Problems of the Digestive System

This system is made up of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, gall bladder, spleen, colon, rectum, and anus. The problems most typically associated with this system are:

  • Vomiting

  • Bloat

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Flatulence

  • Anal sac disorders

Every dog will experience upsets of the digestive system in the course of his life; most problems are easily treated and symptoms resolve within hours or days.


If your puppy is vomiting, there is definitely something wrong with him. Determining what that something is, however, is trickier than you might think. You'll need to take special note of what and how he vomits to figure out what's wrong.

The most common cause of vomiting is simply overeating or eating so quickly the food is gulped down and then comes back up again. Puppies and adult dogs will also commonly vomit after eating grass, and some dogs get carsick and vomit in the car. If your dog vomits what's obviously partly digested food or chewed grass and only vomits once or twice, or is distressed by the car, don't worry about it. If you notice blood in the vomit, or if the vomiting is severe and frequent, make an appointment to see the veterinarian. These are signs that your puppy is truly not well. Make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.


This condition is also called gastric dilatation, which is exactly what it is: a swelling up of the stomach due to gas, fluid, or a combination. When the stomach fills up this way, it is prone to twisting, which quickly leads to shock and death. Puppies and adult dogs can develop bloat by eating too much dry kibble; exercising vigorously after eating; or gulping their food or their water. Some breeds seem prone to it, and it appears to run in some breed lines. Dogs experiencing bloat become restless, drool heavily, try to vomit or defecate unsuccessfully, and cry in pain when their stomachs are palpated. It is imperative to get your puppy to the veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect bloat.

Diarrhea or Constipation

Like vomiting, the type and consistency of diarrhea vary depending on what's wrong. When all is normal, the puppy eats and drinks and his digestive system absorbs nutrients from the food and water and passes along undigested materials in the stool, which should be firm and consistent in color. Any irritation to the intestines or the bowel will trigger diarrhea. These irritations can vary from a change in food or water; over excitement; eating something that can't be digested or is toxic; or something that produces an allergic response. The color, consistency, odor, and frequency of the diarrhea can help you and your veterinarian determine the underlying cause and set about providing the proper treatment.

If you notice your puppy straining to defecate, or even whimpering or whining while doing so, with the result being no passing of stool, your puppy is constipated. Most cases of constipation are caused by inappropriate diet, which causes stools to form improperly and either block the colon or become painful to pass. Try giving your puppy one-half to two tablespoons of a gentle laxative like Milk of Magnesia. Take the puppy out often so you don't risk an accident in the house. If you don't get results in twelve to twenty-four hours, consult your veterinarian.


Having an overly flatulent dog is no fun! Through no fault of his own, a dog who passes gas can clear an entire room in no time. Chalk your dog's flatulence up to inappropriate diet yet again. A diet high in meats, fermentable foods like onions, beans, or even some grains, or dairy products can lead to excess gas. Review your dog's diet carefully, including the ingredient list of his dog food, and slowly integrate a diet change. If this doesn't yield results, your veterinarian can help.

Anal Sac Disorders

Dogs have two anal sacs, one on each side of the rectum at about five and seven o'clock, commonly called “scent sacs.” They secrete a distinctive odor that leaves the dog's scent when he defecates. If the sacs become blocked, they can become sore and infected and will need to be expressed. If your dog frequently scoots across the floor dragging his bottom or wants to lick the area often, suspect an anal sac problem and ask the vet to show you how to handle expressing them to relieve the build-up.

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