5 Common German Shepherd Stomach Problems

Updated on August 15, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.

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German shepherds make wonderful pets, but, unfortunately for them and their owners, they often suffer from digestive issues and have a sensitive stomach. These range from mild to fatal, so it’s very important to keep an eye on your dog’s health and (although it may be gross) bowel movements.

If you own a German shepherd, you should consult regularly with your vet about your dog’s diet. Depending on what issues it has, you may need to adjust by eliminating certain kinds of food, adding supplements, or even designing a raw food diet.

With attention and care, you should be able to keep your dog's stomach issues in check so that he can live happily and you don’t have to clean up too many messes.

Stomach and or bowel disorders covered here:

  • Diarrhea
  • Esosinophilic Gastroenteritis
  • Ulcers
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI)
  • Toxic Gut Syndrome

1) Diarrhea

Diarrhea in German shepherds can be caused by a number of factors, but it’s most commonly caused by a food intolerance or parasite. If your dog is having diarrhea regularly, your first step should usually be to check for parasites, which your vet can then help you treat.

If there is no parasite, it’s likely your dog is reacting negatively to something in its food. Foods such as milk, fats, heavy fiber, and grains can all contribute to diarrhea. You may need to do a bit of trial and error to find what helps your dog.

Other behavioral factors such as overeating and anxiety (or being high-strung) can also lead to diarrhea. You should always make sure that you are not over-feeding your dog, German Shepherds have a sensitive stomach and can relatively quickly get diarrhea. So make sure that you are not over-feeding your dog and that you provide regular moderate exercise to alleviate stress. Don’t do serious exercise right after eating.

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2) Esosinophilic Gastroenteritis

Esosinophilic gastroenteritis is an inflammation of your dog’s intestines and stomach. Chronic diarrhea, particularly watery diarrhea, may be a sign of this disorder. Other symptoms are vomiting, lack of appetite, and weight loss.

Your vet should be able to diagnose the problem using a stool sample. Esosinophilic gastroenteritis is treatable using steroids or other medications that line the digestive track and help to reduce the inflammation. Inflammatory bowel disease, a group of disorders that also cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, causes similar symptoms and should also be treated by your veterinarian.

3) Ulcers

German shepherds are susceptible to ulcers, which can occur in relation with other digestive problems are as a result of medication for other issues (such as pain medication for hip dysplasia).

An ulcer is a sore that results from a break in the lining of the stomach or intestine. It can cause your dog pain and may result in loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting (sometimes including blood), bloody stool, weakness, and anemia. Often, treating an ulcer requires treating an underlying condition. Your vet may also need to treat your dog to bring its fluid levels back to normal.

4) Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, or EPI, occurs when your dog’s pancreas doesn’t produce enough digestive enzymes. Their digestive system needs those enzymes to break down protein, fat, and starches. If a pup has EPI, it is unable to absorb nutrients for foods. That means that even if it is eating a proper diet, it can become malnourished and even starve to death if not treated properly.

If your dog has EPI, you may notice that he always seems hungry and is losing weight despite eating normally. They may also eat things they normally wouldn’t, including poops. Dogs with EPI often have a high amount of flatulence and may poop very frequently. Their stools may be runny and take on a yellow color.

EPI can be diagnosed with a blood test. Because it is so dangerous, it is important to have your pooch tested whenever it has a prolonged digestive issue, particularly if it starts to lose weight. Your vet can help you to treat EPI with a specialized diet, enzyme and vitamin supplements, and antibiotics.

5) Toxic Gut Syndrome

Toxic gut syndrome is less common than the other digestive health issues, but it occurs more commonly in German shepherds than in other dog breeds. It’s important to be aware of this syndrome because it is often fatal and can kill very quickly.

German shepherds naturally have a high level of a kind of intestinal bacteria called clostridium. In certain conditions, this bacteria can reproduce in excessive numbers, entering the dog’s blood stream and creating a toxic effect. Sadly, when this happens, the dog will usually die within a few hours. Because toxic gut syndrome kills so quickly, it is important to prevent it.

Some vets recommend a yoghurt-based supplement that helps to moderate the levels of bacteria in your dog’s intestinal tract. You should talk to your vet about the best plan for preventing toxic gut syndrome.

