What is the dog’s digestive system and how does it relate to diet?
It’s important to understand the dog’s digestive system, because it relates to the diet and how it evolved. That, in turn, will help you provide the most optimum diet for your canine.
The entire digestive system of the dog includes the mouth, teeth and jaws, as well as the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, colon, pancreas, gall bladder and liver.
Inside the mouth, the jaws are powerful and can grip food. Incisors cut through meat and bite off chunks, while back teeth can crush food before swallowing. Since dogs don’t really chew, their saliva provides lubrication to help the food move through the dog’s system.
Dogs, unlike humans, are classified as “omnivore carnivores” and that means that, while it does eat some plant-based food, the dog is still largely a meat-eater. While vegetables do contain some protein, it’s not nearly the amount found in meat—so the dog’s intestine is shorter than a human’s so it can process the protein faster. First, the food goes into the stomach where it’s stored and eventually dissolved and broken down for digestion. During this time proteins are drawn from the food for absorption into the dog’s system and then the food passes into the large intestine and then, eventually, into the small intestine.
While in the large intestine, the pancreas and gall bladder release enzymes and bile into the small intestine. The enzymes help to break down proteins and regulate blood sugar, while the bile serves to break down fats. The liver acts as a storage area for the nutrients and proteins that are delivered to it by the blood and also helps to remove potentially harmful toxins.
While in the small intestine, the food is broken down into even smaller particles and absorbed into the blood. Here, the majority of the nutrients are absorbed, together with water and electrolytes. The processed food then passes into the large intestine, where the last water and electrolytes are extracted and the remainder is turned into feces. While in the large intestine, enzymes that produce bacteria break down any material that is difficult to digest.