Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, like several other dog breeds, can experience digestive issues due to their sensitive stomachs.
If your Cavalier frequently suffers from diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or discomfort after meals, it may indicate a sensitive stomach and digestive system.
We outline the causes of Cavalier sensitive stomach and provide seven proven solutions to help improve your dog’s well-being.
Sensitive stomach in dogs
Sensitive stomach in dogs refers to a condition where a dog’s gastrointestinal tract is more prone to digestive upset and is easily irritated or disrupted.
Dogs with a sensitive stomach may experience various digestive symptoms, including:
- Diarrhea: Dogs with a sensitive stomach may have frequent loose stools or episodes of diarrhea. The stool may be watery, soft, or have an abnormal consistency.
- Vomiting: Vomiting frequently or having episodes of regurgitation is common in dogs with sensitive stomachs. Vomiting can occur shortly after eating or may be accompanied by bile or undigested food.
- Gas and bloating: A dog with a sensitive stomach may experience excessive gas production and bloating. They may also have a distended abdomen or show signs of discomfort.
- Changes in appetite: Decreased or increased appetite is also a sign of a dog with a sensitive stomach. A dog may show reluctance to eat, become picky with their food, or experience fluctuations in their eating habits.
- Stomach discomfort: Dogs with a sensitive stomach may show signs of stomach pain or discomfort. This can include restlessness, pacing, whining, or seeking unusual positions to alleviate discomfort.
- Weight loss: If a dog’s sensitive stomach prevents them from properly digesting and absorbing nutrients, it may lead to weight loss or poor weight gain despite adequate food intake.
These symptoms can also be associated with other medical conditions, therefore it is important to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and to rule out any underlying health issues.
Do Cavaliers have sensitive stomachs?
Cavaliers are not generally known for having particularly sensitive stomachs. However, like any other dog breed, individual Cavaliers may have varying degrees of sensitivity to certain foods or digestive issues.
It is important to note that every dog is unique, and some may be more prone to stomach issues than others.
Causes of Cavalier King Charles Sensitive Stomach
Tracking down the cause of your dog’s sensitive stomach is the first step to helping your Cavalier feel better.
There are several factors that can lead to sensitive stomachs in Cavaliers. These factors may contribute to the development of digestive issues in your dog.
Common causes of sensitive stomach in Cavaliers are:
Stress can contribute to a Cavalier having a sensitive stomach. Dogs, like humans, can experience stress, and it can have a direct impact on their digestive system.
When a dog is under stress, their body enters a state of heightened arousal, commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. During this response, stress hormones are released, and can disrupt normal digestive processes.
The production of digestive enzymes may decrease, leading to impaired digestion and increased sensitivity in the stomach.
Stress can also lead to an increase in the production of stomach acid in dogs. Excessive stomach acid can lead to irritation and inflammation of the stomach lining, resulting in symptoms such as stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, or acid reflux.
This increased acidity can make the stomach more sensitive to certain foods or exacerbate pre-existing digestive issues.
Stress can also affect the movement of food through the digestive system. It can cause the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract to contract more rapidly or irregularly, leading to changes in gut motility.
These alterations can result in digestive symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, contributing to a sensitive stomach.
The bacteria in the dog’s gut microbiome can be disrupted by stress. The gut microbiome plays an important role in digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut health.
When a dog is stressed, this can induce imbalances in the microbiome which can affect digestion and increase the likelihood of gastrointestinal issues and a sensitive stomach.
Stress in your dog can be caused by various factors including changes in the environment, separation anxiety, social stress, fear, or even medical conditions.
Sudden diet change
A sudden change in diet can cause a dog to develop a sensitive stomach. Dogs are creatures of habit, and their digestive systems are also adapted to the specific diet they are accustomed to.
When their diet is abruptly changed, it can disrupt the balance of their digestive system and lead to digestive upset.
This happens due to:
Inadequate adaptation time: Dogs need time to adapt to new foods. If their diet is abruptly switched without a gradual transition period, their digestive system may not have enough time to adjust to the new food.
This can overwhelm their digestive system and result in a sensitive stomach, causing symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach discomfort.
Disruption of the gut microbiome: Changing your dog’s diet to a different brand or introducing new ingredients can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to digestive problems.
Food intolerances or allergies: When a new food is introduced suddenly, it may contain ingredients that the dog is sensitive to or has an intolerance or allergy to.
A dog’s immune system may react negatively to these new ingredients, leading to digestive problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, or inflammation in the stomach and intestines.
Bacterial infections can lead to a sensitive stomach in Cavaliers. When harmful bacteria invade the gastrointestinal tract, they can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system and cause various digestive issues.
Bacterial infections contribute to a sensitive stomach by causing inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining and the intestines which causes discomfort and sensitivity in the stomach. This results in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain.
Bacterial infections can also disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in a Cavalier’s gut microbiome leading to an imbalance.
This disruption can affect digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut health. It can also make the digestive system more sensitive and prone to digestive upset.
Food allergies and intolerance
Cavaliers, like other breeds, can develop sensitivities to specific food components, which may result in a sensitive stomach.
When a dog is allergic to a particular ingredient or ingredients in their diet, it triggers an immune response that can show up in various ways, including gastrointestinal symptoms.
