How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Digest Food?

So, you have decided to become a dog owner since the house is lonely after breaking up with your partner. You, therefore, swear that you will be the best dog owner doing everything possible to keep your four-legged friend happy, lest he leaves you too. You even have a reminder on your phone to ensure he does not miss his deworming drugs, but then after probably two days, you realize that something is wrong. His litter box has taken a while before being emptied because there is nothing to discard. The next thing you do is call the vet to ask: “Should a dog digest food in three days?.” The vet explains that maybe your dog is constipated but offers even more help by explaining the digestion process, digestive problems your dog may experience, and what affects the digestion.

The digestion process

Anyone who has stepped in a psychology class has heard of the classical conditioning theory, which Ivan Pavlov proved by showing that dogs can salivate in response to the sound of a bell. You might notice that a dog usually knows when it is time to feed, and by then, he is drooling. Saliva is the first thing that his food comes in contact with, and since it contains enzymes, digestion begins in the mouth. The enzymes break down starch into sugar molecules before being passed down to the esophagus or food pipe. The food pipe is just a passage to take the food from the mouth to the stomach, where proteins will be digested.

The stomach has an acid that is stronger than what we produce to facilitate the digestion of bones that our dogs consume. By now, everything has been properly digested. Consequently, the food passes on to the small intestines where the absorption of nutrients into the body begins. Anything that is not needed passes on to the large intestines. It removes water from the waste and consolidates the rest of the matter into a solid that eventually your dog poops. From the minute your dog eats to when it is ready to get rid of waste, that process can take 10 to 48 hours, but sometimes it takes less or more time depending on a few factors.

What affects the digestion process?

  • Food consumed – According to Top Dog Tips, canned dog food takes 4 to 6 hours to digest while dry food can takes 8 to 10 hours. Usually, proteins take less time to digest that fiber because a dog’s gut prefers the high calorie content to keep the dogs active. However, that does not mean that you should do away with fiber completely since it improves their overall health. Still, you should limit the fiber since a lot has an adverse effect and inhibits digestion. Moreover, if you are a fan of supplements, then giving some probiotics to your dog ensures that the digestion process takes as little time as possible since they promote a healthy gut.
  • How active is the dog? – If you believed that exercise only helps to lose weight, then you are wrong. Dogs are primarily carnivorous but can eat vegetables. Just like lions can eat food today and stay for two more weeks without another meal, dogs can also store food for up to five days. Food is turned into energy depending on how much is needed; therefore, if you want your dog to have a regular bowel movement, then you should keep him active.
  • Other attributes of the dog – Pet Honesty explains that the smaller the dog, the faster the digestion. Dogs have a digestive tract that is thrice as long as their body size. Therefore for a bigger dog, the time the food takes to reach the stomach and small intestines is long; hence, you should expect a Chihuahua to poop more frequently than a German shepherd. Also, as your dog grows older, the rate of digestion will slow down, so be patient with your senior dogs.

How to tell if your dog has a digestive problem

  • Flatulence – Although it is normal for your dog to pass gas, when it becomes excessive, then there is a problem with his gut. Usually, just like babies that swallow air as they breastfeed hence need to be burped, a dog might eat quickly and swallow lots of air. Unfortunately, you cannot burp a dog, but you can buy a slow feeder bowl to prevent rapid feeding. Another cause of too much gas has to be what you are feeding the dog. Similar to humans who may get too much gas from some legumes, a dog also suffers from flatulence if you feed him high-fat diets or milk products.
  • Vomiting – Vomiting is usually a sign that your stomach does not agree with whatever is in your stomach; hence, it is pushed out. It is more of a defense mechanism, but it can cause dehydration and irritate your canine’s digestive tract. It could be a sign that it has food poisoning, so consult your vet immediately while also keeping the dog hydrated if the vomiting is frequent.
  • Constipation – If your dog has gone for several days without passing stool or if he does, the stool is small; then, he is constipated. Constipation is an indication that the food is taking too long in the gut, caused by poor water and fiber intake. Therefore the best thing you can do is give your canine more fresh vegetables and water. If there is no improvement, then most likely, there could be an underlying issue, and it is time to call your vet.
  • Diarrhea – What if instead of constipation, your dog cannot keep the food in his stomach thus keeps passing loose stool a soon as he feeds? In dogs, diarrhea may be unrelated to the digestive system, but sometimes, it is a sign that the dog has eaten something it is not used to and reacting negatively. Before you think of cutting down his food to allow his gut to “get clean,” you need to feed your dog, so the intestines heal on their own.


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