One of the biggest downsides to owning a dog is dealing with all their waste. That problem becomes compounded when your dog has runny stools — and unfortunately, many dogs seem particularly prone to diarrhea for one reason or another.
If you have a pup with a touchy stomach, finding the right food for them is of paramount importance. After all, the wrong diet is a leading cause of stomach irritation. However, figuring out which food to give your mutt can be complicated and stressful.
In this reviews list, we’ll show you which foods you can trust to be gentle on your dog’s stomach, so your buddy can finally enjoy life with a calm digestive tract — and you can enjoy life without constantly needing to clean up runny messes.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Dry Dog Food||
|Best Value||Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Dog Food||
|Best for Puppies||Simply Nourish Sweet Potato & Salmon Recipe||
|Zignature Turkey Grain-Free Dry Dog Food||
|Wellness Simple Diet Dog Food||
The 10 Best Dog Foods for Diarrhea — Reviews 2021
1. Royal Canin Protein Adult Dry Dog Food — Best Overall
It’s not cheap, but if your dog suffers from frequent bouts of diarrhea, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better formula than Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein.
As you might’ve guessed from the name, the food is made with hydrolyzed proteins. These have been broken down into tiny pieces, making them easier for your dog to absorb, with less risk of triggering an immune reaction.
The first ingredient is brewer’s rice, which is gentle on upset tummies. You’ll also find beet pulp inside, which adds fiber with little risk of causing indigestion.
The kibble is loaded with important vitamins and minerals as well, which is good because dogs with poor digestive tracts often have trouble absorbing the nutrients from the food they eat.
Besides the expense, our biggest issue with this food is the inclusion of soy protein. Some dogs have problems tolerating soy, which could cause digestive issues itself.
If your dog has consistent digestive issues, Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein is your best bet for getting their gut back on track.
2. Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Dog Food — Best Value
The packaging might give you a headache, but Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition may also help solve your dog’s stomachache and at a price that won’t hurt your pocketbook either. In fact, we believe it to be the best dog food for diarrhea for the money.
It uses easy-to-digest grains like rice and barley; there’s also oatmeal and beet pulp, both of which can keep your dog regular without making them too regular.
The protein relies heavily on animal meals (specifically chicken and fish). This gives your dog plenty of nutritional variety, while also loading them up with glucosamine for joint health.
There are quite a few high-quality fruits and veggies inside each bag, including cranberries, blueberries, and kelp. That gives your dog plenty of important vitamins and nutrients from natural sources.
We would have preferred to see lean cuts of meat in addition to the animal meal, but that would likely have driven the price up. The salt content is also higher than we’d like.
Still, if you need something that’s both inexpensive and gentle on your dog’s stomach, Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition is an excellent choice.
3. Simply Nourish Sweet Potato & Salmon Puppy Dog Food — Best for Puppies
If you have a little pup that’s having trouble keeping food down, Simply Nourish Limited Ingredient Diet is a great way to start them off on the right paw.
It relies heavily on salmon, which is both gentle on stomachs and excellent for developing systems. Salmon is full of omega fatty acids, which are important for brain development and immune system function.
The food is high in protein, which helps build muscle. It’s also extremely high in fiber, which should help form consistent stools.
The kibble smells strongly of fish, which is usually good news for dogs and bad news for owners. It’s also fairly expensive, which may put it out of some owners’ price ranges.
It’s extremely important to start a dog off with proper nutrition, and Simply Nourish Limited Ingredient Diet is one of the best ways to do that.
4. Zignature Turkey Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula is a grain-free recipe, eliminating one of the most common canine food allergies right off the bat. It’s also a limited-ingredient formula, reducing the potential risks inside each bag.
The first ingredient is turkey, with turkey meal following close behind. The overall protein levels are high at 32%, and it’s full of omega fatty acids due to the sunflower oil and flaxseed.
We’re happy to see taurine on the ingredients list. This amino acid is vital to heart development, and many foods neglect to include it.
There aren’t that many fruits and veggies inside; it’s mostly limited to peas and chickpeas. While these are healthy, many dogs don’t care for the taste, so your pup may turn their nose up at it. There’s also way more salt than we’d like to see.
Overall, Zignature Limited Ingredient Formula is an excellent food for any dog, regardless of their digestive health. If it had a few more vegetables inside, it might even compete for the top spot.
5. Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Dog Food
Wellness Simple is another limited-ingredient formula, although it’s not quite as packed with protein as the option from Zignature.
The protein levels are average at 25%, but it does use salmon and salmon meal to get to that level, so your pooch will get plenty of omega fatty acids with their meat. The flaxseed and canola oil inside helps quite a bit to that end as well.
