Why can't we feed dogs the same way as humans?
Dogs have different dietary needs than humans as their physiology and digestive system are not the same. Some of the key differences include:
As well as the above, a significant difference is how long it takes for dogs to digest food. Humans may take up to five days to digest food, but for dogs it takes just 12-30 hours for food to move through their intestines.2
A closer look at a dog’s digestive system
As with other mammals, your dog’s digestive system breaks down food and absorbs nutrients. The main organ in this process is the small intestine. It has a very large surface area of cells that are designed to absorb nutrients effectively. The intestinal tract also holds microbiota – beneficial bacteria that help a dog’s gut to stay healthy. And immune cells that help to protect your dog by reacting to harmful bacteria or other pathogens.
Important nutrients for your dog’s digestion
To ensure your dog overall health, they need a healthy digestive system and their diet is a key contributing factor. It’s important to feed them food that’s not only appropriate for dogs but for their size, breed, age, lifestyle and any vulnerabilities they have.
Your vet can advise on the best diet for your particular dog’s needs, but let’s look at the key nutrients and factors that are important for every dog’s digestive system.
Understanding dog digestive issues
Many dogs have a robust digestive system, but there are some common digestive issues. And, sometimes, what seems to be a problem with digestion can be a sign of other health issues. It’s important to get used to what’s normal for your dog, especially in terms of bowel movements, so you can quickly identify when something may be wrong.
Signs of digestive problems in dogs
If your dog has diarrhoea, there is an acceleration in bowel movement and he may have looser or even liquid-like stools. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including an infection, an allergy, parasites or them eating something that disagrees with them.
If your dog’s stools are hard or dry and they move their bowels infrequently, or strain when attempting to do so, they may be constipated. This can have a range of causes, including their diet, a change of environment, trauma and underlying health problems.
Vomiting and regurgitation
Regurgitation is the passive return of swallowed food or mucus from the throat, oesophagus or stomach to the mouth. Regurgitation is usually not preced by restlessness, nausea or salivation.
Vomiting is the active expulsion of gastric and/or small intestinal contents. Vomiting can be a sign of your dog not digesting food properly or a problem with the stomach itself.
Other things to look out for
If your dog has digestive issues, they may also:
Ask your vet
If you think your dog has a digestive problem, it’s really important to consult your vet. They’ll be able to examine them to check the potential causes of the issues. And then advise you on any changes needed to your dog’s diet, treatments or lifestyle to help with this.
Choosing the right foods for your pet's healthy digestive system
Whether you think your dog has digestive problem or not, it’s important to consult your vet for advice on the best food for them. There are many highly digestible dog foods available to support the specific needs of each pet – from older dogs with digestive issues to growing puppies with sensitive stomachs.
1, 2 Everything you need to know about the role played by Nutrients for the health of Cats & Dogs, Pr Dominique Grandjean, 2006, Royal Canin SAS