Every dog owner has experienced it. Frequent trips to the yard. Slimy, grass-laced throw up on the carpet. And restless nights.
All the telltale signs of a dog with an upset tummy. More often than not, these short bouts of stomach trouble are caused by something minor and resolve themselves in a matter of days. Still, many owners turn to over the counter solutions to help ease their dog’s (and their own) discomfort as they wait for the trouble to pass.
But is it safe to give your dog the human medication Pepto Bismol?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the safety of Pepto for dogs, when to give it, and how much to dose. We’ll also look at a few natural upset stomach treatments you may want to try first.
Is Pepto Bismol Safe for Dogs?
The short answer? Generally. But there are certain situations in which you should definitely not give your dog Pepto.
Pepto Bismol can be an effective treatment for minor and fleeting stomach issues. But it is not a good choice for more serious problems. If your dog is showing other symptoms beyond occasional vomiting and/or mild diarrhea, you should have them seen by a vet before you self-treat with any kind of medication.
Dogs can get into all sorts of things, and many of them end up in their stomachs. While most things are only likely to cause minor digestive upset, some ingested items can be dangerous. Skip the Pepto and call the vet right away if your dog is showing any additional symptoms.
If your dog appears dehydrated, agitated, lethargic, or has blood in their stool or vomit, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet.
Even for less severe issues, there are some instances when Pepto can be dangerous.
Pepto Bismol contains subsalicylates, which can cause intestinal bleeding in some dogs. Dogs taking blood-thinning medication like Rimadyl and Deramaxx or those with known bleeding problems are most at risk for this side-effect.
Pregnant and lactating dogs should also not be given this medication.
As a quick, but important, side note, Pepto Bismol is toxic to felines and should never be given to cats.
If your dog frequently struggles with minor stomach upset, it may be worth talking to your vet about getting an animal-specific Bismusal Suspension. This pink liquid is similar to Pepto but is much safer for repeated use in dogs.
What is the Pepto Bismol Dose for Dogs?
For minor stomach upset without additional symptoms, Pepto can be given at a dose of 1 tsp for every 10 pounds of body weight.
It is best to mix the liquid with a small amount of bland food (see below). You can also use a needless syringe or turkey baster to squeeze the medication into your dog’s cheek. Just be careful not to squirt the Pepto directly down your dog’s throat as this can cause aspiration.
Pepto Bismol and other over the counter stomach meds can help your dog find relief from painful and annoying symptoms. But using them for an extended period can cause issues. If your dog has symptoms that last for more than a few days, a trip to the vet is in order.
Dogs can also be given the tablet form of Pepto if that is all you have on hand. For that particular type, the dose is 8.75mg for every 1 pound of body weight.
While harder to dose out, the tablet can be easier to give. Try wrapping the medication in a small piece of cheese or hotdog and giving it to your dog as a treat. Otherwise, you can “pill” your dog by placing the tablet on the back of the tongue, closing your dog’s muzzle, and then tilting their head back until they swallow.
In either form, the dose can be repeated every 6 to 8 hours.
If symptoms don’t clear up, or get worse, after a day or two, you should contact your vet.
Alternative Treatments for Upset Stomach in Dogs
Despite Pepto Bismol’s relative safety, it may be worth considering some alternative treatments before turning to this over the counter med.
Like many stomach medications, Pepto only serves to mask the symptoms of the issue, rather than addressing the underlying cause.
Conversely, the natural treatments outlined below can help your dog find relief while simultaneously helping resolve the issue itself by promoting healing of the stomach and intestinal lining.
You want your dog back to their normal, happy selves as soon as possible. Sometimes, that means focusing your treatment on the problem rather than the symptoms. It may take a little longer, but they are less likely to suffer recurrent episodes than if you only medicate the symptoms themselves.
Fasting and a Bland Diet
One of the first steps you should take any time your dog shows symptoms of a moderately upset stomach is to withhold food.
Oftentimes, our pups get themselves into trouble by eating things they shouldn’t. Certain human foods, plants, and even large chunks of wood, bone, and toys can cause mild stomach irritation. By skipping a couple of meals, you allow your dog’s system time to digest (or expel) the offending item without adding further irritation in the form of food.
