How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Digest Food – 7 Interesting Facts
Diet and nutrition is an important aspect for maintaining a dog’s good health and achieving a longer life. Just like how humans give importance to what we eat, we also have to be conscious of what food we give to our dogs.
Here we have compiled seven interesting facts that help you understand better how a dog’s digestive system works and will determine how long does it take for a dog to digest food.
Dogs have been good companions to humans for such a long time that they’ve become a part of our families. As part of the family, their mealtime has been part of our daily routines as well.
But have you ever thought if there is a difference in a dog’s digestion compared to our own, and how they digest food? Do you know how long it takes for a dog to digest food? Let’s dig deeper and learn more!
7 Interesting Facts About Dog Digestion
Dogs Digest Food Three Times Faster than Humans
Humans need only about 4-5 hours to empty the stomach. However, to completely transport food from mouth to the anus, it will take 24 to 72 hours depending on the food you ate. So in comparison, how long does it take for a dog to digest food?
On average, a dog can digest food within 6 to 8 hours. Although depending on the dog size and breed, it can be as short as 4 hours or as long as 12 hours.
Digestion Varies from Dog to Dog
Every dog is unique, and so is the time for their digestion. There are a lot of things to consider to determine how long it takes for a dog to digest food. Here are some of them:
Breed and Size
Smaller dogs digest their food quicker since they have a smaller digestive system and digestive tract than larger dogs. They only need as short as 4 hours to digest food while bigger breeds need at least 6 to 8 hours.
If you’ve noticed, puppies tend to go to the bathroom more often than older dogs. This is because a puppy’s digestive process will digest food faster than an adult dog or senior dog. The reason for this is age-related. As dogs grow older, their metabolism becomes slower. Muscle is one of the main driving forces for metabolism, and as dogs get old, their muscle mass decreases, contributing to a slower metabolism.
Another factor to consider is the physical growth of dogs as they age. Puppies, just like small dogs, have smaller intestinal tracts compared to older and large breed dogs. So, food travels faster in a puppy’s digestive system.
Dogs that exercise more use up their stored energy faster. That also means that an active dog’s digestive system will work much faster. Therefore, a much more active dog needs to take in more food in a shorter span compared to a dog with a sedentary lifestyle.
Knowing how active your dog is helpful to reduce the chances of obesity. Differences in the digestion length due to exercise can further be related to age since older dogs exercise less than younger ones. Less exercise means less muscle mass and an ultimately slower metabolism.
Teeth are not for Chewing
Although historically, dogs came from a family of carnivores, they’ve adapted and gradually become omnivorous. Due to their carnivorous ancestry, their jaws have been designed for biting and ripping rather than chewing.
They cannot move their jaw side to side just like humans do for grinding food. They can only move their jaw in an up and down manner. This is also the reason why dogs salivate too much.
Saliva acts as a lubricant for easier food passage through the dog’s mouth into the esophagus in the digestion process. Dog’s saliva also has an antibacterial ability to kill pathogens.
A Dog’s Stomach is very Acidic
How long does it take for a dog to digest food also depends on their stomach environment. The highly acidic environment inside the dog’s stomach makes it possible to digest raw meat and even raw bones into soft and digestible material. A dog’s stomach can have a pH from 1 to 2. The very low pH of a dog’s stomach helps in killing pathogenic bacteria that are common in raw meat such as salmonella and E Coli.
Foods stay longer in dog’s stomachs than their intestines. In humans, food only stays in the stomach for 30% of the time and 70% in the intestinal tract. This is the exact opposite for dogs. Foods in a dog’s body will stay 70% of the time in a dog’s stomach and only 30% on their intestinal tract. That is the reason why it takes longer for dogs to feel hungry. They can go without eating for up to 12 hours or even more.
Unfortunately, dogs may also experience heartburn when their stomach has been emptied for a longer period. Heartburn is that feeling of burning in the chest due to rising stomach acid. And since dogs have a more acidic stomach, they are very prone to experiencing digestive problems like this.
Although it is tempting to treat your dogs with the antacid that you use, it is best to consult your vet when you notice signs that your dog is experiencing digestive issues like heartburn.
The Small Intestine makes up 25% of the Digestive System
The small intestine is where nutrients from the food are extracted and absorbed by the dog’s body. It is composed of three parts: duodenum, jejunum, and ileum.
The duodenum is where additional digestive enzymes are added to the semi-digested matter called chyme to further break down food. These enzymes also reduce the acidity of the chyme.
On the other hand, the jejunum is where most nutrients are absorbed. The jejunum contains microvilli, or tiny finger-like tentacles, that aid in the movement and absorption of the nutrients from the digested food.
Lastly, the ileum absorbs the remaining nutrients not absorbed in both the duodenum and jejunum. It also connects the small intestine with the large intestine.
A dog’s small intestine is still shorter than a human’s even if it comprises 25% of its entire digestive system. A dog’s small intestine has a length of 1.8 to 4.8 meters, while humans can reach up to 7 meters. This means that a dog’s digestive system has a smaller capacity and less time to absorb all the nutrients from the food they eat.
It is important to note that the large intestine is where water absorption happens. It is also the end portion of the intestinal tract. Its length is only about 0.6 meters. Digested food stays here before it comes out as poop.
Some Foods are Harder to Digest
To answer the question how long does it take for a dog to digest food would also depend on the pet food eaten. Not all dog food is the same. Since dogs are naturally carnivorous, they easily digest high protein, low-fat foods like raw meat. Raw meat has natural enzymes that further help digestion. On the other hand, it is harder for dogs to digest plant-based food such as grains and foods high in fiber.
Carbohydrates in a dog’s diet usually come from starch, sugar, and fiber. Examples of these are brown rice, potatoes, oats, and grains. Although fiber is generally indigestible for dogs, it still helps in better bowel movement and keeping the digestive system healthy. Starch and sugar, on the other hand, are broken down into glucose that is absorbed by the dog’s body and transformed into a source of energy.
While high-protein foods are relevant for dogs, they still need their daily dose of carbohydrates to equip them with the energy they require for an active lifestyle. Dogs usually need about 20% of carbohydrates in their diet to remain active and healthy. Some dogs have sensitive stomachs and choosing the right food for them is also important.
The Poop says a lot
Is poop important in determining how long does it take for a dog to digest food?
Dog poop mostly consists of water as well as undigested matter including fiber, fats, and carbohydrates. And of course, some bacteria too! Dogs tend to defecate one to two times per day. The amount of poop also depends on the amount of food intake. If they would do more, it means that they have eaten more than necessary or have ingested too many fillers, which is indigestible matter.
There are different ways to determine whether your dog’s poop is healthy or not. Dog poops should be firm, log-shaped, and can easily be picked up. Whenever your dog’s poop is soggy or wet, it can be a sign of diarrhea. Conversely, your dog is experiencing constipation when the poop is dry, separated, and pebble-like.
Dog poops should also be chocolate brown in color. If their poop is green, then your dog may have eaten too much grass. Green poop may further indicate a gallbladder issue. It is always best to ask your vet when you see something out of the ordinary in your dog’s poop as it may show signs of medical issues that need treatment.
In summary, there are a lot of factors that can affect how long dogs digest food.
So how long does it take for a dog to digest food? The easiest answer is 4 hours for small dogs and puppies and 6-8 hours for older and bigger dogs.
Although dogs can be so close to us, they are still different than humans and have different needs. Your dog’s health is very important and understanding how they digest food helps you know how to better feed them.