Which stomach issues did your Shepherd have?

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Preventing Stomach Problems In German Shepherd Dogs

There are some things that you can do to prevent your dog from developing any of these conditions. The most common and simple ways to do this are by making sure that your dog is eating a diet that’s suitable for it.

To make sure that you’re not going to put your dog at risk for developing stomach problems, it’s important that you make sure you know that you’re getting quality food. Quality food, for a Shepherd, isn’t necessarily the same quality food that you might get for another dog.

Of course, you’re going to need to make sure that you get a good mixture of protein, fat and carbohydrates. For a Shepherd, this equates to roughly 20% of its calories coming from protein and 5% coming from fat (subtracting about 2% if you’re feeding a puppy.) However, more important than the breakdown of nutrients is the quality of the ingredients and the specific ingredients used. Try to go without glutenfree or at least low grains.

In terms of protein, you’re going to want to make sure that you choose a high quality protein source. Good sources of protein for Shepherds would be those that come from whole meats like beef, fish, and other organ meats. Chicken isn’t the best food for Shepherds because foods made with chicken often come with a lot of byproducts that aren’t good for anybody, especially not a Shepherd with a sensitive stomach.

In terms of fat, make sure that you get your food with a high-quality source of fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are the best, and you can get foods that have omega-3s added or you can choose a brand of food that uses fish as its main source of protein since fish are such great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Conclusion

A German Shepherd with an upset stomach is a common. Although I’ve had a one that could eat nearly everything and was very fit all the time (14 years and never an issue in his life), this is not always the case.

I had one GSD that had worms a couple times a year like clockwork. He would get diarrhea, stop eating and get skinny in a couple of days he already looked like a sad dog. The first couple of times this can get you by surprise and you’ll not know what is happening, but you’ll learn to see the signs and take proper action. In the end I think he was more susceptible for bowel issues, he died of bowel cancer troubles around age 10.

An other one we had to change his food a couple of times before he would happily eat it. He’s eating well now, but enjoy eating stuff from the garden and sometimes throws up or has diarrhea, I think he’ll never learn and you can’t watch him all the time. He’s 7 years now, so I fear he’ll get himself in some serious issue when he gets older and doesn’t recover as well anymore.

Questions & Answers

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      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        5 weeks ago from Europe

        Hi Ben difficult to say. Did you change food or routines recently?

        Does she have stress during the day? Are both at work during the day?

        Any worms?

      • profile image

        Ben 

        5 weeks ago

        Hello, i would like to get your opinion on our shepherd. She is almost two and have had her tested for any allergies and it came up neggative for anything. Recently she has had regular poops to start the day then it turns more loose. This has been going on for about a week. And now it seems to be mostly loose. Not watery but definately not normal. We feed her a cup of dry nutro-lamb and rice, with a can of wet from nutro as well. Would love if gou could provide any insites for our little lady. Thank you, Ben

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        2 months ago from Europe

        Hi Robin,

        I'm very sorry to hear this. When german shepherds have stomach problems or other health issues it can be a burden.

        You want your friend to be healthy, but when it is chronic it can take a lot of the (easy) fun away.

        We have had 3 german shepherds, each one was different, the first one never had any issue and became 14 years old without being sick once...

        The second one had worms often and became thin because of not eating. He had this once or twice a year. He also died because of a stomach cancer at age 10.

        Our last one needs urinary food now he's 10 years old, he's not the strongest, but overall he's ok.

        Getting the right food and checking for allergies can help. If he's prone to getting worms, you'll always need to watch how he's eating and or losing weight.

      • profile image

        Robin 

        2 months ago

        We have a gsd for the last year we have had stomach issues. At first it was worms then they would put him on steroids and he would do good then it would happen all over again. We have had his blood work done and even a biopsy with the conclusion irritated stomach an lower intestines. The doctor said his stomach looked like said paper. We are now back on a steroid and I believe another medication that he might be in for a while. He has lost weight and sometimes don’t eat. I feel frustrated bc we have spent thousands on this wonderful dog and he still looks miresable. We have changed his food but once he gets sick on it he will not eat and we start over again

      • profile image

        Andrés 

        4 months ago

        Sam, I'm wondering if you could help me with my dog's stomach issues, I'd love to understand it better.

