Dogs are part of the canine family, and as a dog owner, we are always clueless about how digestion takes place in our furry friends. Generally, digestion in dogs takes a much longer time compared to human beings.
Unlike humans, dogs chew from side to side since their canine teeth cannot allow them to chew up and down, and food is not ground properly.
The Digestion Process
Digestion of canines is almost the same as that of humans though a bit indifferent in some foods. The only difference is that digestion in a dog does not start from the mouth but at the esophagus, where food starts to break down.
1. The mouth
Digestion of food in dogs does not start in the mouth as dogs barely chew food. The food which is roughly chewed just goes down to the Oesophagus. The food cannot start being digested in the mouth of the dog since there are no enzymes in the saliva. No matter which food the dog eats, it will be passed down through the esophagus to the stomach for digestion to start. The saliva in a dog’s mouth lubricates the food for easy passage down to the stomach.
2. The stomach
The food from the mouth starts being chewed here because of the availability of enzymes. The partially chewed food is pushed down by the oesophagus down to the stomach. When it reaches the stomach, it is converted to chime. This is a mixture of water, acid, and partially digested food. Here the food is mixed with the highly acidic stomach juices. Unlike human beings, the stomach of a dog has a larger space to accommodate more food. Digestion takes longer hours, up to 8 hours.
3. Small Intestines
The small intestine usually has three layers, that is the duodenum, jejunum, and the ileum. The mixture of water, acid, and food enters the small intestines after digestion in the stomach. The villi absorb nutrients from the small intestine. The acid in a dog’s stomach is higher than that of humans and make the bones that the dogs chew softer. The acidity breaks down food and obtains nutrients.
4. Large Intestines
Digestion in the large intestines is minimal, but undigested foods are stored here and passed as a stool. Absorption of minerals takes place here as well. The undigested food is then passed down to the rectum. No digestion takes place as the dog goes to pass out the wastes.
How long does it take to digest food in the stomach?
Digestion in the stomach of a dog varies. It can take between eight or nine hours, depending on several factors. Human beings take a shorter time to process a single plate and eat frequently compared to dogs.
Human beings take more food in a day than dogs. After 4 hours, the food in our stomach gets digested completely. This is faster than the hours it takes a puppy to digest the food it has eaten.
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Determining the amount of time a dog takes to digest food after swallowing is pretty hard. Some foods are easier to digest, while others take more than 8 hours. It depends on a number of factors listed below:
- The size of the dog: Bigger dogs have a longer digestion process compared to puppies.
- Body-weight and size: Smaller dogs have quick digestion than the bigger ones. Digestion in puppies is only a few hours, while with bigger ones, it can take almost the whole day.The metabolic rate of small dogs is faster than that of dogs that have grown up.
- Medication: When your dog is on medication, the digestion might be slower or faster, depending on the appetite of your dog. Some medications might slow down the process of digesting food, while others speed it up. Some affect their eating habits, therefore, affecting digestion. When dogs are sick or under drugs, knowing how long it takes to digest certain foods is difficult.
- Type of food being eaten: Dogs eat different types of foodstuff from cereals to bones. Most foods that dogs eat are either healthy for them or bad for their health. Dog’s saliva does not contain enzymes. Dogs should be given food specifically meant for them and avoid most foods that are for humans. Some of these foods are like chocolates, any drinks with caffeine, etc. These foods don’t get digested easily in the dog’s digestive system. Some digest slowly while others are digested faster e.g., protein foods. The amount of what goes inside the mouth decides the hours it will take to break down. Wet foods are digested faster compared to dry goods like bones. When your dog takes wet food, it only takes six hours or less to digest the food fully. Dry food takes about 8 to 10 hours, depending on the type of dry food taken.
- The health of the dog: Healthy Dogs consume food normally, and digestion should not be a problem. It should take the standard hours for a normal dog to digest food. An unhealthy dog with some underlying diseases will have a different time to digest a plate of food. It all depends on whether the digestion system is affected or not.
- Water consumption: Dogs need to stay hydrated frequently to ease their digestion. The more a dog drinks water, the quicker the digestion process will be.
- Stress: No one likes being stressed. Dogs get irritated sometimes, and when they do, the system can’t function normally. Therefore it takes more hours for a dog that’s stressed to digest food than a dog, which is less stressed.
- Age: Age plays an important role when it comes to the digestion process. Puppies tend to eat frequently as digestion is rapid in their system. It takes less than six hours to digest a full meal. On the other hand, big dogs take longer hours for food to digest fully. Old dogs take fewer hours for digestion to be complete. This is because their metabolism ages as the dog get old too. Dogs that have come of age will take less time like puppies to digest a meal.
- Foreign bodies: When dogs ingest foreign materials, it’s not digested right away. Foreign materials e.g., sticks or toys, are dangerous for any dog. These things don’t get digested most of the time. They cause discomfort to your dog and may cause digestive problems. When a dog ingests such, digestion will become slower. The stomach is not used to digesting these items and cannot break them down. They can be left in the stomach for even a day, which is healthy for the dog. If digestion doesn’t take place normally in the dog, see a vet for help.
- Exercise: Dogs are so active when they exercise and train. They use more energy and eat often than a dog, which is inactive and spends most of its time sleeping. Digestion will take place faster in an active dog, and you will notice it getting hungry quickly. The more energy it uses while being active, the less time it takes the food to be digested as dogs need the energy to be active. The energy is found on the food.
Having an idea of the digestion process in your pet is necessary. How long the dog takes to digest food fully varies on each dog. You have to put into consideration several factors to estimate the hours it might take. Different dogs have different eating habits.
Monitor how your dog behaves. When the digestion process is complete, digested food remains in the body to be used by the body. Undigested food is passed down to the rectum and released as faeces. This shows the end of the digestion process. You can calculate the time your dog ate its food to the moment it is released. This can help determine how long the process takes in your dog.