How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Digest Food? What Science Says

As you likely know, dogs love chowing down on just about any food they can get their paws on. Some dogs can stomach just about any food, while others have a much more sensitive stomach. Whether your dog falls in the former category or the latter, it can be helpful to know how long it takes for dogs to digest their food.

Most dog owners do not know much about their dog’s digestive process, though. In this article, we will take the time to learn about the digestive process, including how long it takes for dogs to digest their food and more. Let’s dig into this interesting topic so that you can promote your dog’s health and wellness for years to come.

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Average Time It Takes for Dogs to Digest Food

Several factors go into how long it takes for a dog to digest its food. With that fact aside, it takes small dogs and puppies about 4 hours to digest their food. Larger dogs, on the other hand, can take about 8 hours. The exact time will differ based on the dog’s age, breed, and more.

French bulldog eating from bowl
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Factors That Impact Your Dog’s Digestion Time

As we mentioned above, several factors impact how long it takes for your dog to digest its food. Let’s take a closer look at some of these important factors so that you can better understand digestion time in dogs.

Dog Breed

The number one determiner for how long it takes a dog to digest its food is its breed. A dog breed will determine the dog’s general size, health conditions, and more. As a result, the dog breed is the first thing you should look at when determining your dog’s digestive time.

Dog Size

One of the biggest factors that determine a dog’s digestion time is its size. This makes sense because larger dogs have larger intestines and organs. As a result, it takes larger dogs much longer to digest their food than smaller dogs. As we learned above, it can take large dogs twice as long as it takes small dogs to digest food fully.

pomeranian puppy eating
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Age

Age is another factor that affects the time dramatically. The dog breed and size stay pretty consistent, whereas the dog’s age changes constantly. It may be helpful or informative to think of your dog’s age like the X factor (or the changing factor) of its digestive process.

What this means is that your dog’s age will largely tell the differences in the digestive time. For example, younger dogs are most likely to digest their food much quicker than older dogs since they have a quicker metabolism. This is very similar to humans.

Exercise

Although dog breed, size, and age are the big three determiners for how long it takes your dog to digest its food, exercise also plays a large role. The more your dog exercises, the quicker its body will process the food. Because of this fact, more active dogs digest their food much quicker than lethargic dogs.

exercise
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Diet

Finally, the last factor that impacts the digestive tract is the actual food the dog is eating. Certain food types take longer for your dog to digest than others. For example, grains tend to be digested slower than protein. What you’re feeding your dog can impact how fast it digests the food.

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Dog Digestion System

In addition to knowing the factors about your dog that impact its digestive system, it’s also helpful to understand the dog’s digestive system as a whole. This can help you be more informed about your dog’s health and well-being.

Interestingly, the first thing you should realize is that dogs store their food much differently than humans. About 70% of food is stored in the intestinal tract in humans, whereas only 30% is stored in the stomach. The order is reversed in dogs. 70% is stored in the stomach, and only 30% is stored in the intestinal tract.

dog digestive system illustration
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Digestion Process

In addition to knowing how dogs store food, it’s important to know the digestion process. Let’s take a look at the different stages of the digestion process in a dog.

  1. The food first goes through your dog’s mouth, as you hopefully know.
  2. The food then travels down the esophagus, allowing the food to transport from the mouth to the stomach.
  3. After the food passes through the esophagus, partially digested food is stored in the stomach. Acids and digestive enzymes are used to break down the foods further.
  4. Once the food is broken down in the stomach, it continues into the intestines to be broken down even further. This is also where nutrients are absorbed so that the dog can use them.
  5. After passing through the intestines, food goes through the colon. The colon is what changes the food from food into the fecal matter, or poop. This is how your dog will then go to the bathroom.

Obviously, there is a lot more that happens inside your dog’s body than these five steps. Nevertheless, these five steps are the most basic facts you need to know about your dog’s digestive process. If your dog demonstrates any digestive issues, the problem probably arises in one of these five steps.

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Keeping Your Dog’s Digestive Tract Healthy

Keeping your dog’s GI tract healthy is imperative for it living a happy and long life. Much like humans, an upset or irritated digestive tract can cause a lot of pain and annoyance to your dog.

Feed Them Dog-Friendly Foods

The number one way to keep your dog’s digestive tract healthy is to feed it food that is specially formulated for dogs. Offer dog foods that are high in protein and have minimal grains, though they should have some grains. Feeding your dog the proper diet can make a huge difference in your dog’s digestive tract.

dog with apple
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Supplement with Vitamins

In addition to selecting dog-friendly food, adding some digestive aid to your dog’s diet can make a huge difference as well. Digestive aids include vitamins and supplements. These supplements will ensure that your dog has all the nutrients it needs to digest and absorb its food properly.

When giving your dog digestive aids and supplements, it’s best to select an option that targets your dog’s size, breed, and age. This ensures that the dog is getting the most of its supplements based on its specific needs. Selecting an age-specific, all-in-one option is the best choice.

dog taking vitamins
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When to Talk to Your Vet

Before giving your dog just any supplement or vitamin, make sure to talk to your vet about it first. Your vet will confirm that the supplement is ideal for your dog and its breed. They may even be able to recommend better options based on your dog’s specific issues.

If you notice that your dog’s digestive health has dramatically changed over a short period of time, make sure to call your vet immediately. The easiest way to spot an issue with your dog’s digestive system is to pay attention to its stool. If it is overly runny or oddly colored, that is a sign that your dog needs to see a vet.

Conversely, lack of stool tells you that your dog has an issue as well. If you notice that your dog has trouble going to the bathroom, or is not going to the bathroom at all, call your vet immediately.

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Final Thoughts

The short answer to the question, “How long does it take for my dog to digest its food?” is between four and eight hours. Although this is a rather straightforward answer, the exact time depends on a number of factors, such as your dog’s breed, size, age, exercise, and food. It’s also important to note that their digestive time may differ from day today.

Although it may sound a little gross, you should track your dog’s general digestive health to ensure that it is, in fact, healthy and happy. If you notice any dramatic changes in your dog’s digestive time or cycle, contact your veterinarian immediately to get it back on track.


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