How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest Food?

Dog Health Recent April 4, 2024
How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest Food?
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How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest Food?

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How Long Does It Take A Dog To Digest Food?

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 in 8 to 10 hours.

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 significantly impacts a dog’s gastrointestinal health, with puppies needing smaller meals and frequent bathroom breaks. They also require more protein for growth. Senior dogs have a slower metabolism, requiring 20% fewer calories than growing puppies. There is no significant difference in nutrition between adult and senior dogs
  • Breed: Dog breed and genetics influence their digestive system, with certain breeds like the German Shepherd experiencing issues and sensitivities while others are susceptible to food allergies. These dogs often display symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and itchy skin due to their inability to handle common dog foods.
  • 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 diet 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 may be 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, with 70% of ingesta kept in the stomach and only 30% 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 the result of digestive problems in your dog, such as gastroenteritis, colitis, stress diarrhea, or constipation.

Dogs appetites can be inconstant, but if you notice them changing drastically or for a continuous period 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 include 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
  • Drooling
  • Choking or gagging
  • Refusal to eat
  • Vomiting
  • 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 and 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 that could require surgery.

Final Thoughts

Dog digestion time is typically 8–10 hours after ingestion, depending on breed and food. Constipation episodes, combined with vomiting and refusal to eat, may indicate a health issue and should be reported to the vet. Constipation, especially when combined with other signs, may indicate a potential health issue.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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