The Best Dog Food for a Sensitive Stomach, According to a Vet Tech (Exclusive)

These dry and wet dog foods are devoid of common allergens and packed with novel proteins, gentle plant-based ingredients, and tons of flavor.


Jul. 2 2024, Published 3:15 p.m. ET

Dog sits with bowl of kibble on wood floor
Source: iStock

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As a dog parent, it can be both frustrating and heartbreaking to watch your pooch licking and scratching, knowing something is wrong but not knowing exactly what. When I rescued a street dog in Mexico, this was the case with him, even after we were sure he was free of fleas. Having known nothing about dog nutrition, I figured his watery stools had to do with adjusting to dog food (as opposed to garbage scraps). But after a while I started to realize that all these symptoms were related, and that he had a sensitive stomach to match his sensitive little soul. So, in addition to boiling him up chicken and rice and veggies, I realized I needed to find him a nutritious, vitamin-rich dog food for sensitive stomachs, and that truly made all the difference.

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6 Best Dog Foods for a Sensitive Stomach

Green Matters asked veterinary technician Jennifer Freeman, M.S., RVTg — also the Director of Nutritional Science for Natural Balance Pet Foods — for some general tips on choosing the best dog food for dogs like my Diego. "Selecting the right food for dogs with sensitive stomachs involves focusing on easily digestible ingredients and avoiding common allergens, high fat diets, and artificial additives," Freeman tells Green Matters exclusively. She emphasizes the need for high fiber and limited carbohydrates, too.

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There tends to be overlap when it comes to food sensitivities and food (or any kind of) allergies, so sticking to a hypoallergenic diet and/or a limited-ingredient diet (you'll see this specific term on the label) is also a safe bet. With those guidelines in mind, here are our top dog food picks for sensitive canine tummies.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Adult Wet Canned Dog Food, Pack of 12

Freeman recommends Natural Balance Limited Ingredient dog foods, either the dry or wet version. But if you have a dog who will only eat wet food or prefers to have it sprinkled on top of her kibble, the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient dog food in a can is the move, according to Freeman. (It's important to note that Freeman serves as the Director of Nutritional Science for Natural Balance Pet Foods.)

Featuring high-quality plant-based protein and wholesome grains — think high-quality ingredients like brown rice and oat groats it's a dream for digestion and food sensitivities. Rich in essential vitamins and omega fatty acids, it promotes heart health and a shiny coat, too. And it has no artificial additives or common allergens.

Top review: "I've fed this to both my Australian Shepherd and German Shepherd daughters. Both love it! It helped my old Aussie girl lose weight and made her feel great in her last years of life. My German Shepherd has been eating it for five years now, almost six. She's been eating it since she was a small puppy (I adopted her when she was six weeks after she was abandoned), and never has had any issues! I will say that the dry food version has made both my girls gassy, but the wet food version has not."

$45 (was $48)
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Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Lamb, 4 lb. Bag

Our choice for animal-based protein dog food for sensitive tummies is this Instinct kibble made in Nebraska using responsibly sourced ingredients. Instinct's Limited Ingredient formula contains one novel protein, lamb, making it great for digestion and allergies, too. It's free of grains, dairy, eggs, and artificial additives, and includes gentle plant-based ingredients like peas and tapioca. The food is minimally processed to retain flavor for finicky palates.

Top review: "My dog had serious food sensitivities where she constantly had diarrhea, soft stools, and itchy & flaky skin. I tried tons of different foods, and this is the only one that’s really worked. She’s been eating this for about a year now with no issues!"

$28 at Amazon

Wild Earth Performance Formula Dog Food, 4 lb. Bag

The reason we love Wild Earth's Performance Formula Dog Food so much as a vegan option for food sensitivities is that it's vegan but meant to taste like chicken, so it's the equivalent of sneaking veggies into your kid's meatloaf. This high-protein, plant-based formula is designed for active dogs, providing veggie-based nutrition to turbo-charge 'em. Enriched with omega fatty acids, prebiotics, and essential vitamins, it supports muscle development, digestion, and a shiny coat, too. Free from artificial additives and common allergens like meat, dairy, and soy, it's a safe choice for cautious pet parents.

Top review: "We have been feeding Complete Protein for years with great results. We noticed the upgraded Performance Formula recently and decided to give it a try ... And she sure did gobble it all up! Wild Earth has been integral to keeping my baby’s allergies at bay and I’m so grateful."

$39 at Wild Earth
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Halo Holistic Vegan Dog Food with Superfoods, 3.5 lb Bag

Give your dog's stomach something easy to handle: Halo Holistic Vegan Dog Food, a plant-based formula that uses sustainably sourced ingredients like chickpeas, green peas, and nourishing oils. There's no meat, dairy, or artificial additives, so this one's a digestion-friendly while packing in the immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids — and in recyclable packaging, no less.

Top review: "I’ve been buying this for my pup for a few months now. I realized he has a sensitivity to chicken and had very soft BM’ when I was feeding him [an animal] protein dog food. They immediately became solid when I switched to this food and the transition was super easy. He loves this food, and I love that it’s full of good ingredients, including pre and probiotics. I will gladly keep buying this!"

$20 at Chewy

Lucy Pet Products Limited Ingredient Diet Duck & Potato Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag

Lucy Pet Products makes this Limited Ingredient Diet Duck & Potato Dog Food, and it's the perfect thing for dogs with the dual issue of allergies and food sensitivities. It's crafted with duck as the primary (novel) protein, easily digestible potatoes, and essential nutrients to promote healthy digestion and overall tagging wellness. And of course you won't find common allergens like corn, wheat, and soy here.

Top review: "My almost 1 year old Goldendoodle started to have loose stools with the food he had been on since he was 8 weeks old. He had also lost interest in the food in general. Giving him pumpkin always seemed to help out a bit, so when I found Lucy, and pumpkin was a key ingredient, we decided to give it a try. In less than 2 weeks his tummy is great and no more loose stools. He enjoys the food too! Great product, and we are thankful to have found it!"

$23 at Chewy

Earthborn Holistic Unrefined Roasted Rabbit with Ancient Grains & Superfoods, 4 lb Bag

Kickstart your dog's immune system with yummy superfoods like carrots, cranberries, blueberries, and butternut squash. Earthborn Holistic is made with roasted rabbit, ancient grains like buckwheat and quinoa, and omega fatty acids from fish oil that supports heart health and a shiny coat. This one is free from common allergens, such as chicken, peas, lentils, and legumes, ensuring easy digestion.

Top review: "My dog has chicken allergies and was always having awful smelling diarrhea. Finding a food to feed her was challenging as everything was upsetting her tummy. I discovered this brand one late night on Amazon, and she loves it. She gobbles up the food, and finally has nice, solid, normal poop!"

$19 (was $30) at Amazon
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