The Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs (Review) in 2021

Last Updated April 21, 2020

There is a growing body of evidence that pooches, too, are not immune to the development of sensitive stomachs. Since the culprit is found in dog foods, it is important that we be choosy in the chow we give to them. We know you’re anxious on learning what food to give them, so we prepared this list of the best dog food for sensitive stomachs to get you started.

The Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs


Nobody understands sensitive stomachs in dogs better than Hill’s Science Diet. From the number of positive reviews right down to the exceptional nutrient profile of its Sensitive Stomach and Skin formulation, this dog food for sensitive digestive systems has been clearly helping a lot of dog owners manage the gastrointestinal sensitivities of their pooches. Featuring a unique blend of natural ingredients, Hill’s Science Diet breaks from tradition by putting brewers rice as its principal ingredient with chicken meal as its secondary source.

This move may be counter-intuitive to the high animal protein requirements of canines. But, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense since brewers rice is easily digestible and contains less protein than chicken. While food intolerance is not the same as food allergy, the mechanism is somewhat similar. Hill’s Science Diet clearly understands this and has gained the trust of many dog owners the world over. 

You may also like our Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food Review.

Number of kilocalories: 366 per cup

Minimum protein content: 19.2%

Minimum fat content: 12%

Maximum moisture content: 8%

Maximum fiber content: 4%

Principal ingredient: brewers rice

With chicken meal, pearled barley, sorghum, and peas

With apples, carrots, broccoli, green peas, and cranberries

  • Brand: Hill’s Science


CANIDAE’s entry into the list of the best dog food for sensitive stomach is the All Life Stages Single Animal Protein Lamb Meal and Rice Formula. This dog food for dogs with sensitive stomachs features lamb meal as its principal protein source and beefed up by the addition of wholesome grains like rice, barley, and millet. Taken as a whole, these ingredients are easily digestible and as such are gentle on the tummy of dogs.

This is seconded by many dog owners who give CANIDAE’s sensitive digestion dog food to their respective pooches. What further aids in the absorption of nutrients in the gut is the inclusion of cellulase and 100 million colony forming units of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Cellulase is an enzyme that hastens the digestion of cellulose, making it easily digestible so that it will not upset your pooch’s tummy.

Take a look at our CANIDAE Dog Food Review.

Number of kilocalories: 457 per cup

Minimum protein content: 21%

Minimum fat content: 12.5%

Maximum moisture content: 10%

Maximum fiber content: 4%

Primary ingredient: lamb meal

With brown rice, rice bran, pearled barley, millet, and peas

With 100 CMCU cellulase per kilogram

With 100 million CFUs of Lactobacillus acidophilus per pound

  • Brand: CANIDAE
  • Model: 1215
  • Weight: 13.70 Pounds


One may not think of avocados as an excellent dog food for dogs with sensitive stomachs. However, given the fact that it comes with healthy oils, certain nutrients are better absorbed, limiting the incidence of indigestion and upset stomach in dogs. It’s for this reason that AvoDerm’s Natural Dog Food is also one of the most trusted dog food for sensitive digestive systems.

Boasting of a blend of chicken meal, rice, oatmeal, and avocado, AvoDerm prides itself of being safe and gentle on the canine tummy while providing just enough proteins to support tissue building and maintenance processes. It also includes 2 strains of healthy beneficial bacteria to further aid in better gastrointestinal absorption, thus limiting gastrointestinal symptoms of sensitive stomachs. Besides, avocados have always been considered as human super foods. Including these in your pooch’s diet should definitely bring in a host of benefits, too.

Number of kilocalories: 360 per cup

Minimum protein content: 23%

Minimum fat content: 13%

Maximum moisture content: 10%

Maximum fiber content: 4%

Principal ingredient: chicken meal

With whole brown and white rice, avocado, and oatmeal

1:3.2 ratio of essential fatty acids

With 2 strains of probiotics

  • Brand: AvoDerm
  • Model: 100064748
  • Weight: 30 Pounds


From the name itself, you can bet that this product from Wellness Natural Pet Food should be an amazing dry dog food for sensitive stomach since it is formulated with very simple limited ingredients. That is one of the keys to a successful dog food for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

The Wellness Simple Natural Limited Ingredient Dry Dog Food features salmon as its principal protein and supported by wholesome grains that contain peptides and amino acids like potatoes and peas. It has one of the best ratios of essential fatty acids we’ve seen so far, rated at 1:1.75 on an omega-6 FA to omega-3 FA proportion. Additionally, 20 million colony forming units of gut-friendly bacteria is included for every pound of this dry kibble, further improving the optimum functioning of the canine digestive system.

