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Home > Dogs > How Long Will It Take a Dog To Digest Food? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

How Long Will It Take a Dog To Digest Food? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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You probably think of poop when you consider your pup’s digestive tract. But there’s a lot more to canine digestion than the end product. How long does it take your dog to digest its food? A healthy adult dog will digest its food within 6 to 8 hours. What exactly does it mean to “digest?” First, let’s cover the basics of your dog’s fascinating digestive system.

divider-pawWhat Is Digestion?

You may equate the word “digestion” with stomach emptying, but there is more to the process. Digestion is the body’s way of converting food into energy and waste. Your dog’s digestive system starts to work when they hear you crinkle their food bag. They begin to salivate and run to their food dish.

Your dog’s digestive system starts with their teeth and mouth when they munch on their food. This chewed food then moves through the esophagus and down to the stomach. Then finally, it passes through the intestines. Your dog’s liver, pancreas, and gallbladder play a role, too.

So how long does it take your dog to digest food? There are a lot of factors at play, but the average is 6 to 8 hours. If that sounds pretty quick, look at how long it takes humans to digest food.. Our bodies take longer to digest organic matter, anywhere between 1 to 3 days.

poodle dog eating
Image By: Lucas Seijo, Shutterstock

How Long Does It Take for a Small Dog To Digest Food?

A 2010 study found that dogs with smaller body weights took longer to digest their food than did large or giant breed dogs. However, large breed dogs have longer colon transit times.

It has also been shown that puppies have a shorter time for stomach emptying than adult dogs.

How Long Does It Take for a Dog To Digest Chocolate?

You left some chocolate chip cookies on the counter, and your dog ate some. Chocolate is in most homes, but it’s also toxic to dogs in specific quantities. How your dog reacts to chocolate depends on how much they ate, the type of chocolate, and their weight.

Dogs can show signs of chocolate poisoning between 1 and 12 hours after eating it. The clinical signs from the caffeine in chocolate can show from 1-2 hours and from the theobromine 2 to 4 hours after eating but can take up to 12 hours. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait to contact your veterinarian. The sooner help is sought, the better the outcome.

a sick dog lying on the floor
Image Credit: EugeneEdge, Shutterstock

When Should You Worry About Your Dog’s Digestion?

If your dog is healthy, its digestive system works efficiently. There are, however, causes for concern.

Your Dog Ate Something It Shouldn’t Have

Even the pickiest canine can eat something it shouldn’t. It might be your shoe or food that is toxic for dogs. The outcome depends on the size of your dog and how many poisonous or inedible items they ate. Some objects will pass through a dog’s digestive system on their own, but other objects may lead to a medical emergency. It’s wise to be cautious and reach out to your veterinarian.

Your Pooch Experiences Recurring Flatulence

We don’t have to tell you that dogs fart just like people do! Even the tiniest pup’s flatulence can quickly clear out a room. The occasional bout of gas usually resolves on its own.

Many dogs experience flatulence because they swallow air when they eat. A slow-feeder dog dish can help prevent your dog from gulping its food. If you can’t determine the cause of your dog’s gas and it is severe and persistent, call your veterinarian.

vet examines dog
Image By: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

Your Pup Has Diarrhea or Vomiting

Diarrhea or vomiting is an indication that something is wrong with your pup’s digestive system. Your dog may have eaten too quickly, have something lodged in its digestive tract, or picked up a virus. Keep an eye on your pup and call your veterinarian with any concerns.

divider-pawThe Ins and Outs of Doggy Digestion

A healthy adult dog will digest its food within 6 to 8 hours. Puppies and smaller breeds digest their food faster than larger dogs. Signs of a possible digestive problem include persistent flatulence, diarrhea, and vomiting. Contact your veterinarian for assistance if your dog eats anything toxic or inedible.

Featured Image Credit: Kristesoro, Shutterstock

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