How Long Does It Take For a Dog to Digest Food? What Are The Risks?

Last Update:
dog sitting near toilet

Reading this will help you improve your dog’s digestive system and understand more about its inner workings. So, how long does it take for a dog to digest food?

It can take between 4-8 hours on average to fully digest its food. However, this depends on various factors such as the dog’s breed, age, size, exercise, and diet.

The Canine Digestive System 

A dog’s digestive process is different from a human’s process. They have a reversed ingestion storage process[1]. 

Dogs have 70% of their ingesta in their stomach and just 30% in their digestive tract. On the other hand, humans flip the equation and keep 30% in their stomachs and 70% in their intestines.

Therefore, it’s crucial to study and understand how our canine friends’ digestive systems work based on these facts.

This will help us learn ways of improving their gut health and prevent future digestive issues.

The Dog Digestion Process

x-ray of dog

Part 1: From mouth to the stomach

Pretty like in humans, the digestion process starts in the mouth, where the chewing of food takes place. The dog grabs the meal with its front teeth and then brings it to the back of the mouth, where its molars tear down the food into smaller pieces. 

The enzymes present in the saliva help further break down the food and make it easy to swallow. 

The mouth is also the area where digestive problems occur first and also where you can identify the kind of foods that don’t go well with your dog’s digestive system.

After breaking down the food, the esophagus transports it to the stomach. The esophagus is heavily muscular and pushes the food down to the stomach.

The stomach acts as temporary storage for the food as it awaits transformation into energy.  A dog’s stomach is highly acidic and contains digestive juices, which aid in breaking the food even further and transforming it into chyme, a thick milky liquid. 

From the stomach, this liquid goes to the small intestines, where the actual digestion happens.

Part 2: A fantastic journey through the small intestine

The small intestine is tasked with the absorption of most of the nutrition from the food. It’s made up of 3 parts; the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. 

The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine. In this part, the chyme is treated with enzymes and hormones from the intestinal walls, pancreas, and liver lowering its acidity. This prepares it for extraction and absorption of the remaining nutrients and passes it to the jejunum.

The jejunum is the middle and longest part of the small intestines. It is the section where all the valuable nutrients are finally absorbed into the bloodstream.

This is done through tiny, finger-like probes that hang below the surface of the jejunum. These probes suck nutrients from the liquidated food.

As nutrients are absorbed, the remaining food is turned into waste and passed to the small intestines; the ileum.

Although this section absorbs any nutrients left in the food, its primary function is to connect the small and large intestines.

Part 3: The large intestine and waste removal

Most of the nutrients have been absorbed into the body by the time food reaches the large intestines. As such, the primary function of the large intestine is to absorb water and partially ferment dietary fiber. It’s essentially a waste compactor and water extractor.

The final part of a dog’s digestive system is the colon. This part converts and stores any bits of a dog’s meal that it cannot consume into fecal matter. That is then expelled through the rectum and anal sphincter.

How long does food stay in a dog’s stomach? 

A dog can keep food in its stomach for up to 12 hours after consumption before emptying it, depending on the food’s digestibility. This is because the digestive system is substantially more efficient since it relies more on animal protein. This is far longer than it can stay in a human stomach.

Where does digestion take place in the dog digestive system? 

Digestion in dogs happens at every step along with its digestive system and is completed when fecal matter is expelled.

However, the majority of the conversion to absorbable nutrients occurs in the small intestines.

What affects dog digestion 

Breed: Generally, large dog breeds take longer to digest food. This is so because they have a longer intestinal tract through which the food travels. As such, it takes a longer period for nutrients to be absorbed and distributed throughout the body.

Size: The bigger the dog,  the longer the digestion period. Smaller dogs have smaller stomachs and intestinal tracts. This automatically means that their digestive cycle is shorter hence a shorter digestion duration.

Age: As dog ages, its metabolism slows down. The older the dog, the longer the digestion time. This is why young pups need to visit the bathroom more frequently as their digestion is faster.

Diet: Different foods have different digestion speeds. Wet food, for instance, digests faster than dry food.  A high-protein diet is digested a lot more quickly compared to a high-carb and fiber diet. 

Exercise: Exercise aids the digestion process. The more movement a dog does, the faster it will consume the stored energy and the quicker it will digest food.

Stress: Stress tampers with the digestive system health of dogs. As such, dogs undergoing stress tend to take longer to digest food.

Medication: Medication also impacts how long a dog will take to digest its food. Some medicines can slow the digestion process, while others can quicken it. Talk to your vet about the effect of a medication.

What Happens If Foods Are Not Digested ? 

Improper digestion of food can lead to either constipation or diarrhea in dogs. Simply put, indigestion will result in the food coming out too fast or not coming out quickly enough. Both scenarios are undesirable and cause discomfort. 

You can give laxatives to ease constipation and activated charcoal for diarrhea.

Promoting Your Dog’s Digestion – 5 Helpful Tips 

These are the things you can do to improve your dog’s digestion:

Create time for regular exercises

two dogs running on the beach

The digestive system of a dog is capable of storing a significant amount of food for long durations. This is slowly converted into energy depending on physical activity. Regular exercises provide an avenue for a dog to utilize energy.

To provide the required energy, the food needs to be absorbed and distributed in the bloodstream.

Therefore, the more the exercises, the higher the energy requirement, and consequently, the faster the digestive cycle will take in food in the stomach and turn it into caloric energy.

