Dogs are adorable, goofy creatures that love you with all their heart and cannot wait for you to come back home and play with them. For them, you are their entire world, which means you have to take care of their health and wellbeing, including helping their digestion with special digestive enzymes for dogs when needed. It takes them six to eight hours to completely digest food.
You take it from the first days of its life and you promise to look after it and love it. You promise to offer it a welcoming home and make sure it lives a long and happy life without missing anything. You promise to offer your dog the best food and snacks, a comfortable bed to sleep at night, and enough toys to treat those nasty chewing habits.
But how much time do you spend thinking about your pet’s health? Apart from regular visits to the vet, annual shots, and tick treatments, you should also look after the health of your pet’s digestive system. From feeding the right type of food to learning the signs of a potential infection, here is everything you need to know about a dog’s digestive system.
Dog & human digestive system similarities
To better understand the digestive system of your pet, you should first know more about yours. For instance, stomach acids are similar in people and dogs in the fasted state but after eating, dogs produce more acid than humans.
As for food poisoning, both species are susceptible. Contrary to popular opinion, feeding your dog raw meat increases the risk of food poisoning and infestation with dangerous bacteria. And if you think about offering your dog a delicious bone as a treat, do so only if they are cooked as raw bones also pose a health risk.
Dogs have rather small intestines that count for about 25% of the total gastrointestinal volume, similar to many omnivorous mammals, including humans. On average, the food moves through the stomach of a dog slower than in humans but, once it reaches the intestines, it moves faster.
Probably, the difference can be found in the diets of our ancestors. Dogs derive from wolves, which were known for their carnivorous diet. They could easily rip and swallow the meat, whereas humans also focused on farming plants and gathering which required more chewing, a habit shared with herbivorous animals.
Along with the domestication of dogs, their diets also switched from mainly carnivorous to omnivorous, meaning they now have no problem digesting and absorbing other substances like carbs. However, feeding your dog carbs on a daily basis can easily lead to overweight and obesity problems, so you should better stick to grain-free diets.
Another interesting difference between humans and dogs regards the impact of cholesterol. You will probably hear it from your doctor to cut some fatty foods from your diet to reduce your cholesterol level but this doesn’t apply to dogs.
In fact, the digestive system of dogs is designed to accommodate animal fats, so you shouldn’t worry about high cholesterol levels when it comes to your pet.
However, obesity represents a problem for both dogs and humans. Overeating and lack of exercise can easily lead not only to a higher weight but also to a series of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, joint problems, and others.
Gastrointestinal transit time is between 6 and 8 hours for dogs and between 20 and 30 hours for humans, meaning it takes less for pooches to eliminate their food. Probably this is the reason why they will come back asking for more treats soon. If you don’t stick to a strict feeding schedule or tend to fill the food bowl every day, your pet will put on weight in a matter of weeks.
What can influence the digestion time in dogs?
As we previously mentioned, most dogs will take up to 8 hours to completely digest and eliminate the food in their system but the length of the process can vary depending on a series of factors such as the breed of the pooch, its size, weight, lifestyle, and how much water your pet drinks on a daily basis.
Dry food such as kibbles represents the most common type of food given to dogs because it contains all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and proteins for your pup to function. However, it can take anywhere between 8 and 10 full hours for dry food to be digested, even when it is combined with water. On the other hand, wet food is usually digested at a quicker rate, within 4-6 hours.
This is why most vets and dog breeders recommend combining wet and dry food, and feeding your dog at regular hours to create healthy eating habits. In time, these habits will keep your pet within the right weight limits according to its age, breed, and gender, and will also prevent digestive problems.
Are digestive problems common in dogs?
According to studies in the field, up to 10% of the visits to the vet count for gastrointestinal diseases, meaning you should pay close attention to what your dog eats, how much, and if it shows any abnormal signs after a meal. Diarrhea, abnormal stools, and vomiting are among the most common symptoms of food poisoning and digestive problems.
Although most of these tummy problems will pass in 1-2 days, usually the vet recommends 12 hours of fasting to allow your dog to rest properly and the digestive system to “reboot”.
If problems persist or the vet notices anything unusual about the functioning of other organs, the treatment might include antibiotics and other drugs to help your pet get back on its feet.
What can your dog’s waste tell you?
Nobody wants to be looking at their dog’s poop but this is one of the best ways to make sure your pet is living a healthy life. A quick examination of your dog’s waste can tell you if you need to make some changes in your dog’s diet or if you should pay a visit to the vet in the near future.
Some of the most common waste warning signs you should take into account are undigested food, diarrhea, infrequent or too frequent stools, constipation or large stools. Keep in mind that stools can also be altered by external and internal factors such as parasites, bacteria, stress or extreme temperatures.
What are the foods you should keep your dog away from?
As we previously mentioned, pups are omnivorous animals, meaning they can pretty much eat anything. Even so, certain human foods should be avoided as they are difficult to digest or might cause more harm than good in the long term.
Generally speaking, the number one ingredient of any type of dog food should be a clean and lean source of proteins that can include chicken, fish, turkey, lamb, and even beef. Soy, corn, and wheat should be avoided since they count as empty calories that can slow down digestion and lead to overweight problems.
On the other hand, dairy products are difficult to digest so you should keep your dog away from them, as well as from caffeine, garlic, onions, and chocolate. In fact, all processed foods that are rich in refined sugars or caffeine should never be fed to your pawed friend.
Some natural ingredients like pumpkin have proven beneficial to your pet’s digestive system. Cooked or raw pumpkin, as long as it is fresh, and also pumpkin seeds are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as in omega-6 fatty acids that will promote healthy digestion and will prevent diarrhea and constipation.
Canned pumpkin is the best and most convenient way to serve this ingredient to your dog. Mixed in your pet’s food daily, it counts for a delicious and nutritious meal. It is also low in calories, meaning it won’t promote obesity. On the contrary, used regularly, pumpkin can keep your dog’s diet under control and even help it lose a few pounds if necessary.
Pumpkin can be served in various ways as long as it’s from organic sources. If you plan on offering your pet canned pumpkin, just make sure it doesn’t contain any refined sugars.