        I have a female german shephard, 4 years old now, over the last year she started having recurrent losses of apetite, sometimes with what sounds like loud bowel movement, for some days she would eat very little... and all of a sudden she eats like a beast again for a couple of days, and then stops, and the same over and over...

        We've tried changing the food's brand, which is a pretty good one, but im thinking now about feeding her just rice and mince (not sure if thats the correct word, i mean something like ground beef) ...

        Would that be easier for her to digest?

        Is it bad if I mix dog food with rice and mince?

        Or directly, whats the smoothest food for a german shephard with a weaker stomach, so to speak?

        Thanks in advance!

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        5 months ago from Europe

        No worms?

        Does he have stress when there is company or when you lock him in the crate?

        Did someone of the company feed him from the table/snacks?

        Rice water is good against diarrhea (it's more important than the rice itself).

        Is he bloated?

        If it persists ask a vet.

      • profile image

        Allan 

        5 months ago

        I have a 2 yr old German Shepard mix. Up until Saturday May 12 2018 we have never had an issue with him pooping in the house. He roams freely, and like clockwork let's us know around 7am that he needs to go outside to potty. Friday morning he didn't feel like eating, so at dinner time we have him an extra cup of food, which he didn't seem to have a problem with eating. Saturday morning I woke up to him leaving several puddles of poop (very soft) near the back door. Saturday morning feeding time consisted of 1 cup of boiled white rice, and at dinner we have him 1.5 cups along with 1/2 boiled chicken breast. Sunday morning meal consisted of the remaining chicken breast and rice again. We went back to his regular diet on Sunday evening and this morning I woke up to him leaving more poop on my floor. Mind you I had company all the week prior, and he was locked up in his crate through the night. It was Friday when the company left so he roamed freely Friday night and left me the surprise on Saturday morning.

        Can you give me some ideas? He does get released several times in the evening before we retire to bed, and some times he does come in and is smacking and gagging. I don't have anything but grass in my yard, so there is no flower beds or garden for him to get into.

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        6 months ago from Europe

        Naveed, when the issue is serious talk to a vet. Could be a lot of things. Some of them can be severe, some less.

        Could range from (food) allergies, gastric inflammation, to blatter issues, to cancer, but I'm not a vet and I don't know your dog so seek actual medical advice when in doubt.

      • profile image

        Naveed ahmed 

        6 months ago

        My german shepherd tummy swelling problem age 29 month eating and bleeding is ok plz ye me whats the medicine for this.Tell the Medicine name.

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        8 months ago from Europe

        If your dog is bleeding and not eating you should go to the vet asap.

        Bleeding, diarrhea for multiple days, extensive puking etc. are all issues that could require professional help.

      • profile image

        neil june R. baer 

        8 months ago

        my german daid becuose of his hot viry hot

      • profile image

        Ahsan mahmood 

        8 months ago

        My German shepherd puppy 4months old is not eating and bleeding

        He is going through the drips and I am worried about that's all

        I need your suggestions

      • Sam Shepards profile imageAUTHOR

        Sam Shepards 

        8 months ago from Europe

        I'm very sorry to hear that. Did he have an infection or something?

      • profile image

        Shais bhat 

        8 months ago

        My 1 month old German shepherd puppy died... the only reason is vomiting n diarrhea..

      • profile image

        Russ 

        10 months ago

        My gsd puppy less than 5 months goes from diahrea back to solid poop within same week and even yelps at times while pooping. Last week she went from yelping to pooping normal for 4 days back to yelping rhis morning. We are takinf her to vet just curious if anyone else is experiencing this.

      • profile image

        ANN 

        10 months ago

        MY GERMAN SHEPHERD DIED FROM FAILURE OF NORMAL EMBRYOLOGICAL INTESTINAL DEVELOPMENT

        SIGNS NOT EATING, THIN, VOMITING, DIAHERRA

        WOULD XRAY OF STOMACH SHOW THE PROBLEM AND BLOOD WORK

      working

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