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Why Does My German Shepherd Have A Sensitive Stomach?

German shepherd has a sensitive stomach

Most German Shepherds are healthy and fit dogs, with a lifespan of between 9 and 13 years, unfortunately the German Shepherd breed is known for having a sensitive stomach.

So why does the German Shepherd have a sensitive stomach? Some German Shepherds are born with a sensitive stomach while other dogs may develop sensitivity or digestive conditions later in life. These can range from a mild illness and diarrhea caused by a sensitivity to a particular food to much more serious and life-threatening conditions, such as bloating.

Before we get down to business, I want to be super clear on something: I am not a vet and I am certainly not giving medical advice. I am sharing with you the research that I have found from many sources.

I found 13 causes why your German Shepherd may have a sensitive stomach . I hope this number doesn’t scare you if you are superstitious.

You shouldn’t worry as there are many helpful tips and there are many preventative steps you can take to ensure your German Shepherd doesn’t have to deal with a sensitive stomach in the first place.

To find out all of these causes why your German Shepherd may have a sensitive stomach, and for in-depth answers to these sensitive stomach related questions, read on!

What is a sensitive stomach in German Shepherds?

“sensitive stomach” in German Shepherds usually means that your dog has a mild upset stomach. Several symptoms can indicate that your dog has a sensitive stomach. These can be one or more of the following:

  • Occasional vomiting
  • Much gas
  • Irregular loose stools or diarrhea

These “stomach problems” are usually harmless and often resolve on their own, but sometimes they do not go away and become more than mild and intermittent. This is when you should take your German Shepherd for a vet exam to rule out anything more serious.

Stomach problems

So what exactly do we mean by “stomach trouble”? All of this focuses on digestion – that is, when your dog’s food and water are broken down into nutrients that they can absorb to use for energy, growth, or cell repair.

Some German Shepherd dogs can eat almost anything with no ill effects and some dogs are much more sensitive. I guess they are just like humans in that not everyone can eat a vindaloo curry – I know I can’t!

Specific breeds of dogs like the German Shepherd are known to have more sensitive stomachs than other breeds.

Some dogs may have a food allergy , for example, an allergy to chicken, dairy, wheat, or eggs, or they may have a food intolerance. However, without wanting to scare you too much, many serious digestive problems can affect your dog’s stomach and intestines, which can be debilitating.

Some of them I think you should know about, especially a condition called bloat that can kill your dog in an hour if left untreated.

Many of the other digestive disorders can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, so it is important to recognize the signs of something more serious and consult your vet.

I have listed below 13 possible disorders that can cause your German Shepherd to experience either a sensitive stomach or digestive problems.

They include not only infectious diseases (whether bacterial, viral, or parasitic) but also non-infectious disorders, such as obstruction, tumors, or swelling. So, let’s get straight to the nasty stuff!

1. Swelling (DVG)

I thought I should list this first as swelling (also called dilatation volvulus-gastric volvulus or DVG ) is a life-threatening emergency and you need to be aware of it.

Bloat has become more common in deep-chested dogs like German Shepherds over the years.

Bloat is relatively harmless to humans, but for dogs it can be fatal as they can become seriously ill or die within hours if left untreated. So what exactly is swelling?

It is a condition in which the stomach twists and then fills with gas. Or the other way around, no one is sure whether it swells and then twists, or twists and then swells.
Dr. Anna Stobnicki, Pet Physician

The causes are unknown, but the symptoms to look for are a bloated stomach, a lot of drooling, gasping, restlessness, and discomfort. Your German Shepherd may also repeatedly try to vomit, but nothing will come out.

A good tip to reduce risk is to feed two small meals instead of one large meal a day and avoid feeding your dog before strenuous exercise, leaving at least an hour on each side of the feeding. Using an elevated feeder is also not advisable, however a slow feeder is recommended if your dog swallows his food.

2. Parvovirus canino

The canine parvovirus is a viral infection that can be life threatening. It most often affects puppies or unvaccinated adult dogs.

German Shepherds have been described as being at increased risk of contracting the disease, but any breed can be infected.

The virus is spread by direct contact with other infected dogs or poop. Signs to watch for include loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and stomach pain.

There is a good chance that your dog will survive with proper treatment and most dogs recover within a few days.

Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date to prevent this disease. Your vet will be able to advise you on the specific schedule depending on the age of your German Shepherd (puppy or adult dog).

3. Inflammatory bowel disease 

The inflammatory bowel disease is a group of diseases of the digestive system in which there is some inflammation, although the exact cause is unknown.

