Once in a while, dogs can experience episodes of mild digestive distress where they exhibit signs such as bloating or diarrhea. Bland diets for dogs might work to eliminate these symptoms and they are often recommended by veterinarians.
Read on to find out everything you should know about them, from what they are and what they consist of to what potential issues they themselves can cause.
What Is a Bland Diet?
Bland diets can look differently depending on what your dog is experiencing.
For some pets, especially those that have irritable bowel syndrome or any other health condition that makes them pass explosive stools on occasion, a bland diet might consist of a protein like chicken breast and a carbohydrate like plain boiled rice.
The main purpose of bland diets is eliminating whatever in your dog’s diet that might have caused the issue.
This can range from too much fat (and if you tend to feed your pet table scraps, they’re probably having too much of it anyway) to too much salt or sugar.
Both the protein and the carb need to be cooked as plainly as possible. You should not add any spices or seasonings to the recipe.
When Is a Bland Diet Recommended by Vets?
Veterinarians tend to advise pet owners to switch to a bland diet for dogs for a couple of days up to a week whenever a digestive imbalance is determined.
Some dogs might have colitis (chronic inflammation of the colon) or the irritable bowel syndrome that we have previously mentioned, so they might require bland diets more regularly compared to others.
If your dog has developed gastroenteritis for other reasons besides dietary indiscretions, during the treatment, you should not give them potentially dangerous food.
Dogs are not supposed to have mayo, fried chicken, or any other kind of (albeit delicious) human snack that might cause even further imbalance in their gut and make it harder for the medication to do its job.
Here are some other possibilities that can lead to the vet recommending a bland diet:
- Pancreatitis (especially caused by food rich in fat)
- Sudden changes in your dog’s diet
- Recovery from surgery
- Acid reflux
- Diarrhea caused by stress
Can a Bland Diet Cause Health Issues in Dogs?
Every dog is different, which means that your pet might react in a unique manner to having their diet completely changed all of a sudden.
Most of the potential issues caused by bland diets are related to the digestive tract, so the dog might either experience diarrhea again or on the other hand, might develop constipation as a result of having too much of the carb source.
Let’s not forget that cooked chicken breast and boiled white rice do not have all the nutrients that a dog should get from their food, even the commercial varieties that you might feed to your pet.
Dogs also need minerals and vitamins that are present in fresh veggies and sometimes, even food, not to mention that chicken and rice do not contain healthy fiber that can help your pet pass normal stools.
Can You Buy a Bland Diet Instead of Cooking the Food?
If you do not have the time or you aren’t feeling prepared to deal with the effort of meal planning your dog’s diet for the whole week, there are commercial options you can purchase these days.
Most are made by highly known pet food manufacturing companies such as Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Purina Pro Plan, but there are others you can look into.
The reason we’re saying this is that these brands are known to sometimes use artificial colors in their recipes, along with other preservatives, and some of these substances might be carcinogenic — therefore leading to your dog being diagnosed with cancer in their senior years.
Your vet can also recommend a specific diet based on your dog’s symptoms and clinical history.
A good idea would be to also contact a certified veterinary nutritionist just to ask them what brand they recommend or what ingredients you should steer clear of when preparing your dog’s bland diet.
How Long to Feed a Dog a Bland Diet
Your veterinarian will advise you exactly how long you should continue giving your dog a completely bland diet.
However, in most cases, dogs recover the health of their digestive tract at least in part after being fed such a diet for a couple of days.
For others, it might take longer, especially those that are also under treatment for various digestive imbalances, whether infections or anything else.
Make sure you keep your dog well hydrated during this period as otherwise, they will most likely develop constipation. And when a pet does this, a constipation episode is usually followed by another one consisting of diarrhea.
Your vet might recommend that beginning with the third day, you add some pumpkin into the mix of chicken and rice just to supply your pet with some healthy fiber.
Are There Any Ways to Support Your Dog’s Digestion?
There are ways to ensure that your dog’s digestion remains as healthy and balanced as possible.
The most common one these days is adding probiotics to your pet’s diet. These products come in various shapes and forms, so they can be powders, tablets, or even liquid probiotics.
The reason probiotics are so good for dogs (and any other animals, for that matter) is that they sustain the normal microbiota present in your pet’s gut.
This ensures a healthy immune system and also makes it difficult, if not impossible, for pathogens such as bacteria or fungi (Candida) to develop inside the intestinal tract.
Also, for dogs that are not lactose-intolerant, adding a bit of goat yogurt into their diets every now and then can do much of the same thing.
The same goes for fermented foods such as pickles (like sauerkraut or kimchi), although these might be a no-go because of their salt content.
Bland diets can prove their worth in situations where dogs experience digestive imbalances as a result of dietary indiscretions or even gastroenteritis.
They should not be fed to dogs for long periods of time because they are not nutritionally complete and might otherwise lead to other health complications.
Talk to your vet if you feel that a bland diet might be a solution for your pet.
- Bland Diet, Sara-Bethany S. Weir & Hossein Akhondi, StatPearls Publishing, 2022
- Investigation of the efficacy of a dietetic food in the management of chronic enteropathies in dogs, Camilla Tornqvist-Johnsen et al, Vet Rec, 2020
- Oral administration of compound probiotics improved canine feed intake, weight gain, immunity and intestinal microbiota, Haiyan Xu et al, Frontiers Immunology, 2019