You might notice your dog eating grass during this phase, and that’s ok. Dogs often eat long grass as a way to encourage purging to empty their stomach.
After your dog has gone 24 hours without food, try introducing small amounts of bland food only.
The best and easiest choice is generally cooked white rice and boiled chicken. Both of these ingredients are easy for the canine system to digest and are not too rich. At the same time, they will provide some minimal nutritional value.
As your dog’s symptoms improve, gradually mix some of their kibble with the bland mixture for each meal. Start with a ratio of about ¼ kibble with ¾ rice and chicken and slowly increase the kibble amount over the course of a few days until they are back on their normal diet.
If symptoms return at this point, it is a good idea to talk to a vet, as there may be something more serious going on.
Stay strong under those piercing puppy-dog eyes! Your dog will likely not be happy about a forced fast, but sometimes skipping a few meals is the fastest way to get them feeling better.
Another simple but effective way to soothe your dog’s stomach is with canned pumpkin.
Pumpkin is packed with fiber to help scrub out your dog’s intestinal tract and help them start fresh. This fiber also tends to absorb moisture, which can help remove some of the excess water from your dog’s stool when they have diarrhea.
Pumpkin also does a great job of feeding the good bacteria that live in your dog’s gut. Supporting the health of the gut microbiome is necessary for normal digestion, but is especially important when your dog’s stomach is upset and as it heals after a bout of illness.
As an added bonus, pumpkin is packed with nutrients and can help revitalize your dog, especially if they have been fasting for a day.
Just be sure that you purchase plain canned pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin pie pumpkin contains spices and sugar which are only likely to upset your dog’s stomach more. Plain pumpkin will have only “pumpkin” listed in the ingredients.
Yogurt and Probiotics
Another go-to for treating an upset stomach is yogurt.
Yogurt is packed with healthy probiotics that are necessary for normal digestion in pets and humans. When your dog suffers from diarrhea, much of the good bacterial load in the gut can be wiped out, further intensifying symptoms.
Adding a tablespoon or so of yogurt to their meals can help replenish the good bacteria and get them back to normal faster.
Both pumpkin and yogurt can help your dog find relief from stomach issues. Just be sure you get canned pumpkin or puree this vegetable yourself before letting your dog chow down!
But do be aware, yogurt and other dairy products can cause diarrhea in sensitive dogs, which is the last thing you want when your dog’s tummy is already upset. If you know your dog is extra sensitive, it is best to wait to use yogurt until they are already on the mend.
You can also add yogurt to meals when your dog is healthy to help encourage a strong system that is less prone to upset.
Probiotic tablets and powders made for dogs are another great choice for aiding in digestive health. Unlike yogurt, these supplements are generally well-tolerated by most dogs and can be given along with pumpkin or chicken and rice early in the intervention process without making things worse.
A Change in Diet May Be In Order
If your dog frequently deals with bouts of diarrhea or upset stomach, a change of diet may be the best treatment.
While less common than itching and irritated skin, digestive upset can be a sign of a food allergy. It is also a frequent symptom of a food intolerance.
Dogs can be allergic to any number of things commonly used in dog food from protein sources like chicken, beef, and lamb, to plant-sourced ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy. Some especially sensitive dogs may even develop allergies to minor ingredients like flavorings and preservatives.
If your dog is constantly battling digestive upset and your vet has ruled out other issues, try switching your dog to a new food.
Even if your dog doesn’t have frequent diarrhea, frequent grass eating can be a sign of mild stomach upset. If you notice your dog munching down like a cow out in the yard more often than not, a change of diet may still be worth pursuing.
Look for a high-quality diet that lists meat as the first ingredient and does not utilize fillers like corn or soy. If your dog is already on a high-quality diet, then try switching to a food that contains a different ingredient set, such as turkey and quinoa rather than beef and rice.
Of course, no matter what you are doing to treat your dog, it is always best to keep your vet in the loop.
Whether your dog’s symptoms have been caused by something in their food or some random thing they ate, even minor stomach upsets can turn serious under the right circumstances. Keeping your vet informed will assure nothing gets overlooked and your dog gets extra help if and when they need it.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.