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How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Digest Food? - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

How Long Does It Take For A Dog To Digest Food?

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

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Dogs are known for their love of food, but have you ever wondered how long it takes for them to digest their meals? The digestive system of a dog is quite different from that of a human, and understanding the process can help owners make informed decisions about their pet’s diet and health.

Diet, breed size, and exercise level all influence how easily and fast dogs digest their food. Additionally, health factors like giving canines probiotic supplements promote gut health, in turn improving digestion and gut health.

Knowing how long it takes for a dog to digest food can be helpful in preventing digestive issues such as bloating and constipation. We utilize the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition to uncover all about canine digestion. 

Dogs have a relatively short digestive tract compared to humans, making their digestion process quicker. However, just like us, they can still experience digestive issues like soft poop, stomach upsets, and clear, liquid diarrhea.

Puppies and senior dogs may take longer to digest food than adult dogs. Puppies have a developing digestive system but a high metabolism. On the other hand, senior dogs may have a slower digestive system due to age-related changes.

It’s important to note that dogs with digestive issues may take longer to digest food. For instance, dogs with inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatitis may require a special diet and medication to help improve their digestion.

It’s recommended that owners feed their dogs smaller, more frequent meals rather than one large meal a day to aid in digestion. A study proving this showed that a dog’s food portion size directly influences how much they eat and, consequently, obesity and digestion.

What are the Stages of Digestion in Dogs?

According to medical sources, dog digestion occurs in four major categories, as we’ve discussed below:

Ingestion

When a dog eats, the food is broken down into smaller pieces by their teeth and mixed with saliva. The tongue then pushes the food to the back of the mouth and down the esophagus, where it travels to the stomach.

Dogs don’t spend a lot of time chewing their food, for several reasons. So ingestion is usually a quick process, as they are made to rip meat from a carcass and swallow chunks of food (called a bolus) quickly. One reason that dogs ingest food quickly is because they don’t have as many enzymes in their saliva to start the digestion process. Instead, they want to get food into the stomach where a combination of enzymes and hydrochloric acid will break it down.

Digestion

In the stomach, the food is mixed with stomach acid and digestive enzymes that break down the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in food. This process takes around 3-4 hours in dogs.

The food then moves to the small intestine, where it is further broken down by bile from the liver and enzymes from the pancreas. This entire digestive stage takes around 6-8 hours.

Absorption

The nutrients from the food are then absorbed through the walls of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. Here, the bile that was added to the food in the digestion process above is re-absorbed to the body.

Note that dogs with stomach issues or food sensitivity and intolerance may not complete this bile reabsorption process properly. The result is yellow poop or even green poop in extreme cases. A dog that poops a lot may also have malabsorption syndrome.

Excretion

The remaining waste products are then passed through the large intestine and into the rectum, where they are stored until the dog defecates. This process can take hours depending on how long a dog waits before pooping and whether they have issues like constipation and diarrhea. It is also useful to bell train your dog so they can let you know when they want to go outside to poop.

Factors That Affect How Long It Takes For A Dog To Digest Food

It is hard to say exactly how long it will take a dog to digest a meal since digestion time can vary from dog to dog. Here are some of the factors that affect how long digestion takes in canines.

1. Dog’s Age

The age of a dog can affect the speed of digestion. Puppies have a faster metabolism, and their digestive system is not fully developed. Therefore, food moves through their digestive tract much quicker. This affects how long a puppy can stay in a crate.

    Senior dogs, on the other hand, may have a slower metabolism, and their digestive system may not be as efficient as it once was. However, it’s important to note that several studies claim that age doesn’t directly result in digestive decline in dogs. It does cause other health problems like liver issues that, in turn, affect digestion.

    2. Dog’s Size

    The size of a dog can also affect digestion speed. Smaller dogs tend to have a faster metabolism and quicker digestive system. Larger dogs, on the other hand, have a slightly slower metabolism, and their digestive system may not be as efficient as smaller dogs.

      A study on how digestion evolved with dog sizes provides a better understanding of the differences. For example, larger breed colons are more permeable (and shorter for their size), so the possible water retention can contribute to more diarrhea in larger breeds. 

      Additionally, according to research, a large dog’s colon is more developed and should therefore consume less soluble fiber like pectin, psyllium, and beet pulp. 

      3. Medical Issues

      Medical issues can affect a dog’s digestion speed. Dogs with medical conditions such as pancreatitis or inflammatory bowel disease may have slower digestion. Medical issues like liver problems can also cause stool changes like green poop.

        Dogs with diabetes may also have slower digestion due to the lack of insulin production.

        4. Type of Food

        The type of food a dog eats can affect digestion speed. Wet food is easier to digest than dry food and, therefore, is digested faster. Foods high in fat or protein take longer to digest than foods high in carbohydrates. The higher the digestibility of the food, the less time it will also take for a dog to digest, which is why digestibility is important for dogs. Some foods can also affect digestion time, such as too much calcium that can cause constipation and white poop.