Check out our Wellness Core Dog Food Review.


Number of kilocalories: 446 per cup

Minimum protein content: 25%

Minimum fat content: 12%

Maximum moisture content: 11%

Maximum fiber content: 5%

Principal ingredient: salmon and salmon meal

With potatoes, tomatoes, flaxseed and peas

Minimum 20 million probiotic CFUs per pound

1:1.75 ratio of essential fatty acids

  • Brand: Wellness
  • Model: 89311
  • Weight: 26 Pounds


Especially formulated for sensitive tummies, the Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon and Rice Formula is one of the best sensitive stomach dog food that is trusted by many dog owners today. It also features a novel single animal protein that is also naturally rich in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. L

ike the rest in this list, the Pro Plan Focus contains lower amounts of protein compared to conventional dry kibbles to help provide for a safer and gentler diet to pooches that may have sensitive tummies. A combination of prebiotics and wholesome grains provide for excellent digestion and easy digestibility.  It is a viable alternative to those searching for the best dog food for sensitive stomach and diarrhea.

For more information on the brand, check out our Purina Pro Plan Dog Food Review.

Number of kilocalories: 429 per cup

Minimum protein content: 26%

Minimum fat content: 16%

Maximum moisture content: 12%

Maximum fiber content: 4%

Principal ingredient: salmon

With barley, ground rice, oat meal, canola meal, and fish meal

With linoleic acid, glucosamine, and ascorbic acid

1:1.625 ratio of essential fatty acids

  • Brand: Purina Pro Plan
  • Model: 17552
  • Weight: 30 Pounds


Blue Buffalo is best known for its use of ingredients that mimic the diet of ancestral dogs. However, its Basics Limited Ingredient Formula is somewhat different since it has to tame the tummies of food intolerant pooches, lowering its protein content from the usual high 30s to just 20% minimum.

The BLUE Basics LID comes with turkey, an animal protein that is still pretty much considered as novel, allowing it to be easily digested by your pooch. Also included are peas and potatoes for added digestibility. Enhancing the overall function of the canine digestive system are 5 strains of gut-friendly bacteria. All of these are packed in the patented LifeSource Bits technology of Blue Buffalo. 

Read here our detailed Blue Buffalo Dog Food Review.

Number of kilocalories: 357 per cup

Minimum protein content: 20%

Minimum fat content: 12%

Maximum moisture content: 10%

Maximum fiber content: 6%

Primary ingredients: deboned turkey and turkey meal

With peas and potatoes

1:3 ratio of essential fatty acids

Enriched with glucosamine

With 5 strains of beneficial bacteria

  • Brand: Blue Buffalo
  • Model: 753
  • Weight: 24 Pounds


To address the issue of both food allergy and sensitive tummy, Merrick decided to eliminate poultry products from its Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe, in addition to the removal of cereal grains that are equally allergenic. This leaves the formulation with pork meal being the principal ingredient, perhaps believing that pork is less allergenic than poultry.

It does add peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes in its preparation, however, to provide your pooch with one of the best dog food for sensitive stomach and diarrhea. Beef and lamb are also added into the mix as secondary sources of digestible proteins. And if this is not enough, a variety of beneficial bacterial strains have been included into the formulation for improved digestion. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Pork, Beef & Lamb Recipe is one of the 6 recipes included in our Whole Earth Farms Dog Food Review

Number of kilocalories: 384 per cup

Minimum protein content: 26%

Minimum fat content: 13%

Maximum moisture content: 11%

Maximum fiber content: 3.5%

Principal ingredient: pork meal

With potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas

With 4 strains of beneficial bacteria

  • Brand: Whole Earth Farms
  • Model: 85524
  • Weight: 4 Pounds


They may be quite expensive, but given the fact that the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Wet Dog Food only contains a minimum of 5.5% protein, this makes it an ideal wet dog food for sensitive stomachs. A diet that is low in proteins, but not low enough to sacrifice tissue building, is crucial in the management of sensitive tummies.

The introduction of highly digestible proteins is also crucial. As such, Natural Balance’s unique blend of chicken and healthy starch gives it the gentleness needed by pooches with sensitive tummies. Chicken meal and liver are also added to provide for a really palatable meal.

Read our in-depth Natural Balance Dog Food Review.

Number of kilocalories: 400 per 13 ounce can

Minimum protein content: 5.5%

Minimum fat content: 3.5%

Maximum moisture content: 78%

Maximum fiber content: 1.5%

Primary ingredient: chicken and chicken broth

With sweet potatoes, chicken liver, potatoes, and chicken meal

  • Brand: Natural Balance
  • Model: NB43267
  • Weight: 9.75 Pounds


While the Wellness Simple LID Wet Canned Food has a higher protein content than Natural Balance, it is still substantially lesser than those found in dry kibbles, making it a great dog food for sensitive digestive systems.

