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How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest Food?

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As pet parents, one concern you may have different from what food is best for your dog is how long the food they eat stays in their stomach. Sometimes they just eat and next they’re using the toilet so you wonder if the food just goes through them or what. It takes about 6 to 8 hours for your dog’s food to get completely digested and the time is dependent on some factors we will be explaining. It is worth understanding your dogs’ digestive system as it plays a role in maintaining their overall health. Keep reading to understand what goes on in your dog’s stomach.

The Digestion Process

Digestion is the breaking down of food materials in the body into digestible substances that can be absorbed by the wall of the intestines and guts. 

Digestion does not just take place in the stomach. The process happens in the mouth, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum up till it comes out as poop from the anus.

What Happens When My Dog’s Food Digest?

Digestion starts from the moment your dog chews her food. The food is broken down into smaller pieces by the teeth and the saliva in the mouth and then moves down through the esophagus to the stomach. In the stomach, the food is further broken down with the help of an acid called hydrochloric acid and Natural enzymes into absorbable nutrients. The acid in the stomach of your furry friend is more acidic than that in the human stomach which helps them digest things like bones.

This digested food moves further into the small intestine where absorption of nutrients and water into the bloodstream takes place. This is where the nutritional value of the food you feed your dog is absorbed by their body. Whatever is left now has little or no nutrients and is pushed into the large intestine where more water is removed from it and sent to the rectum. It sits here for a while until it is big enough to trigger the rectum and then she’ll poop. This is how they get rid of waste.

How Long Does Digestion Take?

Normally, the entire digestive process from the mouth to the anus takes between 6 to 8 hours if your dog has a healthy gut. It may even be less for smaller dogs or more for bigger dogs. These discrepancies could result from the fact that there are different sizes of dogs and this affects the size of their intestine as well. This means food might spend a long time in the intestine of some and spend lesser time in those of others. Another thing that could cause this is the type of food. Eating digestible food especially fresh food containing lots of fruits, vegetables, and fibers will improve the digestion process.

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Although digestion follows a sequence, there are factors that affect how long it takes a dog to digest food of which the biggest factor is his gut health. The duration differs due to these factors and we will be explaining some right away.

Factors That Affect The Digestion Time

  • Gut Health

The gut harbors a lot of bacteria and microorganisms. This environment is called a microbiome. These organisms perform a lot of activities like fighting against diseases and boosting immunity, and digestion. A microbiome that is healthy has a complex of different bacteria, each performing a different task all working for the purpose of maintaining good health hence, the time it takes for your dog to digest food depends largely on the type of bacteria they have living in their gut. 

  • The Food Your Dog Eats

The kind of food your dog eats and the amount can influence the duration of digestion. Dry foods are hard and contain little or no water because water has been lost during the process of drying and shaping them into kibbles. This makes the food seem heavy when they get to the stomach and digestion may last between 8 to 10 hours. Wet foods contain enough water and are easily digestible as they can move easily in the gut. It takes about 4 to 6 hours for wet food to get digested. These two types of foods are processed and that is why they may take so long to get digested. 

Raw natural food is the most digestible. They contain fresh natural ingredients like fruits and fibers that can accelerate the process of digestion. Live enzymes are present in raw foods and they also aid in the whole digestion process which implies that raw foods will take even lesser time than wet food to digest.

The contents of the food also affect digestion. Foods with higher carbs content will take longer time to digest compared to one containing more protein. This is because their digestive system is designed to digest more proteins than carbs and that is why we say dogs are more carnivores than omnivores.

  • Health Conditions
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Just as it is with humans to have digestive disorders accompanied by so many others when we are sick, your furry friend can suffer from such too. If your dog gets overweight or underweight as well, it can also affect digestion and absorption of nutrients because the body is not in its right state.

Some health conditions that can influence their digestion include malabsorption diseases like EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) or IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease) as well as a leaky gut syndrome. Dogs can also suffer from intestinal blockage (when your dog eats an indigestible object that gets stuck in the digestive tract), cancer, ulcers, parvovirus, gastritis, and colitis.

  • Breed And Size

Another factor that can influence the time your dog takes to digest food is their breed and size. Smaller dogs tend to eat more and empty their GI frequently. This means they take less time to digest. One reason could be that their GI are actually small in size compared to larger breeds and the time it takes the food to travel down their digestive system is small too.

Large breeds may eat less, but their digestion takes longer, about 8 to 10 hours.

It’s believed that different breeds may also digest food at different speeds, though different studies on breed and digestion have yielded varying results. 

  • Age 

It may not sound so good but as you get used to your furry friend and wish for them to stay healthy and happy with you for a long time, they become less energetic as they grow older and their metabolism slows down. Just like the rest of their body, their digestive system becomes less efficient. This implies that puppies and smaller dogs may digest food faster while older or senior dogs may take more time to digest small amounts of food.

  • Hydration 

Water helps digestion by softening the food for easy chewing, breaking down, and making it easily absorbable by the body. It increases the secretion of enzymes and helps the acid break down the food in the stomach. When your dog’s poop is super strong, it could make pooping a difficult experience but this can be helped by helping your dog stay hydrated as water softens their stool.

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As mentioned, digestion can be affected by a lot of factors and there are some signs and symptoms that you can watch out for to know if your dog has some digestive issues or not. Some symptoms may include:

Symptoms Of Digestive Issues In Dogs

  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting 
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating and gas
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Fever
  • Abdominal enlargement
  • Restlessness

If you notice any of the symptoms, book an appointment with your vet immediately to figure out what the problem is and help your dog relieve their discomfort.

How Can I Promote My Dog’s Digestive Health?

  • Hydration

As mentioned before, water makes the whole digestion process easier and smoother. Picture it as an engine grinding any food substance, say beans. The engine gets stiff at some point and requires water to assist the grinding process again. This is exactly what happens in your dog’s gut. Water also aids in enzyme secretion and accelerates the absorption of nutrients in the intestine. 

  • Exercise

Physical activities like running, taking a walk, or a game of catch can keep your dog active and increase their heart rate, muscle contraction, blood flow, and metabolism. It gets their bowel moving and a better bowel movement implies food movement through the digestive tract. During exercise, they get rid of excess calories and fats which is not good for their health and reduces the risk of becoming overweight. It also improves their skin health in addition to their digestive system.

  • A Healthy Diet And Digestibility Of The Food 

Eating healthy food is most important for your dog’s digestive health. This diet should contain the right amount of carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, probiotics and prebiotics, and most importantly, fiber. A fresh raw diet made with wholesome ingredients will provide your dog with essential nutrients and fiber that will be easily digestible. 

Digestibility means how much of the food’s nutritional value can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The foods do not just have to be packed with nutrients alone but should be digestible. The recommended digestibility of food should be above 88% for it to be considered exceptionally quality.

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