When your pooch starts to chow down on their supper, you might wonder how long it takes for a dog to digest food. Generally, dogs digest their food much quicker than we do. The simple answer is around 6 to 10 hours, but this depends on a number of factors including, but certainly not limited to, the type of food, how healthy your furry friend is, and what size they are. Understanding your pet’s digestive system can help you spot issues that might be causing them discomfort and prevent future digestive problems.
How is food digested by dogs?
The digestive period starts as soon as your dog takes a bite of food, and ends when they, well, eliminate the waste. Each component of the digestive tract plays a different role in the process with the ultimate goal of absorbing important nutrients to give your dog all of the energy and healthy nourishment they need.
Whether they’re carefully chewing on a treat or wolfing down a meal, digestion begins when your dog is breaking down food in their mouth. The food passively makes it way down the oesophagus and into the stomach, where the majority of digestion occurs.
In your dog’s stomach, hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes work together to break down most of the food. To mix the food with the acid and enzymes, the muscular walls of the stomach contract. Enzymes secreted by the pancreas aid digestion and work to control blood sugar, while the liver works to break down any toxins, as well as oils and fats.
Food then moves into the intestinal tract, entering the small intestine and then the large intestine. The small intestine’s primary job is to soak up nutrients and water into the bloodstream. Undigested food and dietary fibre move through the large intestine, also known as the colon, to form waste. Finally, your dog’s rectum stores the waste until it’s time to do their business outside.
Our dogs have a similar digestive structure to us humans, with the same organs generally performing the same functions. However for dogs, most of this digestion takes place in the stomach, while for humans, the small intestine is the star of our show. Dogs have more stomach acid than we do, making it easier for them to break down things we can’t even digest.
How long does it take a dog to digest food compared to humans?
From gobbling up their dinner to doing the potty dance, it doesn’t take long for a dog to digest food. On average, the entire process takes around 6 to 10 hours.
Of course, there are plenty of factors that affect this timeframe. Dog digestion depends on the type of food they’re eating, how old they are, their size, and health. We’ll get into how these elements play a role in digestion in a bit more detail below.
By comparison, it takes us humans around 24 to 72 hours to fully digest our food. It goes to show just how efficient our dogs can be!
How long does it take dogs to digest medicine?
If your dog has been prescribed medication by a vet, digestion time is typically much quicker. Oral medicine can be absorbed by your dog’s bloodstream in as little as 20-30 minutes. However, depending on the type of pill and what type of coating is around the medicine, it may take longer. Always follow the instructions provided with your dog’s prescription, as some types of medication need to be taken alongside food.
Factors that impact how long it takes dogs to digest food
No two dogs are alike, not even dogs of the same breed. How long it takes a dog to digest food really depends on a few key factors: their diet, breed size, age, and general health will all play a role in your dog’s digestion.
In the same way it takes us humans longer to digest certain foods, this is true for our canine buddies as well. Food with a higher moisture content will move through the digestive tract more quickly, so wet food will be digested faster than dry food. This is also true for food that has a higher protein content; grains will move more slowly through the digestive system than protein-based meals.
A small breed like a Pomeranian will digest food more quickly than, say, a Husky. After all, the food has a shorter distance to travel. Smaller dogs might take closer to 4 hours to fully digest food, whereas larger breeds may be closer to 15 hours.
If you find yourself picking up after your puppy quite frequently, you’re not imagining things. The age of your pooch has a lot to do with how long it takes a dog to digest food, so younger dogs are likely to need to use the garden more often. It takes puppies closer to 4 hours to digest food, whereas older dogs, whose digestive systems might not be quite as efficient as they used to be, may take closer to 10 hours to digest food. Feeding the best dog food for puppies also affects digestion time, as this food will be higher in digestible protein and fat.
And of course, your pet’s health plays a significant role in how long it takes for a dog to digest food. If your dog suffers from any gastrointestinal issues or immune disorders, this can slow digestion. However, if they’re in good health and eating normally, they’re likely to digest food at a normal rate.
Digestive problems in dogs
As much as we try to avoid it, there are a number of issues that can affect how long it takes a dog to digest food. If you notice your dog having difficulties going toilet or displaying any out-of-character drooling or eating habits, these could be signs of a digestive problem, such as:
- Acute gastroenteritis
Luckily, a trip to the vet’s office can have your pooch feeling much better in no time. For dogs with sensitive stomachs, feeding them natural food that is easily digestible can also help alleviate symptoms. Taking care of portion control is also important, as overfeeding your dog could trigger digestion problems.
It’s also possible that your dog’s digestive issues are down to an imbalance of bacteria in their gut. All dogs have good bacteria and microbes in their digestive tract, forming their microbiome, which helps with nutrient absorption and other bodily functions. But sometimes their microbiome can become unbalanced, causing bloating, gas and diarrhoea. Supplements and dog foods that are enriched with probiotics can help maintain a healthy gut.
What causes poor digestion in dogs?
Poor dog digestion can be caused by a number of things, from a sensitivity to certain ingredients or ingesting something toxic, to more serious problems such as viruses or chronic illnesses. Any of these issues can cause digestive issues.
Many of these issues have quite simple solutions, while others may need a more in-depth treatment plan. To find out the root cause of any digestive issues, speak with your vet.
How can you help your dog’s digestion
To make sure your pooch is at their best, there are a few simple things you can do every day to help promote healthy digestion. Generally, these involve encouraging a healthy lifestyle and watching out for any sudden changes in your dog.
Feeding healthy food
It’s no surprise that feeding your dog healthy food will do wonders for their digestion. Complete meals that include all of the protein, vitamins, and fibre that your dog needs through quality ingredients will help them thrive. At James Wellbeloved™, we only make naturally healthy food that puts your pet’s well-being first.
Consider grain-free food
For dogs with tummies that seem to be more sensitive, consider feeding them grain free dog food. While dogs can have allergies and sensitivities to all sorts of foods, such as dairy, chicken, or beef, grains can occasionally cause adverse reactions as well. If this is the case, grain-free food will help alleviate symptoms. If it turns out your dog is allergic to something else, your vet will be able to advise you on how to adapt their diet.
Keep your dog hydrated
Water, of course, is immensely important to ensuring smooth digestion and your furry friend’s overall health. If your dog eats a primarily dry food diet, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on their water intake. How much dogs should drink will depend on a few factors such as size, climate, and exercise level, but generally they should have about an ounce of water for every pound they weigh.
Give your dog plenty of exercise
Your dog’s activity level will affect their digestion and metabolism. Dogs that are active and use more energy will have more efficient digestion to keep up with their pace. On the other hand, dogs that aren’t as active may experience slower digestion. Keeping your dog active by going for walks and having plenty of playtime is a great way to ensure they get the exercise that their body needs. Just be careful to avoid feeding them directly before or after exercise, as this can cause indigestion.
What about supplements?
If you or your vet suspects that your dog might be lacking certain vitamins or minerals, then you might want to consider adding supplements to their diet. For the most part, if your dog is eating a complete and balanced meal every day such as James Wellbeloved™, then their food should be providing them with all the nutrients they need. However, a daily supplement may improve their digestion. Speak to your vet about which supplements your dog could benefit from, and get approval before adding something new to their diet.
In short, how long it takes for a dog to digest food will be slightly different for each dog. For smaller or younger dogs, you can expect them to digest their meals within 4-6 hours. Larger or older dogs may take a bit longer, up to about 10 hours. With healthy habits and a balanced diet, you can help ensure your dog’s digestion is a smooth process.
If you notice any changes in your dog’s eating or toilet habits, it’s always a good idea to check in with your vet to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on.
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