You can gradually increase the quantity.
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