5 Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Stomach & Poor Digestion 2019

It’s not fun for any pet owner to watch their dog suffer through the occasional upset stomach. But when your dog frequently deals with stomach and allergy issues, it can be incredibly hard on both you and your pet.

Luckily, there are many dog foods available that cater to pets with sensitive stomachs and allergies. We’ve looked at the top selling brands and chosen the five best based on ingredient quality and ability to soothe sensitive systems. Read on for our review on the best dog food for sensitive stomachs.

How to Decide if Your Dog Needs a Sensitive Stomach Diet

Dog food allergies and sensitivities are becoming more and more common. But how do you know if your dog needs to switch to a sensitive stomach dog food?

There are two common ways food sensitivities can affect your dog: GI tract upset and immune response.

Does your dog experience:

  • Frequent bouts of diarrhea?
  • Vomiting?
  • Excessive gas?

This could be a sign that they have a sensitive GI tract or gastrointestinal problem. Changing their food could help prevent gas and aid in better digestion.

Or, does your dog:

  • Have itchy or red skin?
  • Frequently lick their paws or legs?

This could be a sign of a food allergy. Finding a food without the offending ingredient(s) could reduce itchiness and inflammation.

Your Current Food May Be the Problem

Foods marketed to pets with sensitive stomachs are great if your dog needs one. But they are also more expensive than traditional dog food.

Not sure if your dog really needs a sensitive stomach diet? Consider some of these options first.

Try eliminating the offending ingredient from your dog’s diet.

Some dogs are sensitive to grains. Many dog food brands now offer grain free options made with legumes or potatoes.

It’s also common for dogs to be sensitive to certain kinds of protein. Chicken is the most common protein in pet foods and many dogs develop sensitivities to it.

Think your dog is allergic to a particular protein? Try food with a novel protein source that your dog has never eaten before like buffalo, duck or venison.

Low-quality foods can also contribute to stomach upset and gastritis.

If you currently feed cheaper food, try upgrading to one with higher quality ingredients. Read on below to find out what to look for in your dog’s new food.

What Ingredients to Look for When Choosing Your Dog’s Food

If none of the above options work for you, it may be time to find a specialized diet for your dog.

When picking a new food, the most important thing to look at is the ingredient list.

The first ingredient listed should be some kind of animal protein. Some common ones you might see would be chicken, lamb meal, whole deboned turkey or salmon.

If the type of meat is not clear, as in “animal digest” or “animal by-products,” don’t buy that food. According to veterinarian Patrick Mahoney, these types of meats come from plants where dead livestock and shelter pets are rendered and turned into pet feed.

Not only are these ingredients low in nutrients, but they often contain chemicals like pentobarbital.

Dr. Mahoney also warns against dog foods containing the chemicals BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. These are known carcinogens and can cause liver and kidney damage.

The highest quality dog foods are made with natural, human grade ingredients. Be wary of any ingredient labels that contain a lot of words you can’t pronounce. If you’re looking for a better quality dog food, check out this article.

Check out this video by Dr. Karen Becker to learn more about reading dog food ingredient lists and finding a quality food for your dog.

How to Choose the Best Sensitive Stomach Food for Your Dog

In addition to the above guidelines, you’ll want to take extra care when choosing a sensitive stomach diet.

Because grains can cause upset stomachs in dogs, you should look for foods without corn or wheat. Some may still contain oats or rice, which are more easily digestible, while others are completely grain free.

Foods with a long ingredient list often have irritating additives hidden among the more recognizable terms. Many of these ingredients can cause flatulence and other digestive problems in sensitive dogs.

Limited ingredient diets are often the best choice for these dogs. They generally contain only one protein source and a shorter list of plant-derived ingredients, making it easier to spot potential irritants before testing the food on your dog.

Many sensitive stomach foods will have added probiotics and prebiotics to aid in the digestive process. If you have a gassy dog, these additions can help.

How to Introduce Your Dog to a New Sensitive Stomach Food

Whenever you switch your dog’s food, you should do so gradually. This is even more important when you are dealing with a dog with a sensitive stomach.

PetMD.com recommends this schedule whenever changing dog foods:

Day 1: 20% new food with 80% old food

Day 2: 40% new food with 60% old food

Day 3: 60% new food with 40% old food

Day 4: 80% new food with 20% old food

Day 5: 100% new food

For sensitive dogs, it’s a good idea to transition even slower, over a couple of weeks or longer if needed. If at any point your dog develops diarrhea, lower the ratio of new food and proceed more slowly.

