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How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Digest Food?

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Tim Rhodes

Have you ever wondered how long does it take for a dog to digest food?

Dogs are man’s best friends whose loyalty is unwavering.

The bond that you create with your fur best friend is more potent than anything else.

You and your dog-friend are almost doing the same things together – you eat, sleep, and relax in the arms of each other.

While you’re enjoying your favorite chicken or pizza, you subconsciously give your dog a part of your meal.

But have you ever stopped and wondered what happens to the food from the moment it enters your paw-paw’s mouth until it goes out?

Food digestion in humans takes place for about six to eight hours, but is it the same for your dog?

While it’s fun to give our fur friends their favorite snacks all the time, it is our responsibility to make sure they receive the right amount of food and nutrition.

Table of Contents

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Digest Food?

This article will learn how our dog’s digestive system works and its importance for their well-being.

The article will also discuss the possible signs of dog indigestion and how to treat it.

The Ins and Outs of Your Dog’s Digestive Process

Having healthy digestion is a good sign that your fur-buddy is happy and healthy.

Here’s a fun fact!

Did you know that the moment the food enters your mouth, your digestive system is already running?

The act of chewing helps break down the food for easy digestion, while the saliva breaks it down further for easy nutrient absorption and usage.

Although the canine’s digestive system is far more complicated than ours, dogs also start digestion once the food enters the mouth.

The process of digestion involves a lot of organs and fluids.

Still, the four most essential pit stops along the route are the mouth (oral cavity) down to the esophagus, the stomach and its components, the small and large intestines, and the colon.

Your dog’s digestive system starts from the oral cavity, which includes the salivary glands, tongue, and teeth; then it goes to the esophagus, down to the stomach, and slides to the intestines then poof!

Out it goes as waste removal.

Can you imagine how your paw-paw’s digestive system works now?

Let’s dig in!

We’ll explore closely how each major part works.

The Cave where it begins – Oral Cavity

The oral cavity is like housing for your teeth, tongue, and salivary glands.

The oral cavity’s most important job is to prepare the food for swallowing by chewing and moistening the food.

Before this begins, your fur babies or buddies should eat the right amount of food for the digestive process to start.

A good appetite helps your dogs to consume and finish their food quickly.

Your dog’s teeth are the ones that exert effort first by grabbing the food using the front teeth and then pulling it towards the back of the mouth for the molars to grind it into smaller chunks.

As your dog takes the first bite, chewing begins in the mouth.

Observe your dog as its saliva slowly lubricates the food, which goes down further.

Have you noticed the thick, slimy saliva of your dogs?

A dog’s saliva doesn’t possess any digestive enzymes; however, it is still essential in digestion as it helps to move the food down to the esophagus.

The esophagus, the tube-like passageway, transports the food from the oral cavity to the stomach.

The thick and slimy saliva of your dogs makes the process of food sliding down to the esophagus easy.

Thanks to your dog’s saliva, his throat muscles are working flawlessly.

The Cement Mixer of the Body – Stomach

The stomach is like a cement mixer; it has strong muscular walls to hold, grind, and mix the food inside.

In humans, our stomachs don’t hold up our food for a very long time; typically, it only takes about an hour on average before it goes to the next stop.

For our dogs, their food can stay in their stomach for a whopping twelve hours!

Can you imagine being bloated for twelve hours?

That’s why it is essential to be responsible for giving them just the right amount of food in a day to keep up their healthy digestion.

The stomach is the most critical pit stop in digestion because this is where the magic begins!

For our dogs, the stomach is like a giant power bar storage where they can get food and convert it into energy when they need to.

This kind of storage capability came from the dog’s ancestors, the wolves known for going through long periods without eating.

Our dogs don’t necessarily need to store large amounts of food unless you plan to go on an adventure into the woods.

But knowing our dogs can store energy gives us peace of mind that they won’t starve to death when we go out to do errands.

Did you know that our dogs produce 100 times the amount of acid than that of our stomachs?

Our dog’s stomach is so acidic that it can even digest things like bone and raw meat!