        5. Fiber In The Diet

          Fiber can also affect digestion speed. Fiber works in two ways. Insoluble fiber does not in water and adds more bulk to food, making it firmer and stimulating the smooth muscles of the gut to move, called peristalsis. This means it helps with constipation and moves food through the gut faster. Bigger dogs should get more insoluble fiber in their diet.

            Smaller dogs should get more soluble fiber in their diet, as it feeds their gut bacteria and helps create a strong mucosal gut lining. It can also help prevent diarrhea, but it can cause soft poop if there is too much in a large dog breed’s diet.

            In general, low fiber diets will slow down digestion speed and cause constipation, while too much fiber can speed it up too much and give a dog a runny tummy.

            6. Exercise

            Exercise can also affect digestion speed. More active dogs tend to have a faster metabolism and a more efficient digestive system. Exercise also stimulates peristalsis, which speeds up digestion. Dogs who don’t get enough exercise often struggle with constipation.

              How Can I Speed Up My Dog’s Digestion?

              Speeding up a dog’s digestion probably means you’re trying to help them poop (prevent constipation). Insoluble fibers like wheat bran, cellulose, carrots, potatoes, beans, and broccoli can help speed up the time it takes to poop. Protein is also easy to digest and should therefore be abundant, but too much protein in the diet may cause constipation. 

              How Long For A Dog To Digest and Poop?

              The time it takes for a dog to digest food and poop varies depending on the size and breed of the dog, as well as the type of food they eat. On average, it takes a dog 6 to 10 hours to digest food and poop it out.

              Digestion Time for Different Breeds & Sizes

              Dog breed digestion time can depend on age and size. See the chart below for a rough estimate on how long dogs can take to digest food.

              BreedDigestion Time
              Large dog breeds (Great Danes, Labradors, German Shepherds, North American Mastiffs)8-10 Hours
              Small dog breeds (Jack Rusell Terriers, Dachshunds, Chihuahuas)4-6 Hours
              Medium Dog Breeds (Cocker Spaniels, Border Collies, Pit Bulls)6-8 Hours
              Puppies12-24 Hours
              Senior dogs10-12 Hours

              Large breed dogs have longer digestion times because they have larger stomachs and longer intestinal tracts to digest their food. On the other hand, small-breed dogs have shorter digestion times because they have smaller stomachs and shorter intestinal tracts.

              Aside from breed, other factors that affect how long for a dog to digest and poop include age, size, and the type of food they eat. Dogs that eat processed foods may have slower digestion times compared to those that eat raw or homemade diets.

              Pooping Time

              Once the food is digested, it takes an additional 6-12 hours for the waste to move through the colon and out of the body. This is why dogs usually poop 1-3 times a day. However, age, health, and diet can affect a dog’s pooping frequency, with puppies pooping every few hours.

              How Long After Eating is a Dog’s Stomach Empty For?

              It takes between 4 to 8 hours for a dog’s stomach contents to be digested and start moving through the intestines. From there, nutrient absorption and excretion occur, which can take an extra couple of hours.

              When to Consult a Vet

              If a dog is experiencing severe constipation or diarrhea, it may be time to consult a vet. Changes in the consistency, colors like reddish poop, and content of poop can also be a sign of digestive issues.

              Other symptoms to look out for include a distended abdomen (bloat) or vomiting or dry heaving. If a dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

              It is also important to note that some dogs may have food allergies or sensitivities that can affect their digestion. If a dog experiences chronic digestive issues after eating certain foods, it may be time to consult a vet and explore alternativ-e-archive diet options.

              Other signs to watch out for include straining to poop or pain in the abdomen that could mean an obstruction in the gut.

              Frequently Asked Questions

              How long does it take for a large dog to digest food?

              Large dogs, such as Great Danes or Mastiffs, may take longer to digest food than smaller dogs due to their larger size and slower metabolism. It can take up to 10 to 12 hours for a large dog to digest food and poop it out.

              How long does it take for a small dog to digest food?

              Small dogs, such as Chihuahuas or Pomeranians, may digest food faster than larger dogs due to their smaller size and faster metabolism. It can take as little as 4 hours for a small dog to digest food and poop it out.

              How long does it take for a Labrador to digest food?

              Labradors are medium-to-large sized dogs with a moderate metabolism. It typically takes a Labrador 6 to 8 hours to digest food and poop it out.

              How long does it take for a German Shepherd to digest food and poop it out?

              German Shepherds are medium-to-large-sized dogs with a moderate metabolism. It usually takes a German Shepherd 6 to 8 hours to digest food and poop it out.

              How long does it take for a dog to digest something foreign?

              If a dog ingests something foreign, such as a toy or a piece of clothing, it may take longer to digest or may not be able to digest it at all. In some cases, the foreign object may need to be surgically removed. It is important to contact a veterinarian immediately if a dog ingests something foreign.

              Final Thoughts

              The time it takes for dogs to digest food varies depending on several factors, such as the type of food, age, breed, and health status. While some foods take only a few hours to digest, others may take up to 24 hours or more. Pet owners should also monitor their dog’s digestion and bowel movements regularly and consult a veterinarian if they notice any abnormalities.

              Meet Your Experts

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              Tamsin De La Harpe

              Author

              Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

              Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.