How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Digest Food

When you feed a dog, oftentimes, the dog will gobble the food right up without even chewing it. They seem to have bottomless stomachs and jaws that can break up any type of food. They'll eat things that are good for them, bad for them, or things that aren't even edible, such as socks and shoes. A dog's digestive system may seem like a mystery to you, because it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to his eating and digestive patterns, unlike humans who have very specific things we can and can't eat.

Hungry dog
Dogs can take around 4 to 8 hours to fully digest food.
credit: Chalabala/iStock/GettyImages

Dog’s digestive system process

The way a dog's digestive system functions is very much like a human's in that they will eat food, and then the body will extract the nutrients it needs from the food. The parts of the food that were not properly digested or needed by the body are then excreted. But beyond that, there are some clear differences in how a dog's digestive system works compared to that of a human.

Digestion occurs in the stomach of the dog. Dogs' stomachs have adapted to be able to digest large amount of foods in one sitting. Stomachs have the ability to stretch by relaxing the muscular fibers that live in their walls.

A dog's digestive system is very different from that of a human's, according to Whole Dog Journal. For instance, the dog digestion time is completely dissimilar. Partially digested foods will live in a dog's stomach for a far longer amount of time than they would in a human's. They can stay there for four to eight hours, while a human would digest them within a half hour.

What affects dog digestion

Dog digestion can be affected by the quality of the food a dog is given. For example, if he is eating highly processed, commercial dog food, normal digestion will not occur. After all, dogs have not adapted to this type of food over time.

Stress and drugs can also have a negative effect on a dog's digestive system. If a dog is not digesting food properly, changing his food, his medication, or his exercise schedule may be advised. Speaking to a veterinarian about dog digestion concerns is going to be critical to figuring out the exact issue that's occurring.

What is the dog digestion time?

The dog digestion time varies, depending on factors like the dog's breed, body weight, size, health status, how much water he consumes, the type of food he's eating, and any existing conditions or illnesses he may have, according to My Pet Needs That.

Usually, your dog will digest dry dog food within eight to 10 hours of eating it, and wet dog food within four to six hours of eating it. According to Pet Health Network, if your dog has ingested something he perhaps should not have had, it can take 10 to 24 hours for him to excrete it. Some objects can even take months to go through the digestive process.

Help with dog digestion issues

Unfortunately, if your dog eats a sharp object like a stick, it's going to hurt when it passes through his digestive track. If it has gotten to the colon, it will most likely be excreted, but it will still be painful for your pup. In order to avoid hurting your dog, you should seek out veterinary assistance with removing the object. Even if an object is coming out of your dog's rectum, you want to avoid pulling on it, because it can hurt your dog's internal tissues.

If you think your dog has swallowed an object he cannot digest, then you may notice he is vomiting, has diarrhea, is lethargic, is acting differently, can't go to the bathroom, isn't hungry, and growls at you when you try to pick him up. He'll growl because he's in pain.

When you're at the veterinarian, you can describe your dog's physical symptoms and behavioral changes. If your veterinarian believes that an obstruction in your dog's digestive system is occurring, then she may take x-rays and order blood and urine tests to see if there are any additional illnesses that may be occurring.

Treating your dog’s digestive system

If your dog swallowed an object and it's causing issues, your veterinarian may take several steps to dislodge it and help your dog feel better. She may give your dog pain control medicine and intravenous fluids, induce your dog so that he vomits, take out the object with an endoscopy, or put your dog under for surgery. A surgical procedure would be necessary if the object is lodged in your dog's intestines.

Perhaps your dog hasn't swallowed an object, but she is simply not as active as you'd like her to be. Maybe your dog is having digestive issues because of the food you're feeding her. You'll want to make sure to go with food that your vet recommends; it should be less processed and include the nutrients your pup needs to function at her highest level. If you're feeding her cheap, highly processed dog food, she may become overweight, sluggish, or simply not feel well.

There are other natural ways to aid your dog's digestive system. You could give your dog probiotics to help him maintain his intestinal bacteria, according to Holistic Hound. You could also feed him digestive enzymes, canned pumpkin, L-glutamine, or the herb slippery elm to help him feel better. Before giving your dog any natural remedy, make sure you contact your veterinarian for her advice on the best products.

Dog digestive system diseases

There are a number of diseases that could affect your dog's digestive tract according to the Merck Veterinary Manual. They are not going to be cured by changing your dog's diet alone or taking other steps on your own. Your veterinarian will need to closely monitor these conditions and pursue various treatments.

Your dog may have a congenital defect that causes an expansion of the esophagus, known as esophageal dilatation, which means stretching the esophagus. If the esophagus is inflamed, also known as esophageal stenosis/stricture, your dog may need surgery and/or diet changes in order to combat that issue. In the stomach and intestines, your dog could develop enteritis or gastritis, which are inflammations of that area. Drugs and holistic treatments can help with these conditions.

Parasites can occur in the GI tract and may be treated with medicine. Some dogs may get ulcers or gastrointestinal tumors. The former can be treated with preventative medicine to keep the ulcer from coming back, and the latter may require chemotherapy or surgery.

If you notice that your dog is taking longer than normal to digest food, make sure you reach out to your veterinarian right away to determine the cause of the issue and get on a treatment plan fast.