How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest Food
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Although dogs are omnivores, they can and will eat just about anything. However, your dog’s digestive system cannot break down and utilize everything. A dog’s digestive system functions more efficiently with a diet of meat proteins and in 8 to 10 hours should digest. If your dog’s meal is made up of a variety of vegetable, grains and proteins, it should vacate the stomach entirely in 12 hours after eating.
In this article, we will give you an overview of exactly how your dog’s digestive system works, and what factors can influence their digestion.
What Factors Affect Digestion in Dogs
- Age – Age is a big factor when it comes to your dog’s gastrointestinal health. Puppies digestive systems are just developing which means they need smaller meals and more frequent bathroom breaks. They also need more protein than older ones to help them grow. There is also a difference between adult dogs and senior dogs when it comes to nutrition. Senior dogs have a slower metabolism as they age and which means they require about 20% less calories than a growing puppy.
- Breed – A dog’s breed and genetics also affect how their digestive system will work. Certain breeds, like the German Shepherd, are known to have gastrointestinal issues and sensitivities, while other breeds are disposed to food allergies. Dogs with food allergies often display it with diarrhea, vomiting and itchy skin. Their digestive systems cannot handle certain ingredients in common dog foods like chicken, beef, or corn.
- Size – The size of your dog can be a factor when it comes to nutrition and digestion. For example, it may take less time for a Chihuahua to digest a meal when compared to a Great Dane.
- Diet – Different kinds of foods digest at different rates. For example, high protein food will take less time to digest than a grain-based meal. A high fiber food will produce increased absorption of water into the GI tract, and result in more poop deposits.
- Health conditions – Health and medical issues can also affect the digestive processes in dogs. If your dog is diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) he will show symptoms of weight loss, diarrhea, and extreme hunger. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency is caused by a reduced production of digestive enzymes by the pancreas. It can be treated with special diets and medications that contain digestive enzymes.
- Activity level – Exercise can greatly affect the digestive process in your dog. Basically, the more energy your dog uses, the faster his body will use food to pass it through the intestinal tract. Obviously, an athletic dog will burn more calories than a couch potato. Your dog’s energy input should match their output and you want to offer your active dog the necessary nutrients and calories needed to maintain a healthy weight
- Food allergies – As mentioned above, food allergies maybe one of the most common influences affecting your dog’s digestive system. Your pup’s immune system overreacts and produces antibodies to fight allergens. These food allergens are usually related to dairy products, beef, lamb, chicken, soy, or gluten. Symptoms of a food allergy usually involve itchy skin, diarrhea, and vomiting.
How Long Does It Take for Your Dog’s Stomach to Empty?
Fewer nutrients pass through a dog’s intestinal tract during the digestive process, which means digestion takes longer. The rate at which dogs digest their food depends on several things, but the average is between 8 and 10 hours. It can, however, take as little as 4 hours, or as much as 12 hours depending on the factors discussed previously.
As humans, we keep 30% of ingesta (nutrition received from food and other substances) in the stomach and 70% in the intestinal passage. In dogs, it is quite opposite and 70% of ingesta is kept in the stomach and only 30% is retained in the intestinal tract. This makes dogs more susceptible to digestive issues and can lead to a more intense reaction to their gut contents.
Because dogs spend between 8 and 10 hours digesting a singular meal, having a routine for feedings, spread out, will help regulate your dog’s bowel and promote greater gut health. As humans, we have been taught to eat three meals a day, but most dogs need just two regular-sized meals.
It should be noted that larger dogs will produce softer, moister feces but in smaller breeds loose stools could be a warning sign indicating a viral infection of the digestive tract.
Signs of Digestive Problems in Your Dog
Signs of digestive system problems can include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, excess gas, straining when passing stools or blood or mucus in the stools. These could be as a result of digestive problems in your dog, such as gastroenteritis, colitis, stress diarrhea, or constipation.
Dogs appetites can be inconstant, but if you notice it changing drastically or for a continuous amount of time, it could indicate an underlying health problem. In reality, 10% of vet visits are related to gastrointestinal diseases, so it is fairly common.
As a dog owner you should get acquainted with your dog’s digestive habits, which includes how often they go, and the consistency of their feces. As unspectacular as that sounds you will be in a good place to know if there is something uncharacteristic going on with your pup.
If you do notice your dog exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned, you should seek help from your veterinarian. More often than not, it will be a simple adjustment to your dog’s diet.
What if My Dog Eats Something He Can Not Digest?
Every once in a while, your dog may eat something they should not have and that they cannot digest.
You may or may not witness your dog eating something they shouldn’t. Sometimes there are clear signs, but many times there aren’t. Here are some signs and symptoms to watch for if your dog may have ingested a foreign object.
- Pawing at mouth
- Choking or gagging
- Refusal to eat
- Licking the lips repeatedly
- Lethargy or restlessness
- Distended or painful abdomen
- Inability to defecate
In the best-case scenario, your pup might eliminate the object undigested, but in some cases, it might get stuck and cause an obstruction.
If your dog has diarrhea, is going more than usual these can also be signs that something is wrong.
If you notice any of the above signs and symptoms, be sure to contact your vet. Treat the ingestion of a foreign object as crucial, if not emergency situation. An object passed from the stomach will often move into the intestinal tract, causing a dangerous blockage and could require surgery.
There are many factors that determine how long it takes for a dog to digest food, but a general rule of thumb is somewhere between 8 and 10 hours from the period of ingestion. Depending on the breed and the food your dog eats, it’s not uncommon for digestion to take longer. If your dog displays episodes of constipation, especially in combination with other signs, like vomiting and refusing to eat, it may indicate a concerning health problem and you should contact your vet.