Those without dogs who happen upon this article may recoil at the scatological content, but getting to know your pooch’s poo schedules is actually an essential part of dog ownership.
As guardians of these fluffy friends, we need to allow them time to relieve themselves when they need it most, and that means orchestrating walkies during their intestine’s office hours. When you think about it, our whole day is structured around this core principle.
Whether you’re crate training an adorable pup or working on your majestic house wolf’s diet, and you need them to take care of business before you leave for work, a little research into how long doggy digestion takes can go a long way.
Doggy Digestion at a Glance
Before we elaborate on the details, let’s take a look at some general answers to our question: how long after eating does it take a dog to poop?
For the most part, it takes those fluffy tums between six and eight hours to work their magic, soaking up all the healthy nutrients from food, so excretion tends to happen between seven and nine hours after they’ve licked their doggy bowl clean.
As you can imagine, it’s a much shorter process for puppies on account of them being so dang adorable and small – mostly the small part. The whole bowl to bowels process for these little darlings takes roughly four hours.
It all seems simple enough, doesn’t it? You’re not exactly going to have to break out the chalkboard full of equations to plan your day around a single digit, but hold that thought. Things are about to get way more complicated.
Some dogs aren’t all that food-oriented and will only require a single meal a day, but other more active or larger dogs will need two meals a day – one in the morning and one in the evening. Throw some midday treats into the mix, and your single-poop diary is shot!
You’ll have to juggle multiple poops (not literally) from the previous day while also keeping their morning meal in mind. Ultimately, you could be dealing with three poops a day, and that, my friends, isn’t so easy to navigate, especially considering you’re not supposed to walk dogs directly before or after a meal. That means you need to account for pre-and post-meal buffer durations too.
That’s about enough of these generalizations, I think – let’s get into some specifics of doggo digestion…
Dog Food Type and Ingredients
Much like our own toilet schedules will change depending on our fiber intake and the sort of food we eat, so will a dog’s. The first distinction we should make is between wet and dry food.
As we can surmise by the name, wet food has a much larger water content, and typically, lubricated foods are easier to digest.
Wet dog food from a tin is usually made up of between 75-80% water, whereas dry food contains only 10%. We can thank muscle meat for this moisture, a super nutritious ingredient with a 75% water content. If you’re unsure how to work out the moisture content in your dog’s food, it’ll be listed on the back of the tin, box, or bag.
Don’t worry if your dog’s on a dry-only diet, though. You can simply add some aftermarket lubrication to boost water content. Why not try mixing their dry snacks in with a hearty splash of filtered water? It doesn’t sound too appetizing, but your pooch will lap it up with glee, and it will help to improve the digestibility of the food.
Speaking of, it’s important to note that the digestibility of dog food shouldn’t just be used as a measure of how long it will take our fluffy children to pass their dinner. If we’re being smart about it, we can actually use it to keep doggy waste to a minimum.
The digestibility of food refers to both the physical processing of food, but it also refers to how easily its nutrients can be absorbed. This means that your dog doesn’t need as much highly digestible food for a balanced diet and, thus, won’t need the toilet as much.
The consensus is that food with a digestibility rating of 82% and above is a healthy, high-quality option for your fluffy family members. Between 76 and 81% is okay but not great, and anything with a digestibility rating of 75% or below has poor-quality ingredients and is best avoided.
However, it’s not just the quality of ingredients that affects our dog’s digestive process. Each ingredient has an inherent digestibility ceiling that cannot be topped, no matter the quality. Take fish, for example; it’s an 87% digestibility limit, but lamb, on the other hand, has a digestibility peak of 71.5%, no matter how great the cuts are.
Descending from gray wolves, dogs can handle plenty of protein in their diet. Their short intestines are built for the job, but grains are a different story. It’s not that grains aren’t good for our dogs; on the contrary, they’re great, but they can slow down the digestive process. You can use this to your advantage if you need a bit of extra time to make it home from work to walk your dog.
Ingredients are normally listed by volume on dog food containers, which makes strategizing their diet to complement your schedule way easier.
It’s not just our dog’s diet that affects when the bells chime for poop O’clock, but their genetic makeup too. Some dogs, such as Scottish Terriers, Great Danes, Shih Tzus, and Doberman Pinschers, naturally have sensitive stomachs, which can lead to a rather volatile poop schedule.
But a sensitive stomach isn’t the only contributing factor. It’s just a fact of life that some dogs pass waste quicker than others. Remember when we said the average passing time was between 7-9 hours after a meal? Well, depending on the breed of your dog, that figure could drop to as little as four hours or increase to twelve hours.