Give raw foods

Feeding raw meat can directly impact a dog’s digestive system. It contains natural enzymes that can supplement those in your dog’s body.

This helps in breaking down food and promotes digestion. In addition, with a raw food diet, dogs can absorb more nutrients. 

Raw meat contains whole unaltered proteins which are easily digestible. Cooking destroys these proteins and makes them less recognizable and less digestible.

However, you should be very careful while feeding raw food to your dog as it can become easily contaminated.

Include prebiotics and fermented foods

Prebiotics aid the growth of microbes present in your dog’s gut.  They help the stomach produce the good bacteria in the gut necessary for a healthy digestive system.

On the other hand, fermented foods enhance the antioxidants in the food and help build beneficial microorganisms in a dog’s gut. 

As a result of their high microbe concentrations, these two elements are great for improving your dog’s digestion. Although many foods are naturally rich in prebiotics, you can also add prebiotics in the form of supplements.

Go for a high-protein, low-fat diet

Dogs are naturally carnivorous, and their digestive systems are adopted for protein absorption. Because gut bacteria is essential for aiding digestion, whatever your dog feeds on has likely impacts on the bacteria. 

A high carb, high-fat diet takes longer to be digested than a protein-based diet. It’s hence essential to feed your pup on protein-rich, low-fat food for better digestion.

A study by the American Society for Microbiology [2] indicated that dogs fed on a high-protein, low-fat diet realized significant digestion improvement.

Give probiotics

How your dog’s digestive system performs is greatly dependent on the health status of their guts. A helpful way of boosting gut health is by introducing probiotics in their food. 

Probiotics are a source of good microbes in the stomach. These microbes help fibers and plant-based sugars into vitamins and fatty acids that promote your dog’s inner functioning.

Although found primarily in meats and yogurt, probiotics also exist in supplements and food toppers.

Foods to help digestion

These foods can help with digestion in dogs:

Pumpkin

pumpkins

Pumpkin is rich in fiber hence acts as an excellent digestive aid. If your dog has difficulties digesting its food, give it a canned pureed pumpkin.

Feed a bland diet

A meal made of boiled, mashed potatoes, cooked rice, and boiled chicken can improve your dog’s digestion.

Yogurt

Yogurt contains good bacteria that aids digestion. However, ensure it’s plain, unsweetened, and natural additives. Most dogs find yogurt irresistible.

yogurt

Coconut oil

It contains medium-chain fatty acids such as lauric, which are easily digestible in the gut and helps the body to absorb nutrients and vitamins from food more efficiently.

coconut oil

Vitamins and supplements that help dog’s digestion 

Giving supplements and vitamins is considered one of the most effective ways of enhancing a healthy digestive cycle in dogs.

Your dog’s digestive system will benefit highly from vitamins and supplements as its entire goal is to aid digestion.

As such, adding a digestive aid to your dog’s diet can help relieve discomfort resulting from indigestion, make food digestion more effortless, and keep the gastrointestinal tract at optimal functioning as it should.

However, be careful not to overuse supplements as this may overwhelm your dog’s system with undigestible leftovers rather than providing the vitamins and nutrients required.

Just identify the best all-in-one supplement that’s suitable for your pup.

How important is water to a dog’s digestion? 

Adding water to your dog’s diet is essential as it aids digestion. Besides softening and making food easily digestible, water helps transport essential nutrients in and out of the body’s cells.

How long does it take for a dog to digest food and poop? 

Depending on the dog’s age and level of activity, it can take between 4-8 hours to digest food and pass the undigestible food as poop.

How long does it take for a dog’s stomach to empty? 

After 8-10 hours after feeding, a dog’s stomach will be empty and will start sending signals to the brain stimulating hunger response. Dogs have a simple stomach structure and empty it in a few hours.

How do you know if your dog has digestive problems? 

If your dog shows symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence or excessive gas, constipation, lack of appetite, and straining while passing stool, it may indicate digestive problems.

What is the easiest food for a dog to digest? 

Raw food is the most uncomplicated food for a dog to digest. This is because the proteins are whole and unaltered through cooking. In addition, dogs can absorb the majority of nutrients from raw food.

Why is my dog digesting food too quickly? 

If your dog is very active, it may digest food too quickly. This is because the stored food is quickly converted into energy for fueling the dog’s activity.

How long does it take for a dog to digest raw food? 

Raw food is easily digestible and takes between 4 and 6 hours to digest. Because raw food is uncooked, most of its nutrients remain unaltered. 

The Bottom Line

So how long does it take for a dog to digest food? Well, it takes about 4-8 hours in general.

It’s important to understand how canine digestion works to enable you to take the right actions geared towards ensuring optimum gut health for your dog.

Ensure you feed your canine the right amount of food and give it enough exercise for better digestion. If you want to learn more about it, read our article on How Much Should I Feed My Dog.

Well, there’s everything you need to know about the canine’s digestion process.

Talk to your vet immediately if you notice any health issues in your dog’s behavior.

Happy parenting!

Photo of author
Author
Belinda Kendi
Belinda Kendi is a talented content marketer and dog food copywriter who produces relatable and valuable content.

Save 40% Off Your First Autoship Order

Get 5% off future orders and 40% off your first Autoship order.

If you click on the button below, we will take you to Chewy's exclusive page.

dog sitting

Leave a Comment