However, the next ingredient after the fish is potatoes, which may cause upset stomachs. That’s usually limited to gas rather than diarrhea, though.
It boasts an impressive array of vitamins and minerals, including zinc, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamin A. Your dog should get all the nutrition they need despite ingesting a limited variety of food.
The fat levels are low, which means your dog could get hungry between meals. It also doesn’t come in a resealable bag, so if you don’t put it in an airtight container, it will likely spoil before you run out.
Wellness Simple is a good-but-not-great option, one that should keep your dog’s digestive tract in fine working order.
6. Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Dry Dog Food
Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin is specially designed for dogs with touchy digestive tracts. It’s good in that respect, but it has some other flaws that keep us from ranking it any higher on this list.
It uses a basic chicken-and-rice formula; this is good, as those ingredients are generally easy for dogs to digest. The other grains are easy to process as well, as they include rice, barley, sorghum, and the like.
There’s plenty of prebiotic fiber in each bite, which should help your pup form solid stools. It also helps keep everything in working order inside the gut.
The biggest issue we have with this food is that it uses artificial flavors. There’s no need for these — the chicken and rice should be tasty enough without decoration — and the extra chemicals increase the risk of stomach upset.
The inclusion of soybean oil introduces another potential allergen, and the nutrient levels are nothing special. The kibble is flat as well, which makes it difficult for many dogs (especially snub-nosed breeds) to pick up and eat.
For a food that’s intended to address stomach issues, Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin has questionable ingredients.
7. VICTOR Select Beef Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food
The manufacturers of VICTOR Select took pains to keep any potentially problematic foods out of their formula. It’s gluten-free, with high-quality, easy-to-digest ingredients.
Beef meal is the first ingredient; it’s gentle on stomachs while also being high in protein and other important amino acids. The grains are similarly easy to process, as they include rice and sorghum.
There are several vegetable powders inside as well. These are typically easier to digest than whole chunks, so your pup should get all the nutrition and you should have to deal with less of a mess.
There’s not much protein in here and the moisture levels are low. This can solve the diarrhea problem, but at the expense of causing constipation instead. The dryness may also make it difficult for dogs to get down, so make sure your pup has plenty of water handy.
We admire the fact that VICTOR Select lacks any suspect ingredients, but its other problems knock it several rungs down the ladder.
8. Blue Buffalo Basics Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo Basics is the company’s limited-ingredient brand, and this food is no exception. It’s limited to turkey, potatoes, and peas.
Turkey and turkey meal make up two of the first three ingredients, with potatoes in between. We’re obviously not a fan of the gas-causing potatoes, but the turkey is a nice touch.
The company includes its proprietary LifeSource Bits, which are basically little chunks of vitamins that are mixed in with the kibble. It’s a good way to give your dog all the nutrients they need.
However, some dogs don’t care for the taste of the bits, so you may find them left in the bowl after your dog’s done. Also, the recipe uses pea protein, which dogs don’t process as well as they do protein from animal sources.
The kibble is also on the large side, so it may be difficult for smaller dogs to eat.
All in all, Blue Buffalo Basics is a nutrient-rich food, but that may not do your pooch much good if they refuse to touch it.
9. Hill’s Prescription Diet Digestive Canned Dog Food
If you’d prefer to feed your pup a canned food rather than a kibble, Hill’s Prescription Diet Digestive Care is the best of the bunch. However, we still feel that it’s considerably behind the best dry foods on the market today.
Water is the primary ingredient, which is good for animals that might be dehydrated due to chronic diarrhea. However, despite all the moisture, this is still a dry pâté, so you may need to add more water to it. After that, you have rice and a variety of meats.
One of the most prominent of those meats is pork by-product. That’s the part of the pig that’s left over after the good stuff has been picked clean, and it’s not something that you’re likely going to want your dog to eat.
There’s also quite a bit of corn in here. Corn is full of empty calories, so it can contribute to obesity. Not only that, but many dogs also have issues digesting it, so it seems out of place in a formula like this.
Also, keep in mind that you can only buy Hill’s Prescription Diet Digestive Care with a prescription from your vet. That’s more hassle to get a food that we feel isn’t on par with some of the others on this list.
10. Purina Pro Plan Gastroenteric Formula Canned Dog Food
A canned option that requires a doctor’s authorization, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Formula is similar to the previously mentioned Hill’s food. However, it’s a definite step down in several respects.
For one thing, there are meat by-products in this food. It’s also loaded with plant protein, which is difficult for dogs to process. There’s quite a bit of soy in this food, which is a cheap filler that irritates many dogs’ digestive tracts.
