Our pets are part of our family – when we get up in the morning and get ready for the day, our pets often start their day. Pets, especially dogs, like the predictability of a schedule, so if they know you usually get up at 6:00 AM, they will want you up at 6:00 AM, even on the weekend.
Although a day in our dog’s life is not as complicated as our own human lives, some parts of the day are similar. We wake up, we eat, we go about our day, we eat again in the evening, and we settle in for the night, with a few trips outdoors (or to the bathroom in our case) to relieve themselves throughout the day.
Dogs, like people, digest food relatively easily; we both have a mouth, stomach, intestine, and bowel digestive system that processes food.
So how long does it take for a dog to digest food? Is it the same as a human? Let’s break it down a dog’s digestive system and figure out how it works, how long it takes, and what we can do as a pet owner to support our dog’s digestive health.
How Long Does it Take a Dog to Digest Food?
The Basics of a Dog’s Digestive System
Although not a complicated system, a dog’s digestion happens similarly to a human digestive system. In that system are several organs, processes, and then evacuation that allows the dog to gather the nutrition that their bodies need from their food.
It is essential to understand the type of dog you own, as some dogs have different nutritional requirements. Think about it – does it make sense that a 100-pound Bernese Mountain dog needs the same nutrition as a 5-pound Chihuahua? Of course not.
So, let’s break down the digestive system, how it works, and what we can do as responsible pet owners to support our dog’s health with proper nutrition.
Dogs, like humans, start their digestive process in their mouths. As they are chewing up and gulping their food down, the mouth secretes saliva, which is the initial step in breaking down food. As we all know, dogs do not spend much time chewing their food, which is why their saliva, or better known – dog drool, is different than humans.
Dogs have adapted to that speed eating behavior by, along with the chewing, having plenty of salivae ready to begin breaking down their food. From the mouth and throat (also known as the esophagus), the food is moved down to the next level of digestion, the stomach.
The stomach is the next stop once your dog has eaten (or inhaled) their food. A dog’s stomach has many acids to help break down the large chunks of food that they eat. Think of what your dog eats on any given day – kibble, raw meat, bones, sticks, dirt – along with the water they drink, all gets broken down in the stomach.
Depending on the kind of food that you feed your dog or what food your dog has stolen from the kitchen, it can take some time to be small enough for the body to break down the nutrition. The stomach’s job is to create a paste, also known as chyme, to start moving into the next digestion stage, the intestines.
The intestines have an essential job – to take the chewed up, broken down bits that were then transitioned into chyme, and to remove the nutritional blocks available. Although we do not think much about how their digestion works, dogs need their intestines, just like people, to gather the nutrients and absorb them into the body.
Once the chyme has moved through the small intestine into the larger intestine, the leftover waste is ready to move out of the body.
Once the usable nutrition has been removed from the food, the last part of the digestive process is evacuated, or what we call pooping. Once the liquid chyme has been broken down more, anything useful removed and absorbed into the system to give the dog energy, new bacteria are added to form the “waste” created into a poop.
And we all know how that comes out.
Factors That Affect Digestion For Dogs
Many things can affect your dog’s digestion. First and foremost, pay attention to how much your dog poops. Does it seem like what goes in is the same amount that comes out? It could be that there is not a lot of nutrition value in your dog food brand.
There are many differing opinions on the best type of dog food, but it is not a one-stop-shop situation. Many different factors can impact the kind of food that you should feed your dog – the dog’s size, health factors they may have, how old they are, and how much exercise your dog gets, all aspects of their nutritional needs.
Note: According to PetMD it will generally take 6-8 hours for digestion of food in dogs!
How Can I Improve My Dog’s Digestion?
If you have some concerns about your dog’s digestion, there are a few simple things you can do to help.
- More exercise will help move things along in your dog’s digestive system. Even adding a short walk each day will help move items along and have the bonus of improving your health as well!
- If you add a few raw vegetables to your dog’s daily food, this will also add fiber, which helps digestion. Be sure to ask your vet before adding too many raw foods, as some can increase the risk of urinary tract problems or health issues. Although typically harmless, it is always good to ask some questions, particularly if you have an older dog.
- Consult your vet to see if adding vitamins or minerals to your dog’s food regimen improves digestion. Sometimes things like fish oil or Omega fatty acids added to a dog’s diet can not only improve digestion but add shine to their coat as well.
Our dogs are important members of the family. We want to be sure that they are healthy and happy, and part of that is ensuring that they get proper nutrition and exercise. Like people, animals need a healthy diet that will have the right food for their lives, and with adequate nutrition and exercise, your dog should live a full life.
If you are ever concerned about your dog’s nutritional or digestive health, be sure to connect with your veterinarian to ask questions about how you can be sure you are providing your dog with what they need.