Now, imagine a mashed potato or a Gerber baby food.

That’s how the food’s consistency will look like after being processed in the stomach with the help of their acids and enzymes.

Their mushy food is in perfect condition and can now be transported to the twisted sisters, the intestines.

The Twisted Sisters – Small and Large Intestines

After the stomach has done an excellent job, tiny bits of food left will go to the intestines.

The intestines consist of small and large parts, the same for us and our paw-pals.

The real digestion begins in the small intestine, where the isolation of nutrients that are beneficial for our dog’s body happens.

For our dog’s digestive system, the real rock star is the small intestine, and its backup singers are the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.

The duodenum’s job is to continue to break down the food by introducing chemicals from the liver and pancreas to reduce the level of the food chunk’s acidity.

After reducing the acidity, the food chunk is now ready to be extracted from its nutrients for absorption.

The backup singer that has the most crucial support system is the jejunum.

The jejunum is the most extensive part of the small intestine.

In this long and winding road, our dog’s body can now absorb the mushy food that is now converted into a nutrient mush! Hooray!

One of the essential digestion purposes is nutrient absorption, and it is possible because of the small intestine and its co-workers.

Jejunum has a tentacles-like probe that hangs below its surface, and these stick to the passing food particles to absorb their useful nutrients into the bloodstream.

As the food particles pass by and slowly become leftover wastes, these pass by the last section of the small intestine, the ileum.

The ileum is considered the last part of the nutrient absorption process.

The ileum thoroughly checks any leftover food for whatever nutrients remain.

And finally, the leftover waste is now passed down to the large intestine.

The leftover waste is now fecal matter.

The Trash Bin – Colon 

Anything that passes through that has no nutritional value or can’t be broken down further is a leftover waste and goes directly to the large intestine.

One of the large intestine’s primary goals is to absorb any remaining water or moisture found in the leftover food.

In our dogs, the large intestine is the beginning of their colon.

Once the food is passed down to the ileum’s large intestine, the waste begins to solidify, form, and take shape.

The large intestine has two colons – the ascending and descending colon.

The last segment of the colon is the rectum.

The rectum is the trash bin of our dog’s body.

Our dog’s stool is stored in the rectum until there is enough to cause a physiologic reaction that prompts our dogs to defecate.

When nature calls, all the digestive processes that took place will finally see their output!

Pooping time for our fur babies or buddies!

However, are you having trouble cleaning up your massive pile of dog poop?

Have you ever wondered why a dog produced so much poop regardless of how much food your dog eats?

It’s because of how little actual nutrients are present in the food!

Nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, and fats that are essential to your dog’s daily activities are itty bitty tiny in proportion compared to the amount of dog food you’re giving. 

That’s why it’s essential to give them a properly balanced diet to help them absorb more nutrients and help them be at the top of their game. 

The Common Factors that Affect Dog’s Digestion

There are about 360 breeds under the canine species.

These breeds are differentiated and characterized by variance in size and weight.

A Chihuahua is lighter and smaller compared to a Great Dane.

We can easily spot these physical differences with our naked eyes. Therefore, there is a possibility of physiologic differences among species, including their digestive processes.

Different studies have pointed out that there is a difference in fecal characteristics of other breeds fed the same diet.

Knowing your dog’s digestive anatomy and process key to understanding how your dog digests its food.

However, there are still factors that affect how long it takes for your paw-pal to digest his food.

Let’s start exploring them!

Size and Age Matters

A growing puppy, compared to a mature adult dog, has different nutritional needs.

Dietary requirements should be well taken care of to ensure the health of our dogs.

Size is one of the most important factors to consider determining the amount of time it takes for our dog to digest its food.

Your young puppy needs to consume and digest food more often compared to your fully grown adult dog.

Newborn puppies are also required to consume a more nutrient-rich diet for their healthy growth.

A nutrient-rich diet tends to have a faster digestive lead time; hence, more pooping time with short intervals in between for your puppies compared to your adult dogs.

Here’s an amazing fact!

