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Bland Diet for Dogs: All You Need to Know

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  • A bland diet can help dogs with gastrointestinal problems including vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Most contain a simple protein, carbohydrate, and optional vegetables.
  • Before feeding a bland diet, talk to your veterinarian to rule out other medical problems.
  • Portion sizes depend on the size of your dog.
  • If symptoms do not improve after starting a bland diet, see your veterinarian.

Because vomiting and diarrhea are two of the most common reasons for veterinary visits, every pet parent should have a bland diet for dogs recipe handy. Not only do we want to minimize the amount of vomit and/or diarrhea in our home, we also want our pups to feel better. 

As soon as your dog shows signs of intestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea, not eating), remove food and let their stomach rest for 4-8 hours. Offer small amounts of water or ice chips hourly during the fasting period— if they drink too much, they are likely to start vomiting again. 

While your pet’s stomach is resting, you can start preparing a home cooked bland diet. A good recipe is easy to make, and often can help address the clinical signs you are seeing. You can also ask your veterinarian for a commercial bland diet recommendation if you don’t want to cook at home.

In this article, we will discuss the definition and elements of a bland diet and why certain ingredients are used when cooking one at home. We will also discuss bland diet considerations to help you make the best choices for your dog. 

What is a Bland Diet for Dogs?

A bland diet refers to a food given to a dog that is easily digestible (easily broken down and absorbed into the body). This diet is also called “bland” because it does not have any seasonings, spices, fiber, or fat added. It is designed to meet your dog’s caloric needs but not over-tax the digestive system while it is healing.

When to Use a Bland Diet for Dogs

Sick dog on the couch

Dogs with mild cases of intestinal upset, such as vomiting, diarrhea or inappetence (not wanting to eat), often improve when fed a bland diet. However, bland diets should not replace veterinary care. If your dog has bloody diarrhea, ongoing diarrhea, continual vomiting, and is not eating for more than one day or is acting lethargic, it’s important to make a veterinary appointment to rule out potentially serious health problems.

Ingredients in a Bland Diet for Dogs?

Rice as part of a bland diet

A bland diet is a combination of a few simple ingredients. The diet must contain a protein source and carbohydrate source. 

Bland diets for dogs typically consist of:

A low-fat protein. Examples include chicken, turkey, or lean ground beef. Sometimes low-fat cottage cheese is fed instead of meat. A protein source higher in fat is generally too heavy for pets with intestinal upset. High-fat proteins can make vomiting and diarrhea worse and can make dogs that are vomiting from pancreatitis very ill. 

A carbohydrate source. Classically, white rice is used because it is easy to digest and low in fiber. Alternative carbohydrate sources can include oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potato, or potato. 

A probiotic (optional). Balanced intestinal bacteria are incredibly important to our dog’s health. Supplementing dogs with a probiotic can help rebalance the intestinal tract and prevent the worsening of symptoms.

Things to Consider When Feeding a Bland Diet

Young puppy at the vet

A bland diet is generally an excellent first step for pets with intestinal upset (vomiting and/or diarrhea). However, sometimes a bland diet is not the correct choice.

There are many causes of intestinal upset, and some of them can be life threatening. If, for example, you witness your pet eat a sock, toy, rock, or other object, and they begin vomiting, the condition can quickly turn fatal. A bland diet will not help.

There are also organ diseases that can cause vomiting and other secondary medical complications. Pets suffering from significant medical conditions will likely eat little if any food, and will likely demonstrate low energy and enthusiasm. A pet who is not eating and exhibiting low energy should be seen by a veterinarian right away.  

A pet who continues to throw up their food after eight hours should be seen by their veterinarian. 

Diarrhea that does not improve with a bland diet after 24 hours likely needs additional medications to help stop the diarrhea. 

Young dogs with intestinal upset need special attention. Puppies get low blood sugar and dehydrated very quickly and their health can decline much more rapidly than adult dogs. If your dog is under 6 months of age, seek veterinary intervention for intestinal upset.

If your young dog is vomiting for more than four hours, has diarrhea for more than six hours, is eating less than normal or not eating and/or has low energy, they need to be seen by a veterinarian right away.

A bland diet is not complete and balanced. A complete and balanced diet has all of the vitamins and minerals a dog needs on a daily basis. The majority of commercially available dog foods are considered complete and balanced. 

Feeding a bland diet is safe on a short term-basis, but if fed too long, it can start to cause nutrient imbalances in a dog, resulting in illness, weight abnormalities, and an inability to protect the body from infectious diseases. 

If your pet needs to be on a bland diet for an extended period of time, the diet needs to be formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to prevent nutrient imbalances. There are also several dog food brands that produce and sell bland diets for dogs if you do not like to or want to cook.

Bland Diet for Dogs Recipe

Dog eating homemade bland diet

When cooking a bland diet for your dog at home, the meat should be boiled or cooked without any added butter, oils, or spices. 

You can use the options below to customize a bland diet for your dogs at home, using the recipes based on your dog’s body weight. 

Protein choices = White meat chicken or turkey with no skin, lean ground beef, venison, bison, (90% or above), low fat cottage cheese

Carbohydrate choices = White rice is preferred, can substitute rolled oatmeal, brown rice, potato or sweet potato

Ingredient20-lb dog40-lb dog60-lb dog80-lb dog
Protein1/2 cup2/3 cup3/4 cup1 cup
Carbohydrate1/2 cup2/3 cup3/4 cup1 cup

DISCLAIMER: Please discuss this recipe with your pet’s veterinarian before feeding it to your pet. Please do not feed your dog any ingredients that you know they are allergic to.

Cooking Directions

  1. Bake or boil your protein until cooked through. Cottage cheese is served raw. 
  2. Cook the carbohydrate of choice as directed on packaging. Boil, mash, or bake potatoes.
  3. Do not add any seasoning, butter, or other fats. 
  4. Combine protein source, carbohydrate source in an approximate 1:1 ratio.
  5. Stir ingredients together until well mixed.

Serving and Storage Instructions

Wait until the food is room temperature before serving.

Start by giving your dog a portion that is ¼ to ½ of their normal meal size to start. If they eat it and keep it down, then you can give a little more.

Store food in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days. 

Warm food to between room temperature and mildly-warm before feeding. Do not feed cold. If after warming, the food feels hot, allow it to cool before feeding your dog. 

Duration of a Bland Diet for Dogs

Continue feeding the bland diet for the next 3-7 days. If your pet is known to have a sensitive stomach, it may be wise to give this food for 5-7 days after symptoms clear. In either case, once symptoms resolve, then slowly transition them back to their normal food over a period of days by mixing regular food with a bland diet.

Within 24 hours of the first meal, you should see improvement. If you do not, then a veterinary exam is needed. In addition, if your pet stops having intestinal upset with a bland diet, but the vomiting and/or diarrhea reappear as you transition back to their normal diet, call your vet.