Similar to humans, a dog’s digestive system begins in the mouth and ends with the large intestine and the elimination of waste. The quality of the food a dog eats determines how well the process of digestion will be carried out, and what could go wrong along the way. As a dog owner, you may not have given much thought to the digestibility of dog food you feed your dog. Why is it important, and what impact does it have on the health of your dog?
How does the digestibility of dog food interact with your dog’s body?
The digestive process begins in the mouth, where the teeth are used to chew the food and break it down into small pieces. Here it is mixed with saliva, where enzymes begin the chemical process of digestion. From the mouth, food moves to the stomach where even more enzymes are added. In the stomach the food is mixed and churned, turning it into a thick slurry called chyme. The chyme continues into the small intestine, where it receives even more enzymes, some from the intestinal wall and others from the pancreas. The small intestine is also where the digesting food gets mixed with bile from the liver, to help a dog’s body metabolize fat. When digestion is complete, nutrients get absorbed through the intestinal wall and into the blood. The waste products – those that were not digested – move into the large intestine for elimination.
How does the digestibility of dog food affect your dog’s health?
Some foods are more highly digestible than others. Fillers such as corn, for instance, are not easily digested and can cause bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. In addition, a diet low in digestibility will result in more frequent bowel movements and a larger amount of feces. When food is not completely digested, nutrients are not absorbed, causing a dog to have to eat more to retain the needed amount of nutrition. Because of this, bargain dog foods that have low digestibility ratios may not be the bargain they appear to be.
What ingredients are best for the digestibility of dog food?
- Look for natural dog foods that use few or no chemical additives. Even though many of these additives act as preservatives and help increase the shelf life of the food, they can interfere with a dog’s digestion and even cause allergic reactions.
- Consider the grain content of the food by examining the label. Filler grains such as corn or wheat are not highly digestible, at 54 percent and 60 percent respectively. Rice, on the other hand, is 72 percent digestible, and is perhaps the most often recommended grain for dogs.
- Avoid meat by-products and instead opt for meat. Many natural dog foods on the market will contain human-grade lamb, turkey or chicken, which are the best options for a dog’s digestion.