The Digestive Process in Dogs

The digestive process in dogs is a simple process that can be broken down by parts of the body. It starts with the mouth as that is how food enters a dog's system.

The Mouth

A dog's teeth can only bite and chew up and down. They do not have the ability to grind their jaws side to side in order to start the digestive process by chewing food into smaller particles. In fact, their saliva does not start breaking down food at all before being swallowed. The function of their saliva is to lubricate the food as it is passed through the esophagus towards the stomach.

The Stomach

A dog's stomach is designed to accommodate large quantities of food and start the digestive process. When the esophagus brings food to the stomach, it enters through an egress called a cardiac sphincter. Inside the stomach is a progression of folds or flaps called gastric folds. The function of these folds is to grind and break down food. The inner lining of the stomach releases acids and strong enzymes that further decompose the food.

Once this process has been completed, the partially broken down food leaves the stomach and enters the first section of the small intestine.

The Small Intestine

A dog's small intestine has 3 sections. The first section, which is connected to the stomach, is called the duodenum. The middle section, which also happens to be the longest, is named the jejunum. The third section, which is the shortest, is called the ileum. The ileum is the connector leading to the large intestine.

The duodenum is quite short, however, it has a very important function. It connects to the gallbladder and the pancreas by way of ducts. Enzymes used in the digestion process are manufactured by the liver and the pancreas and go through the ducts to engage with the food ready to be digested in the duodenum.

The jejunum has little protrusions or projections that are called villi. These villi point towards the food and provide a deep surface area for the absorption of nutrients.

Food contents are passed through to the ileum where they are then passed into the next phase, the large intestine.

The Large Intestine

The large intestine also has 3 sections, just like the small intestine. The first section is the cecum. It is not known what purpose it serves. The second section is called the colon which stops just to the inside of the anus. The final section is called the rectum.

Basically, the large intestine is a link from the small intestine to the end point of digestion, the anus. The large intestine is approximately 16 inches long in a medium sized dog and is wider in diameter than the small intestine.

The principal function of the large intestine is to absorb fluid as needed from the waste material. This is necessary to maintain proper hydration levels of the body and to keep them constant. The large intestine also provides the service of storing fecal matter waiting to leave the body.

It takes approximately 8 to 9 hours for the entire digestive process to take place in dogs. Of course, puppies being smaller, the process takes a shorter amount of time with them.

Your dog's digestive system processes can be a good indicator if they are feeling unwell or out of sorts. Keep an eye on your pet's eating and waste habits. Those habits can be a good measure of when your dog experiences problems.