Your dog’s digestive tract stretches three times longer than his body!

It is a fantastic example of how your dog’s size affects its digestion time.

The smaller the breed, the shorter the digestive tract. Hence, the faster the food will go from your dog’s mouth to its destination.

A whopping 120-pound dog can take a longer time digesting its food compared to your 10-pound fur baby.

Knowing your dog’s breed will give you an idea of how big he will get and how often you should feed and walk your dog.

For us, age is just a number.

But for our dogs, their age is almost always the determining factor in every activity they do.

Age consideration is the missing piece for good digestion.

As your dog grows older, its metabolism slows down, and its digestion process becomes slower.

With these two factors in mind, we now know that the larger and older your dog is, the longer the digestion of food occurs.

Exercise or Extra Fries?

We like you to move it!

Yes, you heard that right.

You and your dog need to hit the treadmill continually, or just a simple exercise routine will do.

Exercise is an essential factor for your good health as well as your dog’s.

We’ve learned earlier that our dog has ample power bar storage, and this storage supplies them with the energy they need to keep them running.

The more energy your dog uses, the faster his body will respond by converting the food stored into energy to match the physical activities’ output.

Anything that is stored for too long can be spoiled, and no one wants lousy food.

The same thing goes for your dog’s stored food; it is not meant to be kept forever.

A sedentary lifestyle is a no-go for your dog.

They need to use their food as caloric fuel and burn them by doing some physical activities.

Knowing your dog’s age and size will help you decide what physical activities or exercises they can do to keep them in good shape.

And it is also important to remember that exercising right after eating can cause indigestion for both you and your fur pal.

Food is The Best Medicine

Food is a double-edged sword that can either help you be healthy nor can it push you down the unhealthy hill.

Different kinds of dietary meal plans are digested at different speeds.

Check the label of your dog’s food pack and look for the ingredients and nutritional value list.

Any food rich in protein will be digested more than food with large amounts of grains.

Your dog can digest protein-rich foods faster because high caloric contents fuel their active lifestyle.

When determining which food to give to your dogs, it is essential to know the difference between dry and wet foods.

Dry foods tend to have high grain-based ingredients.

Most wet canned foods are high in protein and calorie content.

Wet canned foods tend to be digested faster compared to dry foods.

When feeding your fur friends, the critical thing to remember is always to consider your dog’s dietary needs based on his age, breed, size, and physical activities.

Well-planned and well-balanced diet meals are keys to maintaining your dog’s digestive system healthy. 

The Biggest Dog Digestion Myths, Debunked

The modern era offers the power of the internet.

However, not everything on the internet is right!

Web browsing and social media platforms offer many tips, tricks, and myths about your dog and how to feed them the right way.

Unfortunately, there are more wrongs than right found on these platform sites.

Today, we will be debunking the most common myths about dog food and digestion.

 “High-protein diets cause kidney failure.”

This myth originated from the idea that high-level protein has been linked to dogs’ kidney failure in the past.

It is just a mere result of poor-quality food manufacturing.

A high-protein diet is right for your dog’s digestion, as well as essential in keeping your dog’s overall health in the top rank.

Dog foods with high protein sources produce fewer waste products; hence, a naturally better choice for your dog and the environment.

When buying high-protein food packs for your dogs, it is essential to check the label.

Avoid food packs that use high-protein plant ingredients such as soy and corn.

Chicken or lamb meal is the way to go!

Animal meat’s protein as the primary protein source is the way to ensure your dog is eating the diet meal nature intended.

“Dogs don’t get heartburn.”

 A dog’s digestive system works like ours, except for the fact that it can easily digest bones.

Dogs can get indigestion also; hence dogs can get heartburns too!

Although your dog possesses a massive amount of acid, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he is not susceptible to indigestions.

“Raw meat is the best diet for dogs.”

In theory, this may sound good if you know how to prepare it the right way.

BUT! This kind of diet is dangerous because of its unbalanced nutrient content.

Feeding your precious dog raw meat may result in a lack of calcium and other nutrients.