Possible causes can be food, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, or a reaction to a certain drug. Although food allergies are an unlikely cause in most cases, they can contribute to the development of the disease.

The disease is difficult to diagnose and the average age for the onset of inflammatory bowel disease is 6 years, but it can occur in dogs less than 2 years old. The signs are usually present for a long period and can come and go.

Be on the lookout for vomiting, diarrhea, dark stools, stomach pain that causes changes in appetite, and weight loss due to the dog not being able to digest food properly.

Treatment may include anti-inflammatory drugs and additional drugs to suppress the immune system. Other changes may be required to try to identify if a specific food is causing the problem and this is done through an elimination diet.

Veterinarians may also recommend feeding your German Shepherd a hypoallergenic diet, which involves trying a new source of protein that they have never eaten before, for example duck or venison, or trying a hydrolyzed protein.

A hydrolyzed diet is one that contains a specially made protein that has been chemically divided into pieces so small that the immune system does not produce an allergic reaction to it.

Response to treatment varies among dogs and the prognosis is uncertain. To help prevent it, I recommend feeding your German Shepherd puppy a high-quality food.

4. Colitis

Colitis is an inflammation of the colon (large intestine). The most common causes are inflammatory bowel disease (see 3. above) or infections (worms or other parasites).

The signs are chronic diarrhea that may also contain mucus and blood. Your dog may strain when he poops causing pain. Weight loss and vomiting can occur, but are rare as these symptoms are seen more when the small intestine is affected.

Most of the dogs are middle-aged who develop colitis and German Shepherds are one of the susceptible breeds.

They may also be more prone to a perianal fistula, which is a painful wound in the skin around the dog’s butt, caused by the dog’s exertion while trying to poop:

Treatment for colitis may include the following:

  • A bland diet
  • Antiparasitic treatment
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Probiotics

Colitis usually occurs only once, and after treatment, most dogs recover within a few days. However, chronic colitis may take a few weeks to improve, but it can be controlled very well with continued treatment. This may include feeding a special diet recommended by the vet.

5. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)

The exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) is the inability to produce enough pancreatic enzymes to digest fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Due to poor absorption of nutrients, weight loss commonly occurs despite a normal or increased appetite. Other signs are chronic diarrhea and occasional vomiting.

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is more common in young adult German Shepherds and some other breeds.

The disease can be present from birth or be acquired as a result of infection or pancreatic injury. The disease is easily diagnosed by a simple blood and stool test.

Most German Shepherds with IPE can be successfully treated with pancreatic enzyme replacement drugs. A highly digestible, low-fat diet will also be required.

6. Cancers of the digestive system

The cancer of the digestive system is rare in dogs with stomach tumors representing less than 1% and intestinal tumors less than 10% of all cancers.

That said, bowel cancer is more prevalent in some breeds and that includes the German Shepherd.

The average age of dogs with cancer of the digestive system is 6 to 9 years old, and the cause is unknown. So what exactly is cancer? Simply put, cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that can invade or spread to other parts of the body.

The signs of a possible tumor depend on the location and degree of development of the cancer. Vomiting and diarrhea (both sometimes bloody), poor appetite, weight loss, and lethargy are the most common signs. Constipation and straining to poop are more likely with colon or rectal cancers. Dogs can also have signs of anemia, such as pale gums.

As in the case of you and I, the prognosis depends on many variables, such as possible surgical removal of the tumor and / or chemotherapy treatment. The prognosis can range from excellent to poor.

7. Gastrointestinal ulcers

Accidental poisoning is one of the main causes of gastrointestinal ulcers (for example, fungi, pesticides, or chemical poisoning).

Gastrointestinal ulcers (stomach ulcers) can be caused by certain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and corticosteroids.

Gastroduodenal ulcers are known to be common in German Shepherds heavily medicated with ibuprofen.

Other causes of stomach ulcers include cancer, infections, and diseases (for example, kidney or liver disease, and pancreatitis, to name just a few).

Some of the disorders already mentioned here, including stomach obstruction, inflammatory bowel disease, and chronic inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) can also contribute.

The outlook for German Shepherds with gastrointestinal ulcers is good and medications can be prescribed for up to 8 weeks to heal the ulcers. A bland diet (for example, chicken and rice) will be given and some dogs may require antibiotics.

Unfortunately, the outlook is poor for German Shepherds who have ulcers associated with kidney or liver disease and some types of cancer.