Reviews of the Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Stomachs

#1. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Lamb

Best Overall

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Lamb
Score: (5/5)

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Top rated dog food has limited ingredient diets
Pros

High-quality ingredients

No fillers or chemicals

Only one animal protein source

Cons

High price tag

May require a slow transition

Blander than traditional dog food

The Instinct line by Nature’s Variety has a long-standing reputation for quality. Not only are their foods high in animal proteins, but they use only natural ingredients and added vitamins.

For dogs with sensitive stomachs or food allergies, Instinct has a line of limited ingredient diets. We chose the Limited Ingredient Lamb for its single protein source, popularity and quality ingredients.

As you might expect, lamb meal is the first ingredient in this food. Lamb is an easily digestible protein and a less common allergen in dogs.

What makes this product so great for sensitive stomachs, is the short ingredient list. There are many limited ingredient foods on the market, but few are truly as restricted as Instinct’s while maintaining a high nutritional profile.

With the higher quality ingredients, comes a higher price tag. A 20lb bag will run you over $55, making it one of the more expensive foods on our list.

Some clients have also reported that their dogs experienced vomiting when switched to this food. This can happen when a dog is switched too quickly onto any new diet.

Instinct’s pet food lines tend to have higher animal protein content than many commercial feeds. For dogs not used to high protein diets, this can cause stomach upset, so make sure to transition them slowly to this new food.

#2. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach

Best for Your Budget

Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach
Score: (4.5/5)

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Top rated dog food for your budget
Pros

Affordable

Salmon is the first ingredient

Corn and wheat free

Cons

Contains three different types of grains

Contains unnamed types of fish

Lowest quality ingredients on this list

If you are looking for a sensitive systems food that doesn’t break the budget, we recommend Purina’s Pro Plan Sensitive Skin.

For under $40 for a 16lb bag, this is one of the more affordable quality sensitive stomach diets on the market.

The first ingredient in this food is Salmon. Many dogs with food allergies tolerate fish well, and salmon, in particular, is easily digestible.

While this formula is not grain free, it does not contain corn or wheat.

Like the Instinct Limited Ingredient diet, this food has a short ingredient list. An important feature for owners of dogs with a lot of food sensitivities.

Many customers rave about this product for how well their dogs have tolerated it. It seems to be especially helpful for those suffering from itchy and red skin.

Be aware that this food contains fish meal in addition to salmon. If your dog has sensitivities to any type of fish you may want to look into another brand of food.

#3. Solid Gold Holistique Blendz Senior

Best for Seniors

Solid Gold Holistique Blendz Senior
Score: (4.5/5)

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Top rated dog food intended for seniors
Pros

High fiber to support senior dogs

Natural, holistic ingredients

No corn, wheat or potatoes

Cons

Contains multiple types of grains

Contains the allergens chicken fat and eggs

Lengthy ingredient list

Many dogs develop sensitive stomachs as they age and can benefit from a diet specialized to help their digestive needs.

Solid Gold natural and holistic diets use high quality, nutritious ingredients to help dogs thrive. Their Senior Sensitive Stomach formula includes additional ingredients to help aging dogs while limiting additives for those with sensitivities.

Senior dogs tend to have a harder time digesting proteins and most vets recommend upping their fiber intake while lowering protein. This is a great food for flatulence because it includes added fiber and probiotics.

The high fiber content means animal protein is not the first ingredient. While this would not be suitable for puppy food or for most adults, it can be beneficial in food for older dogs.

Additionally, this may work as dog food for diarrhea prone dogs who are sensitive to higher protein diets.

It is worth noting that this food contains chicken fat and eggs. As both of these are common allergens, this food may not work for some dogs.

#4. Solid Gold Wee Bit

Best for Small Breeds

Solid Gold Wee Bit
Score: (4/5)

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Top rated dog food intended for small breeds
Pros

Small kibble size for small mouths

Natural, holistic ingredients

No corn, wheat or potatoes

Cons

Contains multiple types of grains

Contains the allergens chicken fat and eggs

Lengthy ingredient list

While all the foods listed so far are meant for both large breed and small breed dogs, the kibble size in some may be too large for tiny dogs.

