Dog digestion highlights to chew on

It helps you to know about dog digestion differences. Though you are best buddies, there are important differences between you and your pooch. Your dog is not a miniature human with fur, though I see more and more dog owners acting like this actually is the case. To get your dog into the best shape he can possible be in, you need to understand his needs.

Dogs may be a best man's friend. But here is the sad truth: humans can live up to 80 years and dogs barely 15! Humans have grown taller and live longer because of better health care, better hygiene and better eating patterns. Let's provide the same for our pet friends and improve their health and their lifespan, so they can bring us the morning newspaper for many years to come.

So that's one… lifespan differs. Let's quickly highlight the important dog digestion differences.

Dog digestion differences

Taste and smell capacity of dogs

To a dog the smell of the dog food is likely to be of more importance than the taste (if he had to choose, that is). A dog has 80-220 million smell-sensitive cells over an area about the size of a pocket handkerchief, whereas man only has 2-10 million which compares to the size of a post stamp. There are dogs that make a living out of this supreme skill.

So, your dog has a better developed organ of smell than you. What else is new?

Dog table manners are pretty close to awful, how about yours?

Have you ever compared table manners between the two of you? For your partners' sake, I hope you won that contest. You chew your food well since you have the typical omnivore set of teeth for the job. It's not because of the amount of teeth that your dog doesn't chew properly. He scores 42 to your 32. It's because of the different qualities you both have. His teeth are designed for ripping, tearing, shearing and crushing meat and bone. Your canine companion simply cannot make the lateral movement required to grind.

Dogs are fast eaters. This typical gorging behavior we also see in wolves and wild dogs. Well, compare these numbers and you will have a better understanding: a dog has about 1700 taste buds compared to you having about 9000 of those! Perhaps this also explains why you can enjoy a nice dinner meal and spend about an hour eating one course, whereas your dog rather gobbles up his meal in as close to 5 minutes.

Just be aware of this when you go and spoil him with your canine cuisine arts. It's not to be ungrateful: he just can't help himself!

Dog digestion enzymes kick in later

My story

Read about the digestive enzyme tablets I sometimes use myself and learn that dogs can also suffer from depletion of digestive enzymes.

Digestive enzymes »

The digestion of starch starts already when you chew your food, because of the amylase enzyme present in your saliva. Your dog lacks this enzyme so carbohydrates rather stick to his teeth leading to tartar build up. However, an advantage could be that since starch is not broken down already in his mouth to sugars, his chances of developing caries are much smaller. But because of the tartar your dog should still brush his teeth (with your help of course) or chew on bones, dental sticks are large pieces of meat.

Another difference is the lysozyme in dog saliva, which destroys pathogenic bacteria. And this is not the only barrier he has! Continue reading to discover the other strategies.

Resistance to bacteria & less need for hygiene

The acid in your dog's stomach is much stronger than yours (pH 1-2) and is very corrosive! This explains why he doesn't easily get sick after eating of the street.

The acid kills most of the bacteria. This also explains why dogs can eat raw meat (salmonella!) and digest bones. They are simply designed to or have you ever come across a wolf carrying with him a Bunsen burner? The acid compensates for the lack of chewing and digestive enzymes in dog saliva. Also dog digestion enzymes in the stomach are different from yours to be able to function in this acid.

The canine digestive tract is much shorter (20-80 cm compared to 1.5 m for you) so the food stays for a much shorter time in your dog's system. Average passing time is only 24-48 hours, whereas it can take you up to three days. The faster dog digestion also contributes to his resistance to bacteria. You are much more vulnerable when eating of the street. Don’t compete with your furry friend on this one.

length of the canine digestive tract as compared to other species Relative length of the digestive tract for different species
(courtesy of Kenn Sakurai, Butch Pet Foods)

Dog nutritional needs

You can receive nutritional value from proteins containing 8 essential amino acids as you can create the others ones (non-essential amino acids) yourself. But your dog needs more than that! Your dog needs protein that give all 10 essential amino acids from a dog's perspective.

Another big difference between the two of you when it comes to nutritional needs is your vitamin C need. Your dog has the upper hand in this as he is capable of synthesizing vitamin C in his liver.

Main energy source and classification

Dog and cat looking for food in the fridge

You get most of your energy from carbohydrates, whereas your pooch lives mainly from protein and fats. Unlike a cat, which is a true carnivore, a dog also needs some carbohydrates. But not in too large amounts though, as dog bodies are not designed to process large quantities of carbs.

Your body has a larger digestive tract and the right set of teeth to grind corn. Dog digestion design and energy metabolism differs.

You are definitively an omnivore (vegetarians included). Your dog is best classified as a semi-carnivore. Sure a dog can survive on a cheap grain based diet but to thrive he definitively needs his portion of meat.

Dog digestion time

A question often asked is how long does it take for a dog to digest his meal. Probably this information is wanted to determine when it's time to let the dog out for a sanitary walk or it's just curiosity. There is no simple answer though as passage time depends on several factors. Each dog is an individual.

In general, raw dog food takes about 4 to 6 hours to move through your dog. Dry dog food takes a bit longer to digest and spends about 10 to 12 hours inside your dog.

Do you want to learn more about dog digestion?

Then take this dog food digestion journey that starts with nice smelling dog food until… well, a soft landing on the grass.

Many more differences exist of course and I cannot cover all of those on this site. The focus here remains on the nutrient requirements of your dog, dog digestion related differences and your understanding of his needs.

Dog biology - A digestion journey

Do you like to travel? Then take a dog digestion journey. It starts with a bite and ends with a soft landing in the grass.

Entering the dog's mouth »

The art of chewing or do dogs actually chew their food. If they don't chew then why do they have those large teeth? Let's find out.

Proceeding to the dog esophagus »

The dog esophagus gets food from the dog's mouth to his stomach. This sometimes is not a way one street! But why would food want to go back and what to do about it.

Mixing in the dog stomach »

What a place to be this is, the dog's stomach. It's filled with hydrochloric acid and cutting enzymes. Circular muscle constractions. The food really gets beaten up here.

Dog Illeum

The essential organs »

Essential organs for food processing are the small intestines, pancreas and liver. The food gets chopped up in even smaller pieces that can readily be absorbed.

Dog Rectum

Finalizing the journey through the intestines »

The food continues it's journey to the large intestines where excess water is absorbed. Finally it reaches the rectum as you-know-what and then the journey ends though the anus.

Watch this and learn about more differences, and why NOT to share meals!

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