The risk of harmful bacteria and parasites can’t be ignored.

Your dog might catch salmonella when you feed him raw meat.

“Dogs chew a lot.”

Do you remember when your dog was still a puppy?

Do you also remember all the chewing and biting and ripping incidents he caused?

This kind of behavior makes people think that dogs are fond of chewing. Hence, it is quickly assumed that dogs are such strong chewers and even bones are not safe.

On the contrary, dogs hardly chew as they use their teeth for ripping and tearing their food.

Your dog’s saliva is more than enough for them to swallow their food smoothly without them chewing it thoroughly.

Your dog’s biting behavior is likely due to the teething stage, where its teeth are slowly erupting.

“Dogs should avoid cholesterol.”

Your doctor might tell you to avoid high cholesterol foods, but it’s not the same for your dogs.

Dogs are so unique that cholesterol can’t penetrate their hearts!

Cholesterol has no impact on your dog’s health because its digestive system can accommodate and digest animal fat. 

The Canine Indigestion

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to be experiencing some digestive problems recently when you’ve been giving the same amount and type of food for the past months or years?

Our dogs’ diet might never change, but they are highly sensitive to gastric distress.

When we experience indigestion, we can easily solve it with some over the counter medication, however, for our dogs, it’s not as simple as that.

When our dogs experience tummy aches or they’re uncomfortable, they can’t speak up about it.

Instead, they would whimper or release silent cries for help.

So today, we will be discussing how to recognize your dog’s potential indigestion and how to treat it.

Signs and Symptoms 

  • Sudden loss of appetite and unwillingness to eat
  • Weight loss
  • Discomfort during or after eating
  • Vomiting or frequent burping
  • Hacking while eating
  • Whining or howling while eating
  • Inactivity or lethargy
  • Bad breath
  • Excess gas
  • Excessive drooling

How does Dog Indigestion happen?

A series of digestive problems can cause indigestion.

Acid reflux is one of the most common disorders your dog might experience.

Having a malfunctioning barrier muscle between your dog’s esophagus and stomach can cause stomach fluid to go up into your dog’s esophagus.

The stomach acid in your dog’s esophagus causes tissue scarring and tenderness of the throat.

Your dog becomes uneasy and tends to eat faster, which causes more indigestion that leads to more acid going up.

The more your dog is in distress, the further he is at risk.

Treatment for Dog Indigestion

While there’s no over the counter medication for your dog’s indigestion, there are dog-approved antacids that you can get for your fur buddies.

If you catch your dog’s indigestion early, chances are they can receive proper treatment to relieve their pain.

The best thing to do is to seek immediate consultation with your veterinarian if you notice something unusual with your dog.

Don’t try to experiment with different remedies you haven’t done before, because it might cause more harm.

Dietary triggers can cause some indigestion.

Giving an unbalanced meal can cause stomach distress for your dogs.

Give your dog a bowl of ice chips instead of water, especially when they’re throwing up or having diarrhea.

Sometimes all we can do is wait.

Our dogs are fond of putting stuff in their mouths, and it can result in stomach distress.

If your dog seems to be experiencing a digestive problem, avoid feeding for 12 to 24 hours not to aggravate their stomach.

Prevention for Dog Indigestion

Prevention is always better than cure.

Give your dog a low acid diet to help them digest it easily.

Human foods such as boiled chicken and other veggies like broccoli and pumpkin are suitable dietary nutrients for your dog.

Always keep meals proportioning in mind.

It is better to break up mealtimes over the day than giving your dog’s meal for the day in one go. 

Final Thoughts

How long does it take for a dog to digest food?

The answer is it depends.

On average, it would take about six to eight hours for food to pass through the digestive system.

However, for your dog, several factors contribute to your dog’s digestion time.

Your dog’s digestion time is dependent on its breed, age, size, and health conditions.

But the most crucial key reason that determines how long it takes for your dog to digest food is the food itself.

If you have anything you’d like to share about your dog’s digestion, feel free to write in the comments below.

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