How Long Does it Take for Dogs to Digest Food? (The Science)

Many of us are curious about what’s going on in the digestive systems of our canine friends. How long does it take for a dog to digest food?

How do they break down meat versus vegetables? What kind of diet is best for them? We’ll answer all of those questions related to how long does it take for dogs to digest food and more!

How Long Does Dog Digestion Take?

A dog will digest food in about a third of the time it takes humans. A dog’s food moves from his mouth and back onto the ground in anywhere from 6 to 13 hours.

Dogs digest carbohydrates much slower than protein and fat.

Dog Diet: Carnivore or Omnivore?

Dogs need a well-rounded diet for health
A nutritious, balanced diet is essential to keeping your dog healthy.

There’s a bit of a debate as to whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores. The answer is a little complicated.


Dogs are carnivores by nature, and their diet should consist mostly of meat. Proteins and fat make up about 80% of a dog’s diet!

Carbohydrates, on the other hand, only make up about 20%, and dogs don’t need them to live.


Omnivore is a term used to describe an animal that eats both plants and animals. The word comes from the Latin omnivorous, which means “all-eater.”

While most people think of bears or pigs when they hear the word “omnivore,” many different types of animals fall into this category.

For example, dogs are considered omnivores because they typically eat both meat and plants. However, while most dogs will eat a widely varied diet including plant matter, they don’t necessarily need it to survive.

So what does this mean for your dog’s diet? Should you be feeding them a strictly carnivorous diet, or can they eat some fruits and vegetables? Keep reading to find out!

What Kind of Food is Your Dog Eating?

If your dog is eating mostly meat, their digestion will be shorter, and they’ll have fewer bowel movements than if they were eating a high carbohydrate diet.

On the other hand, if your dog eats a diet high in carbohydrates, their digestion will be longer, and they’ll have more bowel movements.

Either way, it’s important to ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise to expel all the waste from its system!

What Are the Benefits of Feeding My Dog a Carnivorous Diet?

There are several benefits to feeding your dog a carnivorous diet.

  • First, it’s more natural for them. Their bodies are designed to digest and process meat and fat much more efficiently than carbohydrates.
  • Second, it’s generally healthier for them. Meat is a great source of protein and fat, both of which are essential nutrients for dogs.
  • Lastly, it can help to keep their weight down. Carbohydrates tend to be higher in calories than proteins and fats, so if you’re looking to help your dog lose weight, cutting back on carbs can be a good place to start.

What Are the Benefits of Feeding My Dog a Mixed Diet?

If you decide to feed your dog a mixed diet, there are still some benefits that you can expect.

  • They’ll be getting a wider variety of nutrients than if they were eating a strictly carnivorous diet.
  • It can be especially beneficial if you’re feeding them a portion of high-quality, balanced dog food that contains all the nutrients they need.
  • Mixed diets tend to be more palatable for dogs, so they may be more likely to eat their food if it’s a mix of meat and carbs.

Drawbacks of Feeding Your Dog a Carnivorous Diet

  • Meat is generally more expensive than carbohydrates, so you’ll need to budget accordingly if you decide to feed your dog mostly meat.
  • Carnivorous diets can sometimes be harder to balance since there are fewer options for getting all the nutrients your dog needs.
  • Carnivorous diets tend to produce more stool, and faster.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to feed your dog a carnivorous diet or a mixed diet is up to you. There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches.

Consider your dog’s individual needs and preferences when making your decision. As always, consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions about what kind of diet is best for your dog.

How Do They Digest All of This Food?

Dogs don’t have amylase in their saliva that breaks down food as they chew. For this reason, it isn’t necessarily dangerous if they swallow their food whole.

Dogs have very acidic stomachs that help to break down their food quickly. In fact, it only takes them about 6 to 12 hours to digest a meal and make a mess in the yard.

This means that if you feed your dog at seven in the morning, he should be able to poop by three in the afternoon.

Of course, this will vary depending on the type and amount of food consumed and individual factors such as age, weight, and activity level.

Contact your veterinarian if you’re ever worried that your dog isn’t pooping enough or that his stool is particularly hard. They can help you determine if there is a problem with your dog’s diet or digestive system.

What Does This Mean for Your Dog’s Health?

Dogs digest food quickly
Dogs can fully digest a meal in about 6 to 13 hours, depending on what they ate.

Well, since their digestive system is so efficient, they can actually digest most types of food including meat and vegetables.

However, it’s important to note that not all dog foods are created equal. Some contain more carbohydrates than others, leading to weight gain or other health problems.

Factors that Affect Dog Digestion

There are a lot of factors that go into how long it takes for food to move through a dog’s digestive system.

Type of Food

The type of food is one factor. For example, dry food takes longer to digest than wet food. Wet food is easier to digest because the process of cooking has already broken it down.

On the other hand, dry food takes longer because the kibble needs to be softened by stomach acid before it can be digested. When the dog swallows kibble whole, it lengthens the process more.

Size and Weight of the Dog

Another factor is the size and weight of the dog. Smaller dogs have a shorter digestive tract, which means they can digest food faster than larger dogs.

Larger dogs have a longer digestive tract, taking a little longer to digest their meals. 

Heavier dogs may have a slower digestive system and sluggish metabolism which will lengthen the time it takes to digest a meal.


The age of the dog is also a factor. Puppies have immature digestive systems, so they take longer to digest their food than adult dogs. This is why it’s important for puppies to eat food formulated for their digestion.

Senior dogs also have slower digestive systems, so they may not be able to digest food as quickly as they did when they were younger.

Activity Level

Last but not least, activity level can affect how long it takes for food to move through the digestive system.

More active dogs tend to have faster digestion because their bodies are better able to break down and absorb nutrients.

Less active dogs tend to have slower digestion because their bodies aren’t working as hard.

Final Thoughts

Dogs have an incredibly flexible diet and efficient digestion. They can eat many types of food and digest all of it just fine.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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