Dogs just love to eat. A lot of them are even capable of munching on anything their paws can get on. This makes most dog owners wonder what’s going on inside their dog’s stomach or GI tract. A few might even ask: how long does it take for a dog to digest food?
If this is you, you’ve made the right decision by clicking on this page. Besides telling you the length of time it takes for a dog to digest food, we’re also here to give you all the must-know facts about your dog’s digestive system, including the factors that affect your dog’s digestion time, the common canine digestive problems, and more.
A Quick Look At How A Dog’s Digestive System Work
The canine digestive system plays an important function. Besides digesting or breaking down food, the dog’s digestive system is also in charge of nutrient absorption, motility, or the movement of food in the dog’s digestive tract, fluid and electrolyte regulation, and elimination of waste.
Like the human digestive system, the parts that make up the dog digestive system are pretty much the same. This consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, rectum, and anus. Also included are the liver and pancreas.
The digestive process starts from the moment food enters its mouth and your dog starts to chew it. The enzymes in the saliva help break down the food. From thereon, the food passes through the esophagus and goes into the stomach where food is further broken down with the help of gastric juices. Partially digested food is stored here.
From there, the digested food stored in the stomach then goes through the intestines where essential nutrients are turned into absorbable nutrients that go into your dog’s blood system.
The bile from the gallbladder helps neutralize any remaining stomach acid and bind the food, while the digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas help break down the food even further.
After that, anything that remains (think undigested food) is pushed towards the end of the gastrointestinal tract. Later on, it is removed from the dog’s body as – you guessed it right- dog poop.
How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Digest Food?
Now that you know what goes on during your dog’s digestive cycle, let’s find out how long it takes for a dog to digest food.
Compared to humans that take 20 to 30 hours to digest food, a dog’s digestion process takes an average of 6-8 hours. Interestingly, the dog digestive tract and dog digestion process are the shortest among all mammals.
Of course, this can vary. At times, the digestive process can take up to 12 hours depending on various factors.
6 Significant Factors That Affect Canine Digestion Time
The length of time it takes for a dog to digest food will depend on the following factors.
The type of dog food your dog eats will definitely affect how fast or slow dogs digest food.
Food digestibility, which refers to the amount of absorbable nutrients, increases when your dog’s food is high in protein. The processing method the food goes through will also affect its digestibility.
Processed foods, generally, take longer to digest than raw food. Raw meat, after all, is the most natural and highly digestible food for dogs since it contains live enzymes that aid digestion.
If we compare wet and dry food, the digestive process of dry dog food is longer (around 8 to 10 hours) than wet food which takes around 4 to 6 hours.
Your dog’s size is determined by its dog breed. As such, your dog’s breed will also affect your dog’s digestive process.
In general, large dog breeds need a longer time to digest compared to small dogs. Besides that, some dog breeds are prone to gastrointestinal tract problems. This includes Labrador Retrievers, Collies, Great Danes, and German Shepherds.
Like human babies, puppies poop more frequently than a full-grown adult dog. Also, older dogs tend to have fewer potty visits than middle-aged adult dogs since metabolism slows down as dogs grow older.
A dog’s immune system and a dog’s health as a whole are closely linked to the status of the dog’s digestive health.
Health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) can impact your dog’s gut health negatively. This, in turn, will affect the time it takes for your dog’s digestive cycle to finish.
Since your dog’s digestive tract does all the work, any problems your dog experiences in any of its parts – from the mouth to the intestinal tract – may result in improper digestion or a delay in your dog’s digestion process.
Besides your dog’s food intake, the amount of water your dog drinks also matters. Water not only helps make chewing easier by softening up the food, but it also helps soften up your dog’s stool. This makes number #2 a lot easier for dogs.
Physical activity promotes gut health. If your dog is highly active, you can expect your dog to digest food much faster since the increase in activity levels stimulates the intestinal tract to speed up digestion.
Common Dog Digestion Problems
Even though your dog seems capable of chewing and swallowing everything, it can still have problems digesting its food properly. That’s because your dog’s tummy is not as indestructible as you think.
The fact is, that many dogs experience digestion problems. Digestive problems can be infectious or noninfectious. Common digestion problems in dogs include the following:
- Gastrointestinal blockage
- Gastric ulcer
- Food intolerance and allergies
Since GI problems are a common occurrence in the canine world, you’d want to watch out for the following signs. If your dog exhibits any of the symptoms mentioned below, seek veterinary advice right away.
- Abdominal pain
- Bloat or gas
- Weight loss
My Dog Poops Right After Eating, Is This Normal?
You might think that your dog digests its food at lightning speed since your dog poops right after eating, but this isn’t the case and there’s no need to fret. Your dog is not pooping what it just ate. Instead, your dog, most likely, eliminated the waste from whatever they ate hours ago.
So why does this happen right after eating?
You can consider this as a gastrocolic reflex. The stretch in your dog’s stomach, which is a result of your dog eating, stimulates the movement of your dog’s large intestines. And you know what happens next.
What To Do To Nurture Your Dog’s Digestive Health
As a loving dog owner, you’d want to ensure that your dog’s digestive system is in tip-top shape. After all, healthy digestion ensures that your puppy's body is getting all the nutrients it needs to function properly.
So how can you do this? Here are a few things you can do to promote your Fido’s digestive health.
Keep an eye on your dog’s weight. Yes, dogs enjoy eating. But this doesn’t mean that you should let them eat everything they want. To keep your dog at a healthy weight, it’s best to practice portion control. Saving treats for special occasions can also help curb obesity.
Monitor your dog’s pooping habits. Your dog’s poop reflects the status of your dog’s gut health. As such, it's good practice to check your dog’s stool regularly. This includes checking its color, size, and consistency. You’d also want to monitor how frequent your dog poops.
Any sign of irregularity in terms of your dog’s poop schedule or how the poop looks may indicate that something is off. Constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than 2 days is reason enough to visit the vet.
Keep your dog hydrated. As mentioned, your dog’s water intake also plays a role in digestion. So make sure your dog has access to clean water 24 hours a day.
Give your dog a highly-digestible and nutrient-dense diet. At the end of the day, the status of your dog’s gut health is determined by your dog’s diet.
Feeding your dog the best dog food – something that is easy to digest and loaded with nutrients – will not only aid digestion but will also nurture your dog’s overall health and improve your dog’s quality of l
Food For Thought
The length of time it takes for a dog to digest its food varies. After all, each dog is unique. Some may take longer than 10 hours while others would only need less than 5 hours. On average, though, it takes dogs 6-8 hours to process food.
Regardless, as a fur parent, you’re responsible for whatever goes into your dog’s mouth. If you wish your dog to have a happy, long, and healthy life, ensuring that your dog is getting all the nutrition it needs through its diet is a MUST.
Remember, the best dog food does not need to be the most expensive dog food on the market. Also, the best food for one dog isn’t always the best option for other dogs.
If your dog's current food isn’t working, consider changing it to something that is highly digestible and high in protein and other nutrients. Always check the labels and ingredient list and look for foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics. If you want to get a list of the best dog foods that provide complete nutrition, check out this link.
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