8. Gastroenteritis eosinofílica

The eosinophilic gastroenteritis is a form of IBD (see 3. above). It is an inflammation of your dog’s intestines and stomach and has a high number of eosinophils, which is a type of white blood cell.

the symptoms are the usual vomiting and diarrhea. There may also be poor appetite, weight loss, and abdominal pain.

Often the cause is unknown, however some of them are believed to be:

  • Parasites
  • Food allergies
  • Adverse drug reaction
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Leucemia eosinofílica

Treatment of this condition depends on the cause, for example, parasites are treated by deworming, food allergies and hypersensitivities are controlled with a proper diet.

Gastroenteritis itself will be cured with treatment that includes steroids to help reduce inflammation, pain medications, and acid blockers. Recovery generally occurs between 3 and 10 days after onset.

9. Gastrointestinal obstruction

Gastrointestinal obstruction (also known as intestinal obstruction) is a complete or partial obstruction that prevents the passage of solids or liquids through the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract).

The blockage can also decrease blood flow to the intestines. You should treat this as an emergency as soon as you suspect that your dog has eaten something that may cause an obstruction.

The gastrointestinal obstruction can be a common problem in dogs because of their curious nature and willingness to eat or chew almost anything … especially puppies!

Most dogs can suffer from this, although young and large breeds are more likely to suffer from a blockage caused by ingesting a foreign object, such as stones, twigs, bones, or toys.

Other causes of a bowel obstruction include tumors, polyps, ulcers, overgrowth of the stomach lining, bloating, ‘telescoping’ of the intestine (where a segment of the intestine folds in on itself), hernia, and certain infections.

These are the symptoms to look out for:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Soft spot
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Shock

Your German Shepherd may be unable to stop vomiting, which can be fatal. The intestines first swell from the accumulation of gas and this is followed by a loss of blood supply to the intestines. Without treatment, death from shock caused by fluid loss can occur in a short time.

Your vet can use an endoscopy. This is where a small video camera attached to the end of a very narrow tube is inserted into the stomach through the dog’s mouth or into the colon through the rectum. This allows the vet to view your German Shepherd’s gastrointestinal tract, retrieve tumor biopsies, and even retrieve foreign bodies that may be causing the obstruction.

However, if the object cannot be removed, surgery may be necessary and this can be a worrying and expensive time. For these reasons, make sure you have a good pet insurance plan.

10. Gastritis

Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. The most common signs are sudden vomiting and decreased appetite. Other signs may include dehydration, lethargy, increased thirst, blood in vomit or poop, and abdominal pain.

Causes of gastritis in German Shepherds can induce the following:

  • Eating inappropriate foods or objects
  • Adverse drug reaction or a toxic reaction
  • Metabolic / endocrine disease within the body
  • Infections (for example, bacterial, viral, or parasitic)

Long-term diagnosis of gastritis involves blood tests, a poop check, abdominal X-rays, ultrasound, and a possible stomach biopsy.

An acute episode (a short episode) of gastritis can last less than 24 hours. Most German Shepherds will recover in 1-3 days with proper treatment which may include a short period of fasting between 24-48 hours.

Chronic gastritis can last longer and can be associated with other, more serious conditions, so the prognosis depends on the underlying cause.

11. Bad absorption

Malabsorption is an inflammation of the small intestine that impairs nutrient absorption and causes chronic diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Although your German Shepherd may be eating well, they are not getting the necessary vital nutrients from their food leading to poor health and other complications.

There can be a variety of symptoms, but watch out for your dog to try to eat poop, other non-food objects, or to get into the trash. Other signs are bloody, smelly, or oily poop, dehydration, stomach gurgling and noise, a lot of gas, lack of energy, vomiting, and a bad coat.

Treatment depends on the cause of the malabsorption, but a change in diet may be necessary, for example switching to a gluten-free or very high-quality food with a good source of protein. Adding live culture yogurt can also help. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat bacterial overgrowth, and the prognosis is good for dogs diagnosed with this disorder.

12. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. If you ask yourself, like me, what is the pancreas? I learned that it is an organ near the stomach that helps with digestion and controls blood sugar.

Pancreatitis can be mild or severe and is often caused by the dog ingesting inappropriate foods, for example high-fat foods, or too many snacks or scraps of food. Other causes are obesity, recent surgery, some medications, and toxins.

Loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, stomach pain, dehydration, and diarrhea are some of the signs that are reported in German Shepherds with severe pancreatitis. In milder forms, symptoms may not be as obvious but will likely include diarrhea, lethargy, and poor appetite.

