Understanding Digestion for a Healthy Dog


It’s important to understand the digestion process and what your pet should be eating in order to have a healthy dog. Here we break down the digestion process to explain just how your dog will get the nutrients it needs.

What is Digestion?

Digestion, is simply the process of breaking down food. Food needs to be broken down in order to provide the nutrients required to support overall health and well being. 

It is commonly thought that digestion begins in the stomach but the true starting point for the digestive process is the mouth. Chewing helps to mechanically break down the food which makes it more accessible for enzymes. The enzymes do their work in the next stages of digestion.


Once food has been broken down in to smaller particles in the mouth, it is swallowed and passes down the oesophagus to the stomach. The major food components which pass through the gut are protein, fat and carbohydrates. These need to be broken down by enzymes. The stomach produces a variety of secretions and is the initial site of protein digestion.

The three basic digestive enzymes are: 

  • Protease – which helps to break down and digest protein.
  • Amylease – aids the break down and digestion carbohydrates and starches.
  • Lipase – this helps to break down and digest fat.

Dogs have a large expandable stomach, allowing for a large meal to be consumed once or twice per day. In comparison, a cat’s stomach is much smaller and requires small frequent meals throughout the day.

Small Intestine 

Partially digested food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine, where the majority of digestion is carried out. Enzymes complete the digestion of the food as it passes along the small intestine. Specialised cells making up the lining of the small intestine also carry out the important job of absorbing the ‘released’ nutrients from the food into the body. 

Large Intestine 

The large intestine hosts a large microbial ecosystem. This carries out the breakdown of nutrients that were not digested and absorbed by the small intestine, such as dietary fibre. Fermentation is then responsible for the production of gas, which is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria. Finally, the large intestine absorbs the electrolytes and water, before the waste is expelled from the body. 

For more advice on looking after your pets the PDSA have some useful information. 

WCF dog food helps to provide you with a nutritious diet needed for a healthy dog. We offer high protein, grain free dog foods with no artificial ingredients. Click here to find out more about a grain free dog food diet.