One of the less pleasant parts about owning a pet is cleaning up after them. It’s doesn’t matter if it’s scooping a litterbox for your cat or taking care of the backyard. Knowing your dog’s habits is a helpful thing, even if it’s not the most enjoyable aspect of pet ownership. Changes in the routine can alert you to possible health conditions affecting your pup’s digestive system.
Fortunately, creating routines is a central part of having a dog. You have to have a set feeding schedule to keep energy reserves at a suitable level. Your pup needs regular walks or playtime to stay fit and trim. Cleaning up after your pooch is just part of it, too. Dogs make it easy to understand what’s going on with them.
How Digestion Works
The primary sites for digestion are the mouth and stomach. The action begins with the salivary glands that release enzymes to start breaking down food so that your pet can digest it and absorb the nutrients it contains. The stomach further metabolizes it using the same organic compounds with gastric acid to get the food in a usable form for absorption.
That phase of the process occurs in the small intestine. It extracts most of the nutrients, whereas the large intestine absorbs the water. The former is about 60 inches long in a 40-pound dog, while the latter is about 16 inches. Muscular action within the various organs keeps things moving until a canine eliminates the undigestible matter.
Food spends the most time in the stomach. Depending on what your dog ate and its composition, it’ll pass out of it to the rest of the GI tract within 12 hours.
Factors Affecting Digestion
One of the main things affecting the time of digestion is the type of foodstuffs that your pet ate. That, in turn, depends on its chemical composition. The more complex the compounds, the longer it takes. Canned food is primarily water. The food is also pre-mixed, making it easily digestible. Your dog can digest it in just a few hours. On the other hand, kibble takes longer, depending on water intake.
You also have to consider the nutrient content. Carbohydrates require the least amount of energy to digest. More complex molecules, such as fat and protein, take longer to break the chemical bonds. That’s why your dog—and you—feel full longer after eating a meat-rich meal versus a lighter one of primarily fruits and vegetables. That also speaks to the type of food you feed your pet.
High-protein diets take longer for your pet to digest. Thus, you can feed less of them and find that your pet produces less waste. So-called boutique dog foods with large amounts of fruits and vegetables offer little nutritional value for your pup. They also lead to more waste because of the amount of usable ingredients.
Several other factors can influence metabolism. Activity level can speed up digestion to keep your pet supplied with energy. It will signal the release of hormones that can stimulate your pup’s appetite and start the process again. Weather also plays a role. A dog kept in an outdoor kennel will burn through calories quicker than a pet kept inside the house if just to stay warm.
Being a Carnivore
It’s also essential to understand canine biology and its role in digestion. Dogs evolved from a common ancestor that they shared with wolves. That makes a strong case for them being carnivores, too. Canines exhibit a lot of behavior you’d expect to see in a wild animal. They instinctively chase prey species that run away from them. They dig to get to them.
It also is evident in your dog’s biology. Like their wolf counterparts, they can go long stretches without eating, reflecting the feast-or-famine reality of hunting behavior. It’s also because of their lower ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat. Digestion takes longer to compensate for it. The fact is that early dogs and wolves weren’t always successful hunters.
Therefore, it makes sense that their bodies would try to extract as much nutrition as possible to make their effort worth it in the end. Top predators could afford to spend some downtime digesting, whereas prey species always have to stay alert for danger. When it comes to answering the question of how long between eating and defecating, the answer is between 7 and 10 hours.
Having a dog is a rewarding experience. There’s a good reason why over 63 million American households have invited a canine into their lives. Understanding your pup’s biology and digestion is an essential part of its care. It’s your obligation as a pet owner and an excellent way to monitor your pooch’s health. Perhaps if you think of it that way, it’ll seem less unpleasant and more of a caring gesture.
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