Bland dog diet is a diet that is easy to digest. It is also soft and easy on both the mouth and the stomach. Vets often recommend a bland dog diet as the first response to an upset stomach that results in diarrhea. Although they're called "bland," this isn't a proper medical term that means something specific; if anything, bland refers to the simplicity of the diet, which consists of a single protein and a single carbohydrate, with nothing else added for flavor or texture.
Bland diets are low in fat and fiber, the two things that could be affecting the consistency of the stool. As a result, bland diets often produce quick results, helping harden stools and slowing down the production of feces — an excellent solution in the case of diarrhea.
Bland diets are not meant to be used for treating serious or chronic digestive issues, as they don't provide adequate and balanced nutrition for long-term health care. However, they can help as a quick stabilizer if your dog has diarrhea, either waiting until medication kicks in or as a quick solution for minor stomach upsets.
Bland diets can also serve as a good emergency food until you can get your hands on commercial gastrointestinal-friendly diets, which have to be ordered through your vet or online.
As mentioned before, bland diets are not meant to be used for the long term but can be a quick emergency option if your pup ate something that didn't agree with him and his tummy is now paying for it.
If diarrhea lasts more than two days, you should talk to your veterinarian to rule out a more serious gastrointestinal issue and discuss a better diet. While dogs suffering from gastrointestinal upset might vomit, don't use a bland diet if your dogs vomit more than once. This could indicate a more severe problem that requires immediate veterinarian care.
This diet is also not meant to treat lasting issues with loose stools. Only feed a bland diet if the loose stools are a recent development and your dog's feces usually have a normal consistency. If the loose stools or diarrhea are still present for 2-3 days on this diet, it's time to see a vet. You can take a look at our article A Super Guide to Your Dog's Poop: Frequency, Color, State, Smell & More to get a better idea of what normal stools look like.
Above all, pay attention to your dog's behavior before you start feeding this diet. A mild gastrointestinal issue shouldn't affect your dog's energy levels, and he should still be alert and playful most of the time. However, if you see a significant change in behavior, this might be more serious than just gastrointestinal (GI) trouble and require medication.
Ongoing vomiting and diarrhea could be a sign of everything from poisoning to infections to an intestinal blockage. Conditions such as kidney failure and even cancer can also cause gastrointestinal distress. If you notice significant changes in your dog's life that go beyond a little tummy trouble, it's important to follow up with your vet for medical tests and treatment.
Bland diets aren't medical diets. There's no scientific formulation behind them, and they aren't meant to be used with dogs with underlying or chronic medical conditions without the prior approval of their vet. While prescription hepatic, renal or gastrointestinal diets have been specially formulated to provide balanced nutrition for animals with a particular health problem, basic bland diets have not. So they are not meant to be used long term, and they don't provide true therapeutic help.
After a few days, your dog will either have to start transitioning back to his regular diet or will need a prescription diet provided by the vet. Do not keep your pup on a bland diet for longer than three or four days. If your dog has a food allergy or chronic intestinal or digestive issues, skip the bland diet and head to your vet as soon as diarrhea appears.
The bland diet consists of a single starchy carbohydrate and a single lean protein. This usually translates to a mix of boiled white rice and boiled chicken with no skin or bones. The rice should be very well cooked (even slightly overcooked until it's very, very soft. Chicken should be defatted before cooking and also well cooked (no pink meat visible anywhere). Aim for a ratio of 2 cups of cooked rice to ½ cup of chicken.
Eggs whites, low-fat cottage cheese and lean beef, are acceptable substitutions for chicken if your dog has an allergy or is simply not a fan of chicken. Boiled potatoes can be used in place of rice, as can pumpkin, oatmeal or pasta. If you use anything canned, make sure there's no added sodium. Always peel and boil anything you're feeding until very tender. Don't add any kind of seasonings to the final mix.
When boiling chicken, always use a colander at the end to catch any fat that might be floating in the water. This will reduce the fat content in the final mix. You can cook enough at a time to feed your dog for a maximum of 48 hours, storing the unused amount in the fridge.
Ideally, you should feed the same amount of calories using a bland diet as your dog usually eats. You can calculate that by looking at the information on the label of your dog's usual food and then estimate the calories of the meal you're preparing with chicken and rice.
Then divide the daily amount into four portions and feed every 6 hours. Smaller portions are easier to digest and gentler on the digestive system than feeding one or two larger meals. Make sure you're not feeding any treats or anything else while your dog is on a bland diet.
After your dog's stools return to a normal consistency, it's time to transition back to the regular diet. This needs to be done slowly and gradually, or you risk upsetting his stomach. Once you're ready for the transition, start by replacing 25% of the bland diet with your dog's usual food. Feed that for a couple of days and if your dog is doing well, add an additional 25% for a few more days. Continue this way until your dog is 100% back to this usual diet.
Re-introduce treats slowly over the course of several days. If going back to the usual diet results in diarrhea returning, it's time to talk to your vet. Your dog might need to switch to a gentler diet or one specially designed for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Or maybe the food you've been feeding is too high in protein or carbs or fat, and your dog needs a better-balanced approach to keep his tummy in top shape.
If your dog is currently experiencing tummy trouble, stick to a simple, basic bland diet until things get back to normal. However, you might want to consider switching to a fresh diet in the future. Clean diets made with wholesome fresh ingredients are much less likely to cause gastrointestinal issues as they don't contain additives, chemicals or artificial ingredients that can break havoc in your dog's digestive system — especially if he's sensitive.
Fresh food is more digestible, more easily absorbed and filled with higher-quality ingredients. For dogs with a sensitive stomach, eating a diet without chemicals and added preservatives can help prevent future GI upsets. You can read more about this in our article about the benefits of fresh dog food and why the right fresh food that considers your dog's individual needs is key to a healthier gut.
At Cola's Kitchen, we pride ourselves on being able to offer tasty meals based on each dog's individual needs and any unique conditions that might apply. In doing so, we provide your dog with all the required nutrients they need through a truly complete, well-balanced, and individualized recipe.