You love your dog, but that doesn’t mean that you always love what they do when it comes to depositing little “presents” around your home. Even if your dog is well-trained, however, and goes to the bathroom when and where they’re supposed to, you might still notice that they have a tendency to go right after you feed them.
Why is that? Is it true that dogs tend to go right after they eat? How long does it take dogs to digest food, how long before they poop, and how often should they poop at that?
Let’s take a deep dive into your dog’s digestive system to answer all of that and more.
Doggie Digestion 101
Before we get into the process and trajectory your dog’s food undertakes on its “journey” to become digested waste, let’s first clarify digestibility itself.
For those not in the know, digestibility measures how your dog absorbs nutrients from food, which in turn is essential in determining the food’s nutritional value. The higher the digestibility rating, the more nutrients your dog can get from it when it digests it, whereas lower digestibility scores indicate foods that simply “go through” your dog, not leaving much in the way of nutritional value behind before they are excreted.
In terms of digestion itself, the story begins with your dog’s mouth. We’ve all seen how dogs salivate at the very sight, sought, and smell of food, with that saliva being key to breaking down the food to start the digestive process. This also makes it easier for your dog to swallow as the food travels down their throat – and that’s where our existential “excremental” dog poop frequency question takes its first plunge into their stomach.
This part of the digestive system is always one of the most acidic, and dogs’ stomachs are no exception. Due to the high acidity, their stomachs can break down everything from kibble to meat to bones very fast, which in turn allows dogs to process and, yes, poop out their waste that much faster after meals. This is one reason why many dogs poop so soon after meals as well.
Once the meal has been broken down into chyme – the term for the digestive goo constituting food, water, and acid – it is sent from the stomach into the small intestine. In the duodenum part of the small intestine, hormones and enzymes from the pancreas and liver are introduced, reducing the chyme’s overall acidity. Then, in first the jejunum and then the ileum, little probe-like extensions soak up the last remaining nutrients. Sucking out every last bit of nutrients is extra important given that even the best and most nutritious dog food typically contains far less nutrients than “empty” calories and waste in its overall volume, leading to the voluminous amounts of excrement some dogs can excrete after a meal.
Finally, after all the nutrients have been soaked up, the remaining waste makes its way to your dog’s large intestine and, eventually, the anus – and you know what happens from there.
Meal Time to Bathroom Time
Now that we have established the basics of how your dog’s digestive system works, we can delve into the timing a bit more and discover why answering the question of dog bowel movements post-meal are more complicated than you might think.
For one thing, despite the fact some innutritious food can go right through your dog’s digestive system, it can take as much as 12 hours for a meal to be fully evacuated from their bowels as waste. That doesn’t comport with the idea of your dog pooping after every meal, so what’s going on here?
Simply put, what your dog excretes is only the waste, whereas the nutrients of the meal can remain with them for hours. This is why it is so important for their digestive system to work quickly to separate out the nutrients and get rid of the waste. Mammals in the wild typically take 12 seconds or less to poop, lest predators catch them or they lose their prey, and the same holds true for dogs. Your little ball of fluff may be a far cry from a wolf now, but some of those instincts are still there, impetus for quick pooping and all.
You can expect your dog to poop after every meal, so the more times you feed them, the more times they’ll defecate.
Poop Frequency FAQ
What if your dog takes longer than a few minutes? Is this cause for alarm?
Probably not, as long as it still happens reasonably soon. The older dogs get, the longer it takes for them to go. They should go within 30 minutes, and if they’re still having trouble, try taking them for a walk. Activity can help spur their digestive system on. Of course, you also may want your dog to go before you take them out, in which case, just be patient.
What’s more, puppies tend to poop faster post-meal than their adult contemporaries. They are still young and growing, and so need a digestive system that can keep up, and that means processing food, absorbing vital nutrients, and expelling waste that much faster. You should therefore plan for incoming puppy poop just a few minutes after they have eaten their meal.
What if your dog simply will not go? This may be a sign of something too many frustrated humans know all too well – constipation. There are any number of reasons why your dog may be constipated, from familiar-sounding reasons for us such as a lack of fiber in their diet to more dog-specific reasons such as a lack of hydration and not getting enough exercise. In some cases, anal gland issues or tumors in their digestive tract may be to blame, but before you panic, this is rare and the reason for your dog’s constipation is almost certainly far simpler and less concerning. That said, if your dog hasn’t pooped for a couple of days, constipation that severe is probably a sign there’s something seriously wrong with your dog of which the constipation is a symptom, and you should take them to the veterinarian immediately.
On the flip side, if your dog is relieving themselves too frequently, particularly if they’re subject to frequent bouts of diarrhea, chances are there’s something wrong with their stomach, what they’re eating, or both. As with humans, bouts of diarrhea can lead to an uptick in fecal frequency.
That said, this once again sounds worse than it typically is, as the two most common causes of diarrhea in dogs is food lacking in nutritional value of having too much fiber and dogs ingesting bacteria or other things that upset their stomach. These are both things that can happen to us, too, and while toilet trouble’s no fun, this alone isn’t a cause for alarm. Try switching your dog’s food and see what happens. If your dog’s leavings don’t start to become more “solid” a few days after the switch, or if they change color or contain blood, take your dog to the vet immediately.
In short, your dog pooping soon after a meal is a sign that its digestive system is working as intended, the more regular, the better.