Food allergies can contribute to a sensitive stomach by causing inflammation in the digestive tract, gastrointestinal upset and disruption of gut microbiome.
It’s worth noting that food intolerances are different from food allergies and can also cause digestive upset and a sensitive stomach in dogs.
Food intolerances do not involve the immune system but rather an inability to digest certain food components properly.
The symptoms and mechanisms of food intolerances can be similar to food allergies in terms of causing gastrointestinal distress and a sensitive stomach.
Congenital stomach problems
Congenital sensitive stomach problems in dogs are digestive issues or sensitivities that are present from birth or developed early in life.
Some Cavaliers may be born with a sensitive stomach, experiencing digestion problems from an early age.
These conditions are a result of genetic abnormalities in the structure or function of the digestive system.
The congenital problems can cause a Cavalier to have a sensitive stomach through:
Abnormal digestive enzyme production: The digestive process relies on various enzymes to break down food and aid in absorption.
Some Cavaliers may have a deficiency or abnormality in the production of certain digestive enzymes, making it difficult for them to properly digest and absorb nutrients. This can lead to digestive discomfort, malabsorption, and sensitive stomach issues.
Weakened gastrointestinal tract: Congenital problems can also affect the structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract.
For example, a Cavalier may be born with a weakened or underdeveloped stomach lining, which can make the stomach more susceptible to irritation or inflammation.
This can result in a sensitive stomach that is easily upset by certain foods or dietary changes.
Food intolerances or allergies: Cavaliers with congenital problems may be more prone to developing food intolerances or allergies.
These conditions occur when the immune system overreacts to certain food components, leading to digestive symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and gas.
Food intolerances and allergies can make the dog’s stomach more sensitive and reactive to specific ingredients in their diet.
Dietary indiscretion refers to eating non-food items or food that is not part of a dog’s regular diet. This can lead to throwing up, diarrhea, and discomfort due to the development of an upset stomach, bacterial infection, gastrointestinal obstruction, and stress.
Dogs may eat non-food items or consume food outside of their regular diet due to stress or anxiety, which can also lead to digestive upset and other symptoms such as shaking or trembling.
Related: Cavalier diarrhea: Read before you panic
How can I help my Cavalier with sensitive stomach?
When your Cavalier occasionally shows signs of a sensitive stomach such as vomiting or diarrhea or the symptoms are isolated and they continue their normal activities, this is not a cause for concern.
In most cases, your dog will have these symptoms and continue to be active as usual.
When your dog has an upset stomach due to sensitivity, the first thing to do is to observe them and see whether the vomiting continues or if symptoms of an illness appear.
Try to assess the cause of the sensitive stomach such as stress, new food, or eating of foreign objects.
If your Cavalier does not have other signs of illness, there is no cause for concern.
Secondly, do not feed them for 6 – 12 hours but provide plenty of drinking water. This allows their stomach to calm down and self-repair.
If the symptoms of their upset stomach such as vomiting or diarrhea do not continue, feed them their regular diet.
When to seek help
If your dog has a sensitive stomach and is experiencing persistent vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care.
While occasional vomiting and diarrhea are normal in dogs, when these symptoms are persistent and also appear alongside other symptoms, veterinary attention is required so that the veterinarian can perform a thorough physical exam to assess your dog’s overall health.
This is because there are many causes of sensitive stomach in Cavaliers other than food and underlying medical conditions will need to be ruled out before focusing on your dog’s diet.
Here are other signs that indicate that you should see a veterinarian immediately:
Prolonged or severe symptoms: If your dog’s vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms are severe and persist for an extended period of time.
Blood in vomit or stool: If there is blood in the vomit or stool, this could be a sign of a serious underlying condition and requires immediate veterinary attention.
Additional symptoms: Other symptoms may be present apart from vomiting, and diarrhea. Other symptoms to look out for include lethargy, breathing difficulties, signs of pain or discomfort, fever, and signs of dehydration, such as a dry nose or mouth and sunken eyes.
If your dog is a puppy or an older dog: Puppies and older are generally more vulnerable than healthy adult dogs so delaying treatment could result in their condition worsening or becoming more difficult to treat. Therefore, it is essential to seek immediate medical care.
A diagnosis is determined based on the diagnostic tests conducted by the veterinarian. Treatment varies and depends on the underlying cause.
The treatment may include:
- Administration of anti-nausea medication
- Administration of anti-inflammatory medication
- Treatment of disease
- Fluid therapy to treat dehydration and loss of electrolytes
- Probiotics to treat bowel and intestinal inflammation
- A bland diet consisting of boiled rice and chicken or canned pumpkin
- Diet change for a dog with a sensitive stomach. This includes limited ingredients or a prescription diet, moderate fat or protein, or high-quality dog food.
In most cases, home care will be recommended by the veterinarian after initial treatment has been provided. In severe cases of dehydration, your Cavalier may be hospitalized to be treated for dehydration.
Home care involves feeding your Cavalier a bland diet for 24 hours, which allows its digestive system to repair itself.
Best food for Cavaliers with sensitive stomachs
The veterinarian may recommend switching to dog food that is best for Cavaliers with sensitive stomachs.
Remember, it is important to consult with your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your dog’s diet. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your Cavalier’s specific needs and dietary requirements.
The best food for Cavaliers with sensitive stomachs should be options that are easily digestible, free from common allergens, and formulated to support digestive health.