Solid Gold’s Wee Bit was made with these tiny mouths in mind. And because this food is fortified with probiotics and extra fiber, it is a great choice for sensitive small breeds.

In addition to the stomach friendly additives, this food uses bison and fish as the sources for animal protein. These more exotic meats are less common allergens for dogs.

Users rave about the small kibble size and palatability. It is especially helpful for small breeds with missing teeth or other dental problems.

Like other Solid Gold diets, this formula contains a number of grains and a long list of ingredients. Dogs with extremely sensitive stomachs or multiple allergies may do better on a different, more limited ingredient diet.

#5. Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient

Best Canned Dog Food

Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient
Score: (4/5)
Pros

Different protein options available

Very short ingredient list

Quality ingredients

Cons

Pricier than kibble and other canned diets

Contains carrageenan

Low protein to fat ratio

So far we have discussed many great dry dog foods. But we shouldn’t forget that there are a lot of excellent canned foods on the market as well.

Our top pick for wet food for dogs with sensitive stomachs is Wellness brand’s Simple Limited Ingredient Diets.

This wet food line is made with quality ingredients and comes in different flavors all with short ingredient lists. Whether you feed canned food exclusively or want to spice up your sensitive dog’s dry food, this is an excellent choice.

This formula is available in grain free turkey or whitefish recipe or non-grain free duck or lamb recipe. The non-grain free versions use oatmeal, a grain that is well tolerated by most sensitive dogs.

In all four flavors, the animal protein is the first ingredient. The short list of remaining ingredients is made up mostly of vitamins and minerals, making it unlikely you will find a hidden allergen.

Wet dog foods tend to be less processed than their dry counterparts. Because of this, some dogs tend to tolerate them better.

In addition, to use for general sensitivities, many customers rave about this food as a helpful option for dogs suffering from IBD.

Canned food does tend to be pricier than dry food. At over $30 for 12 cans, your money won’t go as far feeding this product as it would for most dry foods and some lower quality wet diets.

What is the Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs?

The availability of a sensitive stomach and limited ingredient dog foods is growing. This is great for owners living with sensitive dogs, but keep in mind that not all foods are created equal.

Instinct Limited Ingredient Lamb diet came in first on our list as the best dog food for sensitive stomachs because of its high quality and easily digestible ingredients. Unlike other sensitive stomach adult dog foods on the market, this food maintains a short ingredients list while not compromising on nutritional value.

Additionally, this product is grain free and high in healthy animal protein.

If you choose to switch your dog to any of the foods listed above, make sure to transition them slowly off their old food to avoid any unnecessary stomach upset.

FAQ About Sensitive Stomach Dog Foods

Does my dog have a sensitive stomach?
Dogs with sensitive stomachs often have excessive gas, diarrhea, vomiting, irritated and itchy skin, hair loss or excessive licking. If other health issues have been counted out, you may want to try a sensitive stomach diet
How long do I need to try a new food before I’ll know if it works for my dog?
We recommend feeding the new diet for a month or two. It can take time for your dogs’ system to rid itself of irritants ingested with their old food. Make sure to always transition slowly to the new food.
I bought a new food, but my dog doesn’t seem interested in eating it. Should I take it back?
Many dogs are reluctant to eat a new diet at first, especially sensitive stomach diets that can taste blander than traditional dog food. Try mixing the new food with a little water or broth to entice your dog to eat it.

Summed Up: Best Dog Foods for Sensitive Stomachs

Instinct – Limited Ingredient LambPurina Pro Plan – Sensitive Skin & StomachSolid Gold – Holistique Blendz SeniorSolid Gold – Wee BitWellness – Simple Limited Ingredient
FeaturesGrain free, single protein source, quality ingredientsCorn and wheat free, affordableGrain free, holistic ingredientsExotic protein source, added probiotics, holistic ingredientsDifferent protein options, grain free
Ingredient Quality5/54/54.5/55/54.5/5
Price Range$$$$$$$$$$

Sources

  1. Kerns, Nancy. “Whole Dog Journal’s Dry Dog Food Selection Criteria.” Whole Dog Journal. 20 Oct 2017.
  2. Burke, Anna. “Best Foods for Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs.” AKC.org. 10 Aug 2016.
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