From Pooping Pups to Squatting Seniors – Does Age Affect the Digestive System?
Another factor that contributes to the time it takes for a dog to pass their meal is what stage they are at in their life. Puppies tend to need the toilet far more frequently because their insides are still adjusting to food and life in general. They have very little control over their bowel movements, so their toilet times can be quite sporadic. This poop premium is also compounded by the fact that puppies eat more meals than grownup dogs throughout the day.
If you’ve got a pooch that’s getting on in years, you may also notice that they too, need to pass stools more frequently than they did in their heyday. If this is the case, it’s nothing to worry about. Just as when we get older and make more trips to the toilet, so too do our fluffy friends.
Exercise – Does it Get Things Moving?
One of the most commonly asked questions about the digestive systems of dogs is whether they need the toilet after a walk. The truth is yes, they do.
After significant zoomies, all the blood and oxygen are pumping around your dog’s body at breakneck speed, stimulating their muscles – intestines included. Intestinal contractions are kicked into hyperdrive, helping to move the stool along to its final location.
So, it’s a good idea not to cut that walk short. A nice long walk will ensure they take care of all their business before you return home.
Can Dogs Hold in Their Poop and Pee?
As we’ve already discussed, puppies are yet to develop a mastery of their digestive system, so even if they understood the concept of holding in their fecal matter, they couldn’t do it.
On the other hand, older dogs with years of training will understand when it’s appropriate to void their bowels, and thus they’ll try to hold it until then. That said, a dog should never have to hold in their waste; it’s just not healthy.
If they really need to go, they will almost always try and communicate that something’s wrong, so make sure you’re receptive when your dog speaks to you.
Exactly how long a dog can hold their baggage, so to speak, will differ not only from breed to breed but dog to dog.
What if Your Dog Isn’t Pooping at All?
If you’re just cottoning on to the fact that you haven’t had to don a poop bag for a while, there’s a good chance that your hound is a little backed up.
When a dog becomes constipated, it’s not unusual for it to go without passing a stool for more than 48 hours, which is obviously a problem.
A backed-up pup can be caused by any number of things, including dehydration, lack of exercise, or a low fiber intake. There’s also a chance that it’s symptomatic of a much more serious health issue, so if your dog isn’t going to the toilet, your first port of call should be to make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Here’s hoping there’s nothing more insidious at play. Then it’s just a matter of diagnosing the issue, but once that’s done, you’ll be able to remedy the situation in no time.
Portion Sizes – Supersize It or Keep it Lean?
Contrary to popular belief, feeding a dog more won’t necessarily speed up the digestive process. It will only amount to your dog needing to go to the toilet more, as it may not be able to get it all out in one sitting.
You should always try to keep it lean with your dog’s diet, but there are times when a proper schedule goes by the wayside, namely, during the festive season. It’s a lovely treat to feed your special little family member some delicious scraps, but only in moderation, and prepare yourself for at least one extra walk the next day.
Fiber Content – What Does it Actually Do?
As you’re probably aware, high-fiber diets encourage the passage of waste, so if you boost your dog’s fiber intake, be prepared to hit the park more often than usual. You may also want to brace yourself for an influx of furry toots too. This smelly side effect of a high-fiber diet will pass eventually as their digestive ecosystem adjusts, but before it does, it’s toot town, baby!
You should always be careful not to increase the fiber in your dog’s diet by too much, as this can create quite a bit of gastric discomfort. You won’t be able to get a single thing done on account of the number of walks you’ll have to take your dog on.
Fiber works by encouraging the build-up of bulky stools, but while it’s working on its poop de résistance, it’s also absorbing water, which helps to soften the stool. Ultimately, a large yet soft poop is much easier to pass.
Stress – Will it Affect a Dog’s Digestive System?
The last thing we’d like to mention on the topic is a matter of mental well-being. It’s not just dogs; we experience deviations from our normal digestive habits when we’re nervous or under a lot of pressure too.
Although it seems like they have a cushy life, dogs can become stressed for a number of reasons, and when they do, it can cause havoc on their bodily functions.
When stressed, a hormone known as norepinephrine is released in their system. This is essentially a shot of adrenalin that dilates the pupils and increases heart rate, prepping them for fight or flight situations, but those aren’t the only body parts it kicks into hyperdrive. It also gets those intestines working post-haste.
If you really want to get to grips with your dog’s digestive cycle, we recommend timing it from meal to mess.
That’s the baseline digestive duration. If you need to alter it slightly, you can use the information you’ve learned here to speed up or stave off the inevitable poopscapade.