An optimally functioning digestive system is one of the primary indications of good health, both in humans and animals. It’s a tad difficult to talk about this topic without getting distasteful. But generally, if one experiences a digestive problem, what happens is that the body rejects any food consumed.
This can occur either directly from the tummy (through vomiting) or indirectly from the intestines (through diarrhea). When this happens in dogs, one recommended medication to treat digestive upset is Pepto Bismol. However, using this product is tied to certain conditions. Read on to learn what Pepto Bismol is and whether it’s safe to give to your pup.
What is Pepto Bismol?
This is an over-the-counter medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human consumption. The key ingredient in this medication is bismuth subsalicylate. Drugs with this compound are also marketed as Bismatrol, Castro-Cote and Kaopectate.
Once ingested, the bismuth and subsalicylate separate to form two distinct elements, each of which acts independently to aid in digestion. More specifically, the bismuth forms a lining on the stomach to shield it from acid. It also binds with toxins in a process that prevents diarrhea.
Subsalicylate, on the other hand, is a compound that’s closely associated with aspirin. Its purpose is to reduce the rate at which intestinal fluids are secreted and to prevent excessive movements of the bowel, which could lead to diarrhea.
Is it Safe to Give Pepto Bismol to Dogs?
The short answer to this is yes. If you suspect that your pup is experiencing a bout of indigestion, you can administer Pepto Bismol.
But according to Dr. Jerry Klein, the Chief Veterinary Office of the American Kennel Club, this medication should only be given to dogs if it’s been prescribed by a vet. The reason is that the salicylates in this drug cause adverse effects like gastric bleeding.
Similarly, the bismuth compound causes your puppy’s stool to darken -- a factor that makes it hard to notice symptoms of gastric bleeding. Another effect is that if your dog undergoes an X-ray examination, Pepto Bismol tablets can appear as radiopaque compounds.
Essentially, this means that if your pup’s gastrointestinal signs worsen, and your vet performs an abdominal radiograph, he might assume that the drugs are metallic foreign bodies. As a result, he/she might resort to unnecessary operations and medical procedures for your pup.
To avoid all these complications, Dr. Klein advises you to give them only one or two doses of Pepto Bismol. Alternatively, you can look for other remedies such as the ones highlighted later in the article.
How to Give Pepto Bismol to Your Dog
In most cases, Pepto Bismol comes in a pink, chalky liquid. You’ll need to look for a plastic feeding syringe to administer the drug to your puppy’s mouth. Be sure to direct it to the sides of their mouth as opposed to aiming at their throat. Also, stick to the recommended dosage.
If you’ve taken Pepto Bismol before, you’re probably wondering whether those chewable tablets are safe for your dog. The truth is, not much research has been done on this concept so there’s no definitive answer on whether they’re safe or not.
However, it’s important to note that the ingredient profile of the tablets varies slightly from the liquid form. To be more specific, they do have bismuth subsalicylate as the active ingredient, but their inactive compounds are not the same. Some of these inactive ingredients are: calcium carbonate, magnesium stearate, providone, saccharin, sodium, talc and flavor.
If your dog is prone to allergic reactions, the tablets are not the best as they include artificial flavors and colors.
Pepto Bismol Dosage for Dogs
If you’re planning to give your dog this medication, it’s a good idea to consult your vet and ask for the proper dosage. But overall, the standard dosage is 1 teaspoon of Pepto Bismol for every 10 pounds of the dog’s weight.
So if your dog weighs 25 pounds, you should give him 2 ½ teaspoons. With regards to frequency, you should repeat the dosage for 2 or 3 times. But if he’s not getting any better, consider taking him for a medical checkup.
When Should Dogs Not Take Pepto Bismol?
Even if it’s relatively safe for your pup to take this medication, there are specific conditions and instances that preclude its application. Avoid Pepto Bismol if your dog:
- Is allergic to one or both of the active ingredients
- Is pregnant or lactating
- Suffers from canine bleeding disorders
- Is taking medication that’s likely to interact with Pepto Bismol -- these include protein-bound drugs, some antibiotics, steroids and anti-inflammatories.
- Suffers from gastric ulcers. Your vet may prescribe Pepto Bismol to treat your dog’s gastric ulcers. However, this condition can also be exacerbated by the salicylate compound.
- Is on medication that contains salicylate
Alternative Solutions to Treat your Dog’s Stomach Upset
Figure Out What’s Causing It
Before you go to the pharmacy to buy your dog Pepto Bismol, establish why it’s happening in the first place. Identifying the specific cause of his digestive upset makes it easier to treat.
While there are many possible causes of this condition, the most probable one is their tendency to scavenge. Unfortunately, dogs are the sort of creatures that like to “consume first and ask questions later.” Their behavior differs significantly from cats, which are more picky eaters. When they consume things they shouldn’t, the consequence is an inflammation of their digestive tracts:
- An inflammation of the stomach will cause their muscles to contract, triggering nausea and vomiting.
- An inflammation of the intestines also causes their muscles to tighten, and this leads to diarrhea.
Other likely causes of an upset digestive system are as follows.
