does canned dog food cause loose stools?

Every dog owner has lived through perplexing surges in diarrhea with their pets. It is often alarming and stressful to both the owner and the pet. When you see this happening, it does not necessarily mean that your dog is sick, but something has likely upset his stomach to a degree, and you are wondering…

Is canned dog food the cause of loose stool? No, canned dog food in itself is not the cause of loose stool. Multiple factors could contribute to this. If you are sure that this is the only thing that has changed in your dog’s life, it is likely to be the cause since the dog’s digestive system would have reacted to the change in diet. A closer investigation could perhaps give you a more precise answer. Read on for more information on your dog’s current state, and gain insight into their overall digestive health.

As with humans, the diet is critical for overall health, performance, and often psychological well-being. You love your dog, and therefore you want to feed them well. But, because of your absolute adoration for your pet, you want to treat them with canned food now and then. Or have you recently decided to switch diets completely? If this is the case, having an upset stomach for a while might be completely normal.

The main difference between canned and dry dog food is that canned food consists mainly of water (60 – 80%), while dry dog food has a moisture content of up to 12%. Canned food can therefore offer advantages in terms of fluid intake and can also benefit dogs that need body weight control. The higher water content can make your pet feel fuller more quickly, and it is lower in calories per volume. When it comes to loose stool, wet pet food has a considerably lower market share and can therefore not be the sole culprit to blame for diarrhea or runny stool. But, it might be that your pet is sensitive toward one or more ingredients included in canned food.

Some dogs have sensitive stomachs, while others will be able to stomach just about anything. Signs of a sensitive digestive system include frequent (and for no apparent reason) constipation, diarrhea, passing of gas, and a tight, painful, and often bloated abdomen. This can affect any pet at any age can also affect any breed. Other signs include nausea, loss of appetite, blood in the stool, and lack of movement after eating something specific that might have upset their stomach. To maintain a healthy digestive system, it is vital to feed your dog the right kinds of food. What might seem like a small change in your dog’s diet could cause them a great deal of unpleasantness.

Most common causes of loose stools in dogs

The most common cause of loose stools or runny tummy is the wrong food. Diarrhea is often associated with a shift in the microbiome, which can be caused by any change in their lives (as part of stress) or diet. This includes feeding ingredients that dogs are typically sensitive to, like dairy and avocado. It can also be caused by parasites, infections, allergies, or inflammatory bowel disease. Other causes include:

  • Dietary indiscretion or scavenging activities – in other words, your pet eats anything and everything they shouldn’t
  • Change in diet, i.e., from wet to dry or vice versa
  • Unusual foods: things that are not inherently bad for them, but foods that they have never had before or hardly ever eat, like scraps from the table, for example
  • Sensitivity to dog food ingredients like grains (gluten), soy, preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors
  • Poison, toxic exposure to heavy metals or drugs – immediately see your vet in this case
  • Trauma, i.e., foreign body ingestion, being hit by a car, GI tract twisting
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

How to introduce wet foods into your pet’s diet

If you would like to introduce wet food into your dog’s dry diet for whatever reason, make sure to do it by the spoonful, rather than a can at a time. This way, you can gradually introduce something new into your dog’s diet rather than overexposing them and causing an upset or runny stomach. If switching between canned food brands, a way to avoid or decrease the risk of sensitivity is to mix your previously used brand with your newly purchased one.

Feeding your dog foods that are easy to digest should help calm their stomachs. If you suspect your dog might have a particularly sensitive stomach, looking into probiotics (or probiotic yogurt) might be a good way to help normalize digestion and calm their stomachs. Some dog foods and treats will also have added probiotics as part of their formulation. It’s a good idea to consult your vet for the best options available to you. Another stomach calming option is to feed your dog one bland meal containing boiled chicken and rice. You could also include mashed pumpkin or mashed carrot. There are many additional benefits to feeding your dog fresh homemade food.

Large-scale dog food production often uses processing methods that might make it difficult for your dog to digest. Furthermore, the ingredients included in the processing and production of these kinds of foods are often undeclared and might cause sensitivity, or loose stool, for your dog. It is best to experiment with a raw, clean label or scientifically formulated canned food if your dog has reacted to one of the big group brands. One benefit canned food typically offers is that it is often formulated with less artificial and chemical preservatives because it can be processed at higher temperatures. Even so, your dog could be reacting to one or more of the included ingredients. However, note that nutritional content should be one of the main concerns when switching between diets.

What can I feed my dog to firm up his stool?

There are a variety of options available to try to help combat diarrhea. If your dog is not showing any symptoms besides loose stools, you can fast them for about 12 hours. If the loose stool has not subsided after that, feeding rice water (or rice, mashed pumpkin, and mashed carrots) will help calm their stomach and get their digestive system back to normal. Rice contains large amounts of probiotics and ads to a healthy gut microbiome. Just make sure you are using good-quality rice.

What causes loose stools in dogs?

The cause of loose stools varies widely and can be dependent on the dog’s environment or diet. The most common cause seems to be a dietary indiscretion, but it is often caused by a change in diet or sudden onset of food allergies.

Will wet food help my dog poop?

If your dog mostly eats dry food, wet food could assist in loosening your dog’s stool. If your dog is having a problem pooping or has constant constipation, giving them a little bit of wet food might help with pooping. To assist your dog in having regular bowel movements, always ensure that there is enough water around and that it contains adequate amounts of fiber.

Do dogs poop more on dry food?

You might realize a larger poop volume when switching from wet food to kibbles. Kibbles are typically 25 – 35 % digested, and therefore the remainder of the food will be excreted. The larger the size of the poop, the less food the dog is digesting. In other words, the remainder of the kibble is not suited to your dog’s digestive system and is therefore excreted as poop.

Whatever the cause of your dog’s current digestive upset, always ensure that freshwater is accessible to your pet to avoid dehydration. If your dog is in a current state of diarrhea, distilled water is preferred since high chlorine concentrations in water might disturb their gut microbiome even further. Also, when introducing wet food, make extra sure that the cans are not bloated, dented, or past the expiry date. And always make sure that you read the label to check ingredients your dog might be sensitive to. Avoid dog foods with statements like “meat” or “meat meal.” Unidentified meat typically means it is not a very good quality protein your dog is getting. These are often difficult to digest and might cause sensitivity. To play it safe, identify the ingredients your pets are sensitive to and avoid them at all costs. If your dog has frequent diarrhea, it is best to contact your veterinarian immediately.


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!