How Long Does It Take a Dog to Digest Food?

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As you know, dogs shouldn’t consume human food and need their own tailored diet. This is because a dog’s digestive system is fundamentally different from our own.

The human body digests food in around six to eight hours. In this time, food passes from the stomach to the small intestine. But dogs digest food at a slower rate, taking around eight to ten hours, on average. Depending on the breed and the food you give them, it’s not uncommon for digestion to take even longer than this.

How Long Does It Take for a Dog’s Stomach to Empty?

It takes longer for dogs to empty their stomach as their digestive system is like a mirror image to our own.

As humans, we keep 30% of ingesta — nutrition received from food and other substances — in the stomach and 70% in the intestinal passage. For dogs, it’s the opposite case; 70% of ingesta is kept in the stomach and only 30% is retained in the intestinal tract.

Needless to say, this makes dogs more vulnerable to digestive issues and can lead to a sharper reaction to what’s in their gut.

If you imagine a dog’s stomach as a vacuum where most nutrients are stored, you’ll start to get a picture of why giving your dog food with toxins or lacking in nutrition is far more serious than, say, pushing the boundaries of your allergy if you’re lactose-intolerant.

Because fewer nutrients are passed through a dog’s intestinal tract during the digestive process, digestion takes longer.

According to the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, digestive sensitivity varies according to the size of the dog in question. Namely, toxic ingredients pose a reduced risk to larger dogs because their digestive system is more robust. Indeed, the physiological difference between small and large canines even alters the texture of faeces, suggesting that blanket advice on what to monitor in our dogs may not be as effective — or accurate — as we think.

As a general rule, larger dogs will produce softer, moister faeces, so while loose stools could be a warning sign in smaller breeds, indicating a viral infection of the digestive tract, in larger dogs, this could be a result of their size alone.

Since dogs spend between eight and ten hours digesting a singular meal, having a routine for mealtimes with feedings spaced apart will help to regulate a dog’s bowel and promote superior gut health.

As humans, we’ve been programmed to eat three times per day, but most dogs require just two regular-sized meals.

Common Digestion Issues Your Dog Might Face

Digestion encompasses your dog’s first contact with their food to the eventual release of waste, so there are plenty of potential pain points in the digestion process.

Your dog’s mental state and relationship with food can hugely alter gut health and digestion.

Problems can occur when dogs either eat too fast or don’t eat enough food at mealtimes.

Gulping down food — a common behaviour in eager puppies — can cause too much oxygen to be consumed alongside food, ultimately causing the stomach to bloat. Using a puzzle feeder or intensifying your training routine can help to reduce this overactive behaviour. Interactive dog bowls work by slowing the initial period of digestion as your dog works to receive the food.

Dogs with a high IQ like German Shepherds, loaded with high energy like Shetland Sheepdogs, or driven by a scavenger mentality like Siberian Huskies will find this element of play in their food particularly enjoyable.

If you’re struggling to get your dog to eat the recommended amount of food, you could also add a supplement like salmon oil to make their food more enticing. The odour of salmon oil might be enough to encourage your dog to start eating, and it can also improve the texture of dry food and make it easier to swallow.

In older dogs, this is particularly important, as your pet may become bored with their usual diet or find it more difficult to digest. Salmon oil has multiple benefits for mature dogs, including replenishing itchy skin and lubricating sore joints.

Water intake can also be an important factor in a dog’s digestive system. If you feed your dog a lot of dry food, make sure water is always available, or add a little water to dry food to moisten it, which can make it easier to digest.

There are plenty of other, more subtle, digestive issues that may be linked to physiological rather than behavioural factors. These should be monitored and expressed to your vet if your dog’s digestion becomes concerning. If you notice recurring issues with your dog’s digestive cycle, your pet may be a candidate for sensitive stomach dog food, which is specifically formulated for delicate tums.

Why Our World’s First Cooking Process Helps with Dog Digestion

At Angell PetCo, we craft nutritiously dense dog foods using a world-first cooking process.

Unlike many mass-produced pet food brands, we gently cook dog food in small batches to preserve the nutritional value and freshness of the food. By cooking high-quality ingredients at low temperatures, we’re able to preserve all the dog-friendly benefits without sacrificing nutrition during the cooking process.

We do this with dog digestion at the forefront, based on understanding the sensitivities of dog physiology.

Using locally sourced produce, such as salmon from Scotland and trout from England, ensures we — and you — know exactly what goes into your dog’s food.

Feeding your dog in this way can be likened to canine clean eating.

Want to look after your dog’s digestion? Browse our nutritionally rich dog food options, which are hypo-allergenic, gluten-free, grain-free and all available on an easy-to-order subscription basis.

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