The digestive system is responsible for several key functions of the body; it’s not just for digesting food. The digestive system absorbs nutrients, a significant component of the dog’s immune system, and eliminates solids from the body. Much like humans, the majority of a dog’s immune system comes from their gut, making up 70 percent of their overall immune system.
Fun Fact: A dog’s digestive tract takes the shortest amount of time than any other living mammal, with a digestive time of just eight hours in total.
Dog’s Digestive System Break-Down
A dog’s digestive system includes the mouth, teeth, salivary glands, esophagus and stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, and the liver and gall bladder. Each of these components play an important role in the digestive system and any one of these components can throw off the delicate balance of the entire system.
Unlike humans, a dog’s digestion does not start in a dog’s mouth. We humans have digestive enzymes in our mouths that begin breaking down starches and lipase to digest fats as soon as the foods enter our mouths. Dog’s, however, do not have any amylase in their saliva and often don’t even chew their food. Instead, a dog gets the food to their stomach as quickly as possible to begin digestion.
A dog’s stomach contains acids that are 100 times stronger than those in human’s stomachs. A dog’s stomach produces three core enzymes that begin breaking down foods; these are pepsinogen, trypsin, and chymotrypsin. Because of the strength of acid and the amounts of enzymes produced in a dog’s stomach, dogs are able to soften bone matter and digest grizzly bits that would be impossible for humans to digest.
The next phase of digestion is the small intestine, which is responsible for the absorption of all nutrients and minerals into the bloodstream. The small intestine is broken down into three parts: the duodenum, the ileum, and the jejunum. The duodenum’s main purpose is to alkalize the stomach acids in the contents passing through the intestine. The jejunum is the longest part of the small intestine, located between the duodenum and ileum. The jejunum is covered in villi that protrude inward into the gut contents providing a large surface area to absorb nutrients.
The ileum is the last part of the small intestine and is what keeps things moving along, but it is also mainly responsible for absorption. The ileum is covered in thousands of tiny micro-villi that pushes digestible contents along.
The next stop in the digestive system is the large intestine, which comprises of the cecum, colon, rectum, and anal canal. A dog’s large intestine is shorter than the small intestine and averages around 2 feet in length. The primary function of the large intestine is the absorption of water, but it also aids in the job of moving along fecal matter from the small intestine to the anal canal.
Although food matter never comes in contact with the liver, gall bladder, or pancreas, these organs play vital roles in the digestive system. The liver produces bile and substances that are released into the bloodstream that act on the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The bile produced by the liver is moved into the gall bladder, where it is stored and concentrated. The bile is then pasted into the duodenum in the small intestine during digestion. The pancreas produces enzymes that assist in food digestion, as well as regulates blood sugar levels and other hormones.
Digestive Health Foods
Natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can be supplemented into a dog’s diet to promote their digestive health. Foods high in dietary fiber work to keep things moving through the digestive system. The fibers are often fermented into fatty acid that encourages healthy gut microbiota. Dietary fiber also reduces diarrhea and constipation symptoms. Foods that are high in dietary fibers include: squash, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes. For more information about vegetables that are a healthy supplemental food for your dog see our blog, 10 Vegetables for Your Dog.
Adding bone broth to your dog’s food helps increase nutrient absorption and promote gut flora. Bone broth contains collagen, which contains antioxidants that help restore the gut lining and helps detoxify the liver. A healthy liver produces bile that is released into the gastrointestinal tract, which breaks down fats in the small intestine.
Purina Pro Plan FortiFlora probiotic supplement has been proven to promote intestinal health and balance, as well as a healthy immune system. FortiFlora contains guaranteed levels of the probiotic strain Enterococcus faecium SF68 to provide shelf stability and to arrive alive in the intestinal tract. It helps reduce flatulence (gas) in dogs and is proven to promote intestinal health & balance. FortiFlora also contains antioxidant vitamins E, C and beta-carotene, which have been shown to support a strong immune system. It may even increase a pet's desire to eat! It’s very easy to feed, just sprinkle on your pet's food and your dog will eat it up!
Annamaet Endure is a powdered supplement for dogs designed to keep joints healthy and the gut functioning properly. Suggested intake is 1 scoop (included) daily for a 50 pound dog. If sprinkled on your hunting dog’s food throughout its lifetime, Annamaet Endure will help them to have a longer and more active life in the field as he or she ages. Endure also helps relieve stiffness and improve digestion in aging dogs. Annamaet Endure contains 3000 MG of Psyllium that is a plant-based soluble fiber that strengthens the gut villi and helps to prevent constipation and diarrhea by balancing water movement in the digestive system.
Kinetic Bios 36K
The Kinetic Bios 36Kis a canine supplement intended to support overall digestive function for highly active dogs. Kinetic Bios 36K is formulated with a proprietary blend of digestible proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, probiotics and other digestive enzymes to support a healthy gut environment and get your dog back on a path to healthy digestion.
It’s common for humans to get probiotics by coincidence through foods, such as yogurt or sauerkraut, which have naturally-occurring gut-health benefits. Perhaps you yourself even take a probiotic supplement, but have never considered it for your dog. You’re not alone. A diet consisting of dry, processed dog food lacks probiotics or other beneficial digestive health substances. With a dog’s digestive system accounting for 70 percent of their immune system, being responsible for absorption of nutrients and fluids, it stands to say a healthy digestive system can lead to a more healthy and energetic dog.
Thank you for reading.
- Michael Cassatt, LCS Director of Marketing
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