If your pup is infected by parasites such as hookworm, heartworm, whipworm, giardia and coccidia, they might start vomiting. The problem is that most of these parasites are microscopic, which makes it quite hard to identify them.
However, you should keep an eye out for any unusual changes in your pet because if the parasites are left untreated, they can cause life-threatening conditions.
Another reason why your dog might experience a digestive upset is because of a change in diet. If you want to introduce any new foods to his diet, you should do this gradually.
For instance, you can feed him the new product on a weekly basis and assess how he responds. You can then proceed to 2 or 3 times a week before you move to a daily schedule. However, if your pup experiences allergic reactions to the new food, you should not continue feeding it to him as it can lead to an upset stomach.
Additionally, you should adhere to these rules to mitigate the risk of your dog experiencing stomach upset:
- Give them a high-quality dog food. It should have a good balance of nutrients and be palatable.
- No matter how tempted you are, do not incorporate human food to a complete and balanced dog diet.
- Resist the temptation to over-feed them. Having lived with you for several years, your pet probably knows all the tricks he can use to convince you to feed them more. Be firm and say no to their “begging behavior.”
- Feed them at the same time. Even though irregular feeding schedules are not a direct cause of stomach upset, it’s good to be consistent. This helps to maintain your pup’s optimal body condition.
Viruses like parvo, distemper and corona can also cause your furry friend to suffer from gastrointestinal problems. Distemper and parvo, are particularly lethal so if you suspect any of the symptoms associated with these viral infections, consult your vet immediately.
If your dog is a wanderer, it could be that he ate something poisonous when he was roaming outdoors. But this is not the only way your pup can get poisoned. There are more dangerous items and products lurking in your home than you know. These include:
- Human medications like supplements and herbs
- Food products like chocolate, raisins and onions
- Houseplants like chamomile and aloe
- Cleaning products, paint, insecticides and more
Instigate a Brief Fast
The next thing you should do is to stop feeding your dog for the next couple of hours. While this might seem like an extreme move, it will help him in the long run. Ideally, fasting allows the digestive tract ample time to rest and recover from the inflammation.
At first, it was recommended that dogs with GI problems be fasted for a whole 24 hours. But recently, a shorter fast of about 12 hours has been found to be equally effective.
Try Ice Chips
If your dog is vomiting non-stop or suffering from diarrhea, you need to find a way to keep him hydrated. Unfortunately, giving dogs too much water can worsen both of these symptoms.
According to Kathy Backus, the DVM at Holistic Veterinary Services in Kaysville, ice chips are the perfect alternative to water. But, you still need to monitor dogs closely and assess whether they’re able to hold them down.
Try Bone Broth
If the ice chips aren’t working, you can try bone broth. This is a nice way to keep him hydrated while also helping to soothe his tummy. To prepare this broth, simmer meat (on the bone) and water in a pot. You can also add apple cider vinegar to this mixture.
When the meat separates from the bone, continue simmering the bones up to the point where their minerals and marrow are released in the water.
Start them on a Bland Diet
Once their digestive system recovers, you should give them a special bland diet.
But how can you tell that they are feeling better? Well, there are two main indications: one, they shouldn’t be experiencing any signs of vomiting. Secondly, the frequency of diarrhea should have diminished.
As for the special diet, it should contain very little amounts of fat. It should also be easy to digest and palatable. In fact, you should look for dog foods tailored to aid his recovery. You can opt for a “gastro-intestinal” type of diet or prepare a home-made version. Here’s a sample recipe:
- Boiled white rice
- Low-fat protein like chicken or lean hamburger
The rice should make up the largest portion (about 75%) because it acts as a binder. The meat is only included for the purpose of enticing your pup. Here are a few more points to keep in mind:
- If you opt for chicken, ensure the skin is taken off and that it doesn’t have any bones
- If you opt for the burger, ensure the meat is lean and that all the fat has been cooked out. This is because fat can worsen your dog’s stomach upset.
- Do not incorporate any spices, oils or fats to the food
The bland diet should be split among 3 to 4 meals each day until your pup starts feeling better. Only when you’re certain that the digestive upset has settled completely can you reintroduce their original diet. But remember to do this gradually.
When to Stop Playing Doctor
If you’ve tried every trick possible- the fasting, bland diet and OTC medications like Pepto Bismol, and the digestive upset persists, it’s time to take your dog to the vet.
Often, this means that he’s suffering from a more severe condition, which warrants a more complex approach. Some of the conditions that he could be suffering from are: intestinal parasites, viral infection, gastro-enteritis, pancreatitis, and intestinal blockage just to mention a few.
In some cases, there are other organs that could get affected like the liver and kidneys. So, it’s important that you schedule an appointment with your vet. During your first visit, provide all the details regarding the treatments that you’ve tried.
Pepto Bismol is great for treating digestive upset in your dog. Nonetheless, you should ask your vet whether it’s safe to administer the drug to your pet. If he gives you the green light, ensure you stick to the proper dosage. The right dosage is a teaspoon of medicine for every 10 pounds of weight.
If your dog doesn’t respond positively to Pepto Bismol, you can try other remedies like a bland diet, ice chips or bone broth.