How Long Does It Take for a Dog Food to Digest?

How Long Does It Take for a Dog Food to Digest
Photo by Ayla Verschueren

If your dog’s digestive system isn’t in optimal condition, it won’t be able to obtain the proper nutrients for growth.

Many dog owners spend a lot of time, thought, and energy making certain that the food their dogs eat helps keep them healthy.

However, canine lovers only pay attention to the food and not where it is going. Dog lovers should know how long it takes their pets to digest food to understand their pup’s well-being.

This is also a quick way to pick up any digestive abnormalities in your dog. So, to determine how long does it take for a dog food to digest, you’d have to read further down.

How Do Dogs Digest Food?

Most dog owners are not very conversant and do not understand anything about their dog’s digestive system and how it works. If you’re wondering how long does it take for a dog food to digest, there are factors to consider.

These factors are segmented into four categories: the mouth, the stomach, the small and large intestines, and the accessory organs. 


How long does it take for a dog food to digest begins from the mouth. The first place food goes is the mouth, which is also the first place a digestive problem can occur. 

Food is broken down into smaller pieces, munched and mixed with saliva, and then passed down through the throat, also called the esophagus. The esophagus of a dog is connected to the neck, the chest, and down to the stomach. 

Dogs have an extra ten teeth compared to humans, which helps them chew and eat faster. Additionally, their saliva primarily acts like a lubricant to allow food to go smoothly from the mouth through the short esophagus and into the stomach. 


A dog’s stomach is like a small food storage; it stores food that hasn’t been digested. To break the food down, a dog’s body manufactures digestive enzymes and acids that help break foods into bits.

However, as your dog ages, it is advised to give them supplements that allow them to digest food properly. 

Small and Large Intestine

The intestines function as an interface between the small and large organs, where digestion occurs, and food is exchanged for nutrients.

First, the meal enters the small intestine, which can be absorbed and processed after being sufficiently liquidized into an easily absorbed chyme.

Meanwhile, to protect the rest of the gastrointestinal system from damage, the acidity of the chyme is also decreased.

The duodenum is the first segment of the small intestine, and it has a passage that leads to the pancreas, the gallbladder, and the liver, which triggers the final digestive enzymes. 

After that, food then goes to the longest and second segment of the small intestine, the duodenum. At this point, the food is processed by acid, enzymes, and mechanical breakdown.

Afterward, nutrients are drawn out and transported to the blood for body use. The dog’s colon begins with the large intestine.

Unwanted or unnecessary substances lose water while passing through the colon. Once the body has finished producing it, it leaves through the rectum and enters the poop bag. 

Accessory Organs

Even though the salivary glands, pancreas, and liver are not mainly in the digestive tracts, they have important roles to play in digestive activities.

The accessory organs help with proper food digestion and make nutrients available to be taken in. 

The pancreas produces liquid that contains important enzymes and hormones for digesting food. These enzymes are in charge of breaking down fat, protein, and carbs, as well as sugar.

Pancreatic hormones, most especially insulin, control your dog’s blood levels. It stimulates stomach acid production and gives signs of bowel emptying.

The liver produces a liquid called bile that is stored in the gallbladder to aid digestion. It is needed to digest lipids effectively and use them in the body. Bile’s main component is cholesterol.

In addition, the liver is responsible for processing the nutrients that are absorbed in the jejunum before they’re sent to other parts of the body.

Factors That Affect a Dog’s Digestion

How long does it take for a dog food to digest depends on several factors? Like most living things, dogs have an active digestive system that plays a vital role in their growth.

Therefore, all dog owners should do well to consider these factors if they want to guarantee optimum health for their pets. 

The following are practical ways to monitor your dog’s digestion:


A dog’s size is the most important factor affecting how long it will take to digest its meals. It’s commonly accepted that smaller dogs digest food faster than bigger ones.

This is because larger dogs have larger intestines compared to smaller dogs. Larger dogs take up to 8 hours to digest their meals, while smaller ones do so in 4-6 hours.

Breeds of dogs like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Great Danes have larger appetites and would take a longer time to digest meals.


Your dog’s breed is determined by the size and weight of your canine, which plays a big role in the dog’s digestive system.

However, there is a link between the gastrointestinal tracts and the length of your furry friend. It takes smaller dogs 4 to 6 hours while larger breeds 8 to 10 hours to digest food.

This is because a dog’s digestive tract is three times as long as the dog’s body length. What this implies is that the bigger the dog, the slower it is for them to digest food.


Age can equally affect the digestive system of dogs. Older dogs have lower calorie requirements since they are less active. This can considerably reduce the digestive system’s efficiency and affect the rest of the body.

Health and Diseases

How long does it take for a dog food to digest also depends on how healthy it is. A dog’s digestion and absorption of nutrients might be negatively impacted by their weight, health, and other diseases.

For example, complications like exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), intestinal parasites, and tumors in the digestive system can affect how long it takes for dog food to digest. 

In conclusion, knowing how long does it take for a dog food to digest will help dog owners know when their dog’s digestive system is affected. 


Dogs find it hard to digest dry food, and grain belongs in this category. However, foods like oats and barley are not only known for their proteinous features, but they are also easy to digest.

The type of food you give your pet will determine how long it will take for its food to digest. So, make sure you supply them with healthy food to aid proper digestion.


One way to keep your dog healthy is to engage them in exercise. A dog’s body will digest food quicker if it gets more exercise. Just so you know, exercise makes the dog active, and the more active the body is, the faster and easier it digests food.

How Long Does It Take for a Dog Food to Digest?

There are a lot of ways to have your pup digest food properly. However, you should know that it isn’t just giving them food, taking them for exercise, or having regular appointments with the veterinarian.

How long does it take for a dog food to digest depends on your pet’s overall well-being? One can do other things to make digestion easier and quicker.

Below are other means to help your dogs digest food properly:


Generally, water is essential for a dog’s well-being, including digestion. A dog’s daily water consumption is determined by its size, weight, exercise, and diet, among other factors. Dogs need nothing less than one ounce of water per pound of their weight. 

If your dog doesn’t like to drink water that much, check that their bowl is clean or try using another. Alternatively, feed them food with a high volume of water, such as celery, watermelon, and blueberries. 

Healthy Diet

One of the noticeable factors in keeping a dog’s digestive system healthy is its food. Food must contain a balanced diet and the nutrients a dog needs to stay healthy.

Additionally, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and potatoes are high in fiber and will make a good dog meal.


Watch out for body language and other behaviors that indicate your dog may be in discomfort. When stressed, dogs begin to experience digestive issues, which can cause diarrhea or constipation.


Even though you are giving your dog nutritious foods, you should also ensure that these foods are digestible. Also, it isn’t just about digesting food; it also has to do with how much nutrition their bodies can take in.


Note that it’s not unusual for dog owners to ponder how long it takes for their dogs to digest their food. Due to allergic reactions, dog owners have often been forced to change dog food brands for their pets. 

Meanwhile, the food might not be the problem; something may be wrong with the dog’s digestive system. 

How long does it take for a dog’s food to digest? That is determined by the dog’s breed, size, age, and the food they consume. Make sure to study your dog and generally understand any strange behaviors and changes in its digestion and health. 

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