Its Turkey and Potato formula features a good mix of turkey, potatoes, and flaxseed for a good combination of novel and easily digestible proteins and carbs. It’s easy to imagine how your dog will be devouring a whole can of this wet dog food for sensitive stomach.


Number of kilocalories: 482 per can

Minimum protein content: 8%

Minimum fat content: 7%

Maximum moisture content: 78%

Maximum fiber content: 1%

Principal ingredients: turkey and turkey broth

With potatoes, flaxseed, and carrageenan

  • Brand: Wellness
  • Model: 89490
  • Weight: 9 Pounds

Best Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs

You noticed that your dog is passing loose watery stools more frequently now than ever before. This is prompting you to think that your pooch already has sensitive stomach. Unfortunately, determining the exact cause of the stomach upset can be very challenging, to say the least. You will need the help of your veterinarian to help rule out the possibility of other causes. You will also need to read our comprehensive guide to buying dog food for sensitive stomachs to gain a better understanding of this canine condition.

English bulldog lying under the furniture

What Could Cause Sensitive Stomachs in Dogs?

Before we start looking at the causes of sensitive stomachs in dogs, it is crucial to follow the journey of food as it passes down your dog’s mouth through the stomach and gut before it is finally excreted in the form of stool through the anus.

Food gets initially digested in the mouth where your dog’s saliva mixes the bolus of food and breaks down carbohydrates into their component parts. The resulting mixture is passed down the esophagus just behind the throat as chyme. When chyme reaches the stomach, it undergoes intensive digestion through the action of gastric fluids which are very acidic. This breaks down the food molecules into smaller components. The bolus is then moved towards the small intestines wherein enzymes from the pancreas and substances from the liver are used to further break down the macronutrients. Carbs are reduced to glucose, fructose, or lactose while fats are broken down as fatty acids and lipids. Proteins are digested into peptides and amino acids. It is these smallest individual components of macronutrients that are eventually absorbed into the bloodstream.

As the bolus moves along the large intestines, or the gut, there are no more nutrients to be absorbed. Instead, water is removed from the bolus to form a stool. Depending on the speed of the movement of the fecal matter, you can either have loose stools or one that is exceptionally hard and solidly formed. The faster the transit times, the more water that is left in the stool. The slower the movement of the fecal matter the more water is removed from the stool.

Food sensitivities typically occur anywhere along the digestive tract. The causes of sensitive stomachs in dogs can include the following.

  • Irritation of the inner lining of the digestive tract
  • Issues or problems associated with digestion
  • Issues or problems associated with absorption
  • Issues related to the transit of food bolus through the gut
  • Changes in the normal intestinal flora
  • Structural problems in the intestinal wall

More specifically, this can be brought out by the following conditions.

  • Food intolerance 

This is a very broad category of problems that is characterized by a failure in the digestion and /or absorption of certain types of foods based on their nutrient composition. What is very difficult in such cases is that virtually every food has the potential to be not digested and /or absorbed properly by the dog’s digestive apparatus. If such is the case, then the identification of the foods that your dog is intolerant to will be particularly challenging.

  • Lactose intolerance 

This is a specific type of food intolerance that zeroes in on dairy products. Milk, cheeses, and other similar dairy products are not digested and/or absorbed easily by the dog. These food items are then passed onto the stool in their whole form.

  • Gluten intolerance 

Some dogs have a certain predisposition to the development of gluten intolerance. Gluten is a type of protein that is normally found in cereal grains like wheat. It is for this reason that many products today do not contain cereal grains including corn and soy.

  • Fructose malabsorption

Just as some people become diarrheic every time they eat fruits, there are also dogs that can become diarrheic and show other signs of stomach upset whenever they devour fruits and fruit-related products like juices and other beverages.

  • Disruption of normal intestinal flora 

The canine intestine is normally inhabited by a variety of bacteria. Many of these microorganisms produce various substances that help in the proper digestion and absorption of food. Unfortunately, because of changes in immune system functioning, many of these microorganisms are overwhelmed by other bacteria that bring disease. The end-result is that the gut is no longer able to produce sufficient amounts of digestion-friendly substances. This leads to problems in digestion and absorption.

