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

Author: Charlotte

We love our pups and only want the best for them — that includes what they eat. We spend a lot of time thinking about what to feed them, what’s healthiest, what’s their favorite, and if they have any allergies.

But we don’t, generally, think about what happens after they wolf down their meal. It isn’t every day we ask ourselves how long does it take for a dog to digest food? 

The basics of a doggie digestive system

Have you ever noticed quite how much saliva dogs have? They seem to have so much more than us! Well, that’s because their digestion starts there.

Just like us, their saliva has enzymes in it which helps to break down the food they’re eating. Not like us, they spend way less time actually chewing — anyone who has watched a dog eat knows this. Their saliva has to be stronger and in a bigger quantity to help them from the get-go.

From their salivary mouths, the food passes down their incredibly muscular esophagus and into their stomach. A dog’s stomach plays a much bigger role in their digestion time than ours does in ours. For us, food stays in there only a few hours, and most of our nutrients are extracted in the small intestine. For a dog it’s different. They have really acidic stomachs. This means they’re capable of digesting (small) bones and raw meat. 

How long does their food stay in their stomachs?

Dogs are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal and plant food but their digestion hasn’t quite caught up to the likes our ours. They can process meat quickly but take a little longer with grains, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. 

Their stomachs process a lot of the meat proteins needed to give them energy, meaning food stays there longer than it does in ours. Generally, food has left our stomachs in 4-5 hours and for a dog, it can be up to 12!

From their stomach, the food passes to their small intestine where it’s processed a little more, and then onto the large intestine where the waste is compacted. From there, well, we all know what happens — we spend most of our time picking it up or avoiding it in the garden!

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

There’s no exact answer as to how long it takes for a dog to digest its food. Just like us, each pup is different and there are lots of external factors that come into play too. 

Breed

dog digestion time

I know, I still can’t get my head around how a Chihuahua and a Great Dane can be the same species either. But when it comes to how dogs digest their food, their digestive tract works pretty much the same in all breeds. They just differ in size. A lot. 

Bigger dogs take a lot longer to digest and poop than smaller dogs do. This is because the amount they eat isn’t proportionally so much more, but there’s a lot more of body for the food to pass through.

Athletic breeds, such as Ridgebacks and Collies, take less time to digest their food than less athletic breeds. Genetically, they’re closer to their wolf ancestors and have more active digestive systems than some other breeds.

Exercise

Just like humans, exercise is really important in keeping your dog’s digestion healthy and regular. Different breeds need different amounts of exercise and it has a big impact on your dog’s digestion time. 

Water

Keeping your dog hydrated is crucial, and not just for their normal health but also for their digestive health. Dehydration weakens the nutrient absorption from their food and can make them constipated. 

Type of food

It may seem obvious, but wet food is quicker for your dog to digest than dry food. Wet food helps with hydration, making it easier to pass. This doesn’t, however, mean you should only feed your dog wet food. Dry food has a number of benefits including helping with dental health.

Read also: Should I give my dog dry or wet food?

How long it takes your dog to digest food is actually pretty important. The more we know about their digestion, the more we can ensure that they’re happy and healthy on the inside. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your dog’s poop and digestion time. If there are any large changes, it’s worth taking them to the vet just to check!


Have you noticed anything that affects your dog’s digestion? Let us know in the comments!

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