Gastrointestinal disorders in dogs

Canine gastrointestinal problems in your dog can be tricky to catch and scary to deal with. Like us, dogs can suffer from any number of problems related to digestive upsets; the difference is, we know pretty quickly when something is wrong. With dogs, it can take a while for us to become alerted, and the dog may already have ruined the new carpet before any real signs are shown. By this point, it can sometimes be a little too late, as the problem can already have advanced and be more difficult to treat.


In dogs, a gastrointestinal problem will be either acute or chronic; an acute problem is due to something eaten or ingested within the last couple of hours, and a chronic problem is one that will need to be monitored throughout the lifetime of your pet. Acute attacks of GI problems can become chronic if left untreated, and what seems like a small issue at first may well get worse over time.

As GI problems are hard to spot, here are some signs that can highlight an issue in time for you to see a vet.

Abdominal noises

Listen out for any abdominal noises, such as rumbling or gurgling – unless these are common noises for your dog, be aware that something may be wrong.

Eating grass

Dogs that begin eating grass may be attempting to induce vomiting; their way of getting foreign and nasty material out of the body – if this grass eating is frantic and unusual behaviour, see your vet immediately.

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Vomiting and diarrhoea are clear signs that something is wrong, and if these particular signs are persistent then a trip to the vets should be on the books. If your dog loses his or her appetite it may be due to a gastrointestinal problem – a persistent lack of hunger over a period of 6-8 hours should be investigated with your vet as soon as possible. Excessive drinking should be monitored as well, especially if followed by vomiting, as this may be a similar effect as that of the grass eating – if persistent, get your pet to the vet as soon as you can.


Finally, any sign of bloating is an immediate cause for concern and you should get your dog to the vets straight away. This may be due to Volvulus, which is not a GI problem as such but is sign that the stomach has flipped over, cutting off blood flow to the digestive tract. This requires immediate surgery to correct and, if left, will be fatal. The bloated appearance is usually accompanied by laboured breathing, weakness or collapse and an elevated heart rate. At the first sign of this condition, take your dog to the emergency hospital.

Body language

For safety, learning to read your dog’s body language and moods is a great help in spotting when your dog is unwell – obviously this kind of connection is formed over a period of time with your pet but it may well give you that vital amount of time in which you can save your pet.

Looking for more dog advice?

Find the information you need as we support you through every step of your journey with your canine companion.


Need dog insurance?

Dog insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your dog gets injured or falls ill.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.