The basic idea behind this food is to limit the amount of fat in order to reduce the likelihood of an upset stomach. It will likely work in that respect, but unfortunately, by cutting out fat, you’ll also reduce the chances that your dog will feel full after meals. This could lead to lethargy or overeating, if they’re particularly persuasive.
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Formula is a good choice if your only concern is settling your dog’s stomach; as a complete food, though, it leaves much to be desired.
It can be disconcerting when your dog has chronic diarrhea, but switching their food is one of the best ways to resolve the issue. However, finding a suitable kibble can be stressful, especially if you don’t know what to look for.
In the guide below, we’ll reveal what you want to see on the label of any kibble that you’re considering buying, as well as other considerations you should take into account.
What Causes Canine Diarrhea?
There are several potential causes of canine diarrhea. Some are quite serious, like certain diseases, so you should always start by having your dog examined by your vet to rule out the worst-case scenarios.
Once you’ve determined that your dog is otherwise healthy, the kibble you’re feeding them is the most likely culprit. You should try a few until you find one that doesn’t upset their stomach, but you should start with kibbles that are gentle on canine dispositions.
You should realize, though, that some dogs simply have touchy stomachs. While finding the right kibble can greatly reduce the instances of diarrhea, eating anything outside their regular diet could set them off again. You may never be able to fully eliminate the triggers that set your dog off.
Also, understand that chronic diarrhea is different from the occasional upset stomach. If your dog’s only had a bout or two of runny stools, you likely have nothing to worry about.
What Should You Look For in a Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs?
As a general rule, you want to feed your dog a bland diet when they have an upset stomach. That’s why it’s often recommended to feed them boiled chicken and rice for the occasional instance of runny stools.
You should avoid exotic meats and other ingredients. Stick to reliable foods like chicken, rice, and oatmeal; these are healthy for dogs while also being gentle on their stomachs.
Just as important as what’s in the food is what’s not in it. Avoid potential allergens like corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors and flavors.
You may also want to pick a food that’s loaded with fiber and probiotics. These can improve the health of your dog’s digestive tract, helping to reduce the likelihood of future instances of runny stools.
What Can the Color of My Dog’s Waste Tell Me About Their Health?
Runny stool isn’t the only sign that your dog is having issues with their digestive system. The color of their waste also gives plenty of valuable information about what’s happening inside their gut.
While the following information shouldn’t be used in place of a vet’s diagnosis, it can give you an idea of what your pup might be dealing with.
Is There Any Difference Between a Puppy Having Diarrhea and an Adult or Senior Dog?
Yes and no. In both cases, it could be the result of an underlying medical condition. However, which condition is likely causing the runny stools will vary depending on your dog’s age.
For puppies, the most likely culprit is an infection or parasite. If your pup hasn’t had their shots yet, it could be something as serious as parvovirus or distemper; then again, it could be a run-of-the-mill bug. Your doctor can tell you more and draw up an effective treatment plan.
In older dogs, the issue is likely something they ate that doesn’t agree with them or an underlying medical condition. If you can’t identify something they could have eaten that caused their upset stomach, you should have your vet run a few tests.
Regardless of your dog’s age, if you just brought them home from the pound, then you should suspect an infection or parasite first. Those can spread like wildfire in tightly-contained shelter environments, so keep your new dog isolated from other animals until you can identify and treat the cause of their diarrhea.
If you have a dog with a sensitive digestive tract, Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein is worth every penny. It’s extremely easy for dogs to absorb, reducing the risk of stomach issues.
For a similarly good option that won’t break the bank, try Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition. It’s loaded with digestible grains, so your pup shouldn’t have any issues keeping it down.
It’s heartbreaking to watch your best friend suffer from stomach problems. If you’ve gone to the vet and ruled out any underlying issues, consider switching to one of the foods outlined in the reviews above.
They’re all designed to be gentle on the digestive tract, and they may be exactly what your dog needs to feel regular again.
Featured image credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Dog Foods for Diarrhea — Reviews 2021
- 1. Royal Canin Protein Adult Dry Dog Food — Best Overall
- 2. Gentle Giants Canine Nutrition Dog Food — Best Value
- 3. Simply Nourish Sweet Potato & Salmon Puppy Dog Food — Best for Puppies
- 4. Zignature Turkey Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- 5. Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Dog Food
- 6. Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Dry Dog Food
- 7. VICTOR Select Beef Meal & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food
- 8. Blue Buffalo Basics Grain-Free Dry Dog Food
- 9. Hill’s Prescription Diet Digestive Canned Dog Food
- 10. Purina Pro Plan Gastroenteric Formula Canned Dog Food
- Buyer’s Guide