The prognosis depends on the severity of the disease. Mild cases may require a diet change, for example a high-quality, low-fat diet. Treatment for the most severe cases may include drugs for the disease and for pain relief. Most dogs will make a full recovery with the correct treatment.

13. Food allergy or intolerance

All dogs can develop allergies, but some breeds are more prone to certain allergies than others, according to specialists in veterinary dermatology:

The German Shepherds can end up being allergic to fleas, food, chemicals and other allergens that can cause mild to severe discomfort.

Some other allergens are pollen, mold, house dust mites, or mold. When your dog comes in contact with an allergen, a harmful reaction can irritate his skin.

Other symptoms are coughing, sneezing, wheezing, ear infections, or discharge from the eyes or nose. Sometimes the digestive system is affected and vomiting and diarrhea can occur.

So what is the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance?

A food allergy involves the immune system and is usually triggered by an excessive response to a protein, while a food intolerance does not involve the immune system and is a reaction to an ingredient. Do not think that meat is the only source of protein, as there is also protein in grains and vegetables. The most common food allergens in dogs are meat, wheat, and dairy products.

An example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance, in which your German Shepherd either lacks or has low levels of the milk-digesting enzyme, lactase. The symptoms of both are very similar and an elimination diet is the only way to determine the food that is causing the problem.

As this is only a brief summary of food allergies in dogs, I wrote a more detailed article, German Shepherd Allergies, which explains the causes and symptoms and includes several treatment options that may be helpful.

What can I give my German Shepherd for an upset stomach?

If your German Shepherd suffers from an upset stomach and diarrhea, it is best to feed him small frequent meals that are easy to digest, bland foods like cooked white rice or pasta with some cooked skinless chicken.

However, your vet may advise you to fast your German Shepherd for the first 12-24 hours, especially if your dog already has any underlying medical conditions. It is also important to consult your vet first if your German Shepherd is new to any type of food.

These are other recommended soft foods, however, make sure they are cooked first when appropriate:

  • Potatoes (cooked)
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Chicken
  • Plantain
  • Low fat cottage cheese
  • Yogurt

How to prevent my German Shepherd from having an upset stomach?

To help prevent your German Shepherd from developing any of the stomach or digestive conditions listed above, be sure to feed him a nutritious and healthy diet that contains the recommended mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

However, more important than this is the QUALITY of the ingredients used.

If you feed your German Shepherd high quality dog ​​food, it tends to be much more digestible than the many lower quality products you can find on the market. This will help prevent irritation to your dog’s sensitive stomach and intestines.

Look for a high-quality, high-protein diet that includes vitamins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and essential fatty acids. The best diet for German Shepherds is a high-quality, high-protein diet consisting of 18-22% protein.

The correct diet will prevent any stomach upset and will also ensure that your dog properly metabolizes the vitamins and minerals from the food. I certainly don’t like to eat any “garbage” and therefore I wouldn’t dream of feeding my dog ​​any “garbage” either! After all, I firmly believe that we are what we eat.

We have already learned that dogs find that high amounts of fat are more difficult to digest than carbohydrates and protein, so a diet that also contains the correct proportion of fat is important to help prevent pancreatitis (see 12. above).

If you suspect that your German Shepherd may have a sensitive stomach, the first thing to do is simplify his diet.

Start by eliminating all the extra treats and snacks, and keep a close eye on your dog to make sure he’s not eating anything he shouldn’t – for example, something toxic like grapes or chocolate that has been thrown around. Also, make sure they can’t get any moldy food they might try to steal from the trash!

If you think your dog’s current diet could be influencing his stomach problems, try gradually switching to a high-quality food that meets all the recommended nutritional guidelines for your dog’s current life stage. You will be amazed at the difference!


You and I now know 13 possible causes why your German Shepherd may have a sensitive stomach and I am sure you will agree, many of them are not so pleasant.

However, there are things you can do to help prevent your German Shepherd from having a sensitive stomach in the first place.

Sometimes we can joke with the phrase, “you are what you eat,” however I think this is quite true. It has a simple meaning – to be fit and healthy and live a long life, we all need to eat good food – and this includes our dogs!

Finally, treating many of these disorders can be expensive, especially if it becomes a long-term problem. Consider insuring your dog with a good pet policy to protect him from unexpected costs and make sure you have all the support you need to care for him.

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I love the animals. Reading and writing about them, their customs, their peculiarities or the attention they require is exciting, and I also believe that it makes us better people. I share articles that solve the questions that dog caregivers face on a daily basis.

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