Dog food bowl

How to Determine If Your Dog Has a Sensitive Stomach

Because the symptoms of canine sensitive stomach can actually mean a lot of things including food allergy, gastritis, diverticular disease, or any other disease condition of the gastrointestinal tract, there really is no sure-fire way of determining by yourself whether your dog has sensitive stomach or not. The only person who can help you with this determination is your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough evaluation of your pooch including the various signs and symptoms that you have observed from your dog, the severity of these manifestations, and the duration of these clinical manifestations. Speaking of the signs and symptoms of sensitive stomachs in dogs, these can include the following.

  • Loose, watery stool
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Flatulence or the development of gas
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Weight loss
  • Not gaining weight as expected
  • Poor body condition

You may also like our review of Dog Food for Flatulence.

These manifestations are carefully evaluated by your veterinarian to determine whether they point to sensitive stomachs or to another disease entity. A complete physical examination together with focused assessment can help your vet better understand what is happening to your dog.

Diagnostic and laboratory workout will also be performed. Chemistry profile and complete blood count will be taken and compared with the findings of the health and nutritional history plus physical examination. Stool exams and cholesterol profiles may also be required to help determine any abnormalities in these areas.

Radiographic imaging of the gastrointestinal tract will help rule out any obstruction that may be present along the length of the gut. In some cases, an endoscopy may be required to help visualize the internal structures of your pet’s gut especially if ulcerations are suspected as one of the causes of frequent upset tummies in dogs.

Ingredients in Dog Food That Cause Upset Stomachs in Dogs

Since sensitive stomachs are related to the presence of food in the dog’s gastrointestinal tract, it is crucial to have an idea of the kind of food that would normally cause such a hyperactive tummy.

  • Dairy products 

We already mentioned above that lactose intolerance is actually quite common in dogs especially among the elderly ones. This is often brought about by the absence of the enzyme called lactase. Any product that contains some form of dairy product in it can almost always lead to upset stomachs in dogs.

Check out our latest review of the Best Senior Dog Food.

  • Fruits 

Fruits contain a type of sugar known as fructose. In susceptible dogs, they are unable to absorb these molecules across the small intestines because they lack certain carrier molecules. This leads to abnormally high levels of fructose in the small intestines which can irritate its lining and lead to diarrhea.

  • Gluten 

We said that gluten is a type of protein that is often found in grass-related or cereal grains. It is especially high in wheat, although barley, oat, and rye typically contain gluten, too. Many consider the protein content of corn to be a form of gluten, too.

We now know what foods to avoid giving our pooches. Unfortunately, the list is exceptionally long as virtually any type of food has the potential to upset the stomach of dogs.

Three dogs eating food

What Kind of Dog Food is Best for Sensitive Stomachs?

What many dog owners want to know now is the kind of dog food that is best for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Here are some of your choices.

  • Lower protein diets 

While it is not food allergy, there is convincing evidence that lowering the amount of protein intake can help reduce the incidence of stomach upsets in dogs. This is perhaps attributed to the greater work involved in digesting proteins because of their unusually larger size. If the diet is rich in protein and there’s a problem with the dog’s ability to digest proteins, then it will not be able to break down all of it. Decreasing the amount of proteins can help the digestive system to work more efficiently.

Find out more about Low Protein Dog Food.

  • Single proteins 

This is similar to having a low protein diet. Providing an exceptionally greater number of protein sources can tax the already-compromised digestive tract. Limiting the number of proteins to one or two should provide an easier work for the canine gut.

  • Digestible proteins and carbohydrates 

Since the problem is in the digestion and absorption of proteins and carbs, providing dog food that comes with easily digestible proteins and carbs should help minimize the incidence of stomach upsets.

  • Probiotics 

One of the causes of sensitive stomachs is an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut. Since good bacteria is needed in the production of enzymes and other substances needed for more efficient digestion and absorption, dog food products that contain probiotics should help reduce both the incidence and severity of stomach upsets. Furthermore, since lactose intolerance is a result of a deficiency in lactase, introducing Lactobacillus species should help improve the synthesis of such enzyme.

Take a look at our review of Probiotics for Dogs.

Addressing sensitive stomachs in dogs can be challenging especially if the clinical manifestations resemble other conditions like food allergies. However, understanding the nature and causes of canine sensitive tummies can help you choose the right food to give to your pets as well as the ingredients that you need to avoid. Of course, the diagnosis of canine sensitive stomach must be established first with the help of your veterinarian who will also help you outline a course of action that will empower you to manage the incidence of upset stomachs in your pooch.


  1. Natalie Stilwell, DVM, What’s the Best Food for Dogs With Sensitive Stomachs?, PetMD
  2. Dog Nutrition Tips, ASPCA
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