How Long Does It Take for Dogs to Digest Food?
With January well-underway, many of us may be planning ways both us and our dog’s can be healthier and more wholesome in the new year. Marking Veganuary, this month is certainly the time to become more aware of your dog’s diet and if their digestion could be contributing to their weight and what can be done to improve your dog’s gut health in 2023.
Playing a key role in maintaining a healthy body, the digestive system is responsible for absorbing vital nutrients to support organs but also aiding in the removal of toxins from the body. Without a correctly functioning digestive system, dogs can suffer extreme weight gain/loss, insulin management and managing and preventing diseases such as diabetes.
Want to know more about how to support your dog’s digestion? Read the article below which explores everything you need to know about keeping your dog’s tummy troublesome free in 2023.
What is Digestion?
Digestion, just like in us mere humans, is the process of breaking down food for the absorption of nutrients and energy. Without it, our dogs are unable to receive the vital vitamins and minerals they need to survive. These vitamins and minerals support growth, brain function, cardiovascular functions and help to maintain a happy and healthy body.
As our dogs eat, whether that be kibble, treats or the occasional human treat (food, not actual humans), food is broken down and sent through the digestive tract.
- In the stomach, digestion really begins as dogs produce three core enzymes that breakdown proteins and pushes that food into a sloppy consistency like excrement.
- The intestines then push all the substance through the duodenum and ileum absorbing any beneficial nutrients along the way.
- Once all the beneficial nutrients have been absorbed, the substance remaining leave the body in the form of firm stools.
How Does a Dog’s Digestion Compare to Humans?
Unlike humans, dogs do not produce amylase in their saliva and thus digestion begins in the stomach rather than in the mouth. Surprisingly, a dog’s digestive tract takes the shortest amount of time than any other living mammal on the planet – taking just eight out from consumption to removal.
Ever notice your dog wolfing down food? Often, we mistake this as behavioural but in fact it is our dog’s natural way of eating. As our dog’s digestive journey doesn’t begin in the mouth with saliva breaking down food, your dog will often chew less and gulp food – where it can then be digested.
Another main difference between ours and our dog’s digestion is the amount of stomach acid they produce. Our canine companions are likely to produce more than 100 times the amount of stomach acid than that of humans – therefore dog’s can consume bones, larger portions of meat and ingredients that we generally struggle to digest.
Did you know? Dogs can also suffer from heartburn like us humans. Caused by the overproduction of acid in the stomach which then sometimes enters the oesophagus (creating the burning sensation in the chest). However – never attempt to feed your dog Gaviscon or any anti-acid – if you think your dog might have heartburn – seek veterinary support for the best and healthiest advice.
What are Factors Influencing a Dog’s Digestion Time?
Generally, it takes between 6-9 hours for food to completely pass through your dog’s digestive tract. However, as dogs age, diet and even their breed can all be influential factors in reducing or increasing the time it takes your dog’s digestive tract to complete a full cycle.
Here’s the main factors which can alter your dog’s digestive system.
Breed & Size
When it comes to size – larger does take longer. It is thought that smaller breeds take around 4 hours to fully digest their food whereas larger breeds take around 8-9 hours for food to fully pass through their digestive system. According to Mikael Weber, leading research for Royal Canin, he found that larger breed dogs like Great Danes and St Bernard’s produce softer and even looser stools than smaller dogs such as Miniature Poodles showing the contrast in digestion between breeds and sizes.
Health & Medication
Your dog’s health can also be a factor in digestion time. Taking between 8-9 hours for a regular healthy dog, digestion maybe quicker for dogs on specific medications or post-surgery. When coming around from sedatives and anaesthetics – you may notice your dog’s pass stools quicker and looser than before. However, this will return to normal and slow down once the anaesthetic has left the body.
As our dog’s age, their digestive system often slows down increasing the likelihood of constipation as your dog enters their senior years. This is primarily due to their bodies slowing down and system working at a slower pace than what they once were.
Your senior dog may tend to develop intolerances or more sensitive stomachs as they age so keeping food as nutritionally dense and non-rich can support a healthy gut in their senior years.
Finally, what your dog is eating is a massive factor in their overall digestion time. Foods rich in fibre or high in fats will pass through the digestive system much quicker than others. As wet food requires less breaking down than dry kibble, dogs on a wet food diet are likely to have a quicker digestive system than those on a kibble diet. If you are noticing your dog producing loose stools, excessive flatulence and suffer from bloating – it is likely they might be suffering from a food intolerance and discuss changing their diet with a vet to support a healthier digestive tract.
How to Promote Good Digestion in Dogs?
Maintaining a healthy digestion is fundamental in supporting your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Although it might seem odd, monitoring your dog’s toilet frequency, stool consistency and smell (yes, we said it) and any drastic changes can help ensure your dog has the healthiest digestive system possible.
Take a look at our top tips for helping to promote good digestion in your dog:
Promote a Healthy Diet
One of the primary ways you can promote a good digestion in your dog is managing their diet. Ensuring they eat well balanced meals and don’t over consume treats that are rich in sugars or fats can help keep their gut working as it should. Give them foods rich in fibre which helps ensure food passes nicely through the digestive tract reducing the likelihood of constipation – something which older dogs can struggle with as they age.
Promote Stress-Free Environments
Managing stress in your dog is another way of promoting a healthy and happy tummy. Like us, in times of high stress or anxiety, your dog’s digestive system can go into overdrive resulting in food passing through quicker results in vomiting and diarrhoea. In situations such as travel, trips to the vet or being left alone, try using plant-based shampoos and sprays rich in lavender and chamomile, ingredients commonly used for naturally treating anxiety in our pets.
Promote Regular Exercise
To support your dog’s digestion and general health, ensuring they are regularly exercise can hep keep their gut functioning in the best possible way. During exercise, your dog’s metabolism increases helping to transform food into energy and burn calories at rest and activity. Exercising regularly can help manage your dog’s weight and ensure that their digestive tract is passing through food as at normal rate reducing the likelihood of constipation.
Water is fundamental in our dogs’ lives. Not only does it fuel the vital organs in the body but without it digestion simply could not happen. Water aids in the passing of food down the digestive tract and helps to remove toxins from the body during urination.
Helping to prevent constipation by softening stools, water regulates your stool firmness helping with anal gland build-up as this commonly occurs in dogs who are either constipated or suffering from consistent loose stools.
Wondering if their treats are contributing to unhealthy digestion? Well, Soopa range of healthy bites are exactly what they say on the tin. Made with natural fruit and vegetables that are both healthy and nutritionally dense, our range of tasty treats are great to support your dog’s digestion no matter what age, breed, or size. Containing ingredients like carrot, pumpkin, kale and chia seeds, Soopa’s Healthy Bites are a great way of rewarding your pet and promoting a healthy digestive system.
Without a healthy digestive system, our dogs simply cannot lead a healthy and wholesome life. Their digestive system is a fundamental part of how their body functions, stay healthy and keeps out the unwanted toxin. Responsible for functions in the pancreas, liver, stomach, kidneys, and gallbladder it is the system we can often take for granted but one we need to care for more than ever.
With dietary changes, increased exercise and a little tlc now and again, you can support your dog’s digestive system to reduce the likelihood of tummy troubles and keep your canine companion in the peak of physical health.
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