Dog Digestive System: Understanding How Dogs Digest Food

Dog Digestive System: Understanding How Dogs Digest Food

Barbara Mary Hanly

When it comes to our dog’s bodily systems, the digestive system plays a fundamental role in ensuring they absorb all the nutrients they need to live a long and happy life. Unlike the cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal system, the digestive system is the only one majorly impacted by what our furry friends have in their diets. 

From the mouth to the intestine, every part of our dog’s digestive system is essential in maintaining health and well-being. Whether it is breaking down carbohydrates to create energy or absorbing key vitamins and minerals for healthy growth, maintaining our dog’s digestive system can help ensure their bodies are working exactly as they should. 

To help understand just how important our dog’s digestion is, read below about how you can help maintain a happy and healthy digestion for your dog. 

Overview of the Dog’s Digestive System

Made up of several major organs, the dog’s digestive system starts from the very moment they open their mouths to ingest food. Responsible for both the intake of calories and energy and removal of waste and toxins, the digestive system is vital in ensuring waste is correctly removed from the body leaving only nutrients to support cardiovascular, brain, joint and skin health amongst much more. 

Wondering about the role each organ plays in your dog’s digestion. Here’s everything you need to know about your dog’s digestive system.


Unlike us humans, dogs don’t produce amylase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down food in the digestive process. As we chew food, the amylase in our saliva breaks down the food before entering our stomachs. As dog’s don’t produce this enzyme, chewing is not necessary for digestion hence you may notice that your furry friend gulping down their food. This ensures that food reaches the stomach quicker where digestion truly begins. 


The oesophagus is a muscular tube that carries food and liquid from the mouth down to the stomach. Often when food is too cold, too hot or difficult to swallow do we notice discomfort in our oesophagus and the organ most associated with acid reflux in both us and our pets. 

The Stomach

When food enters our dog’s stomachs, digestion truly begins. Containing stomach acid 100 times stronger than ours, their stomachs can digest high levels of meat and even bone matter much better than our own. 

Once food enters the dog’s stomach, three vital enzymes are produced that break down food into amino acids to support your dog’s health and well-being. These enzymes are:

  • Pepsinogen
  • Trypsin
  • Chymotrypsin

Gastric lipase is also produced in the stomach aiding the breakdown of fats in the stomach.

The Intestines

After digesting the food, they have consumed, the mushy liquid created from the stomach passes through the small intestine where it then absorbs the nutrients from the food digested and leaves behind waste matter. The large intestine then pushes this waste matter through the body which is then expelled as stools through the rectum and anus. 

Taking just 8 hours for digestion, our dog’s have the shortest digestive time of any other living mammal. 

During digestion, the pancreas is also responsible for producing hormones:

  • Insulin – which aids in the absorption of glucose from the blood into the liver, fat and skeletal muscle cells. 
  • Glucagon – this acts as a special type of messenger that communicates to the liver to release sugar. 
  • Amylin is then created to help control appetite and stomach emptying. 

 How Dogs Digest Food

Just like us humans, our dogs eat a variety of foods throughout their lifetime each with their own digestive processes. Usually, our dogs are fed a dry kibble or wet diet comprised of meat, carbohydrates, and vegetables to support their health and wellbeing. 

Wet Food

Containing a higher water content than dry kibble, wet food is easier and quicker for our dogs to digest and enters our dog’s stomachs in a matter of moments. Stomachs acids then break down the wet food and nutrients are absorbed into the blood system and transported around the body. 

With its higher water content, it passes through the intestines much quicker than dry food and often creates stools much softer than other foods. 

Dry Food

With its hard and crunchy exterior, dogs need to break down dry food in their mouths before it enters the oesophagus and stomach. Containing more carbohydrates than wet food, dry food is sometimes harder to digest and takes longer than wet food to pass through the digestive system. After nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, stools are formed which are often harder and more fully formed than dog’s on wet diet. 

Fruit & Vegetables

For dogs who may get a little extra TLC in their diets such as fresh fruit and vegetables, digestion can differ dependent on the ingredients they eat. Fruit and veggies rich in fibre like sweet potatoes, carrots, berries and apples are easy for dogs to digest and pass through the digestive system much easier than ingredients like grains such as wheat and rice. 

Effects on PH Level

PH Levels refer to the amount of acidity in the blood and stomach acid. The PH scale ranges from 0-14 with 7 being the ideal point where the stomach is able to digest beneficial bacteria and absorb nutrients more efficiently. Balancing PH levels in your dog’s stomach can aid in the prevention of gastrointestinal upset which can be responsible for serious health conditions. 

As dog’s digest dry food, the PH levels in the stomach are around a 2 which prolonged exposure can lead to problems in the stomach and other organs. However, adding fresh ingredients and even topping your pet’s food with ingredients like fish can help reduce the acidity in the stomach. 

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Dog Digestive System

One of the primary ways to support your dog’s digestive system is through their diet. Maintaining a healthy and natural diet can support their digestive functions helping to reduce the likelihood of gastrointestinal problems like excessive flatulence, bloating, vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Supporting a Healthy Diet

Feeding food and treats that are rich in fibre can help regulate bowel movements and aid in problems caused from either constipation or diarrhoea. Grain-free alternatives are also highly recommended as their absence of carbohydrates makes them easier to digest and safer for sensitive tummies. 

Here at Soopa, our range of healthy bites and dental chews are designed with your dog’s digestion in mind and made with nothing more than 100% natural, human-grade, and kind on tummy ingredients. Packed with fruit and vegetables rich in nutrients and fibre, our treats have been proven to reduce digestive discomfort helping to keep stomachs working exactly as they should. 

Ensure Regular Intake of Water

There is nothing more important in a dog’s diet than water. Helping to support the function of every vital organ in their body maintaining you’re their daily intake of water can help keep their guts in tip top shape. Lack of hydration can slow down the digestive process leading to problems such as severe constipation which can force toxins to stay in the body leaving our dogs feeling a little worse for wear. 

Regular water intake keeps things moving around the body allowing waste products to be removed in a timely and easy fashion. 

Consult your Vet

When it comes to our furry friends, nothing should ever be left to chance. If you begin to notice any changes in your dog’s digestion such as:

  • Lack or increased appetite
  • Difficult swallowing
  • Reflux or vomiting
  • Excessive diarrhoea 

Then you must seek veterinary support right away to rule out any serious health concerns. The ingestion of foreign bodies such as toys, household objects or even poisonous liquids can often present as simple symptoms but if left untreated can lead to serious problems for your four-legged friend. 

Supporting your Dog’s Digestion

Ultimately, we are the ones in control of our dog’s digestion. Unable to tell us when they are feeling under the weather, it is vital to maintain our dog’s digestive habits and become accustomed to their eating and toilet habits to ensure any changes are spotted immediately. Although not the most pleasant of activities, keeping an eye on your dog’s poop is great way of ensuring their gut is healthy. Changes to stool shape, consistency and even colour can all be signs something isn’t working as it should and should be discussed with your vet right away. 

With diet a massive factor in supporting your dog’s digestive health, keep meals correct to your dog’s age and weight ensuring they get all the vitamins and minerals they need for a long and healthy life. Vary their diets from time to time to give their guts some extra TLC and switch to grain-free kibble and treats if you notice any gastrointestinal changes after prolonged use of grain kibble. When it comes to doggy digestion, a healthy and wholesome diet is the most important tool we can use. 

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