Dogs only have one stomach. It functions similarly to a human stomach, but some key differences exist. The dog’s stomach contains 100 times more acid than the human’s stomach. Their stomachs can hold food anywhere between 4-12 hours (much longer than humans).
Maybe you’ve heard that a cow has four stomachs, and now you’re wondering how many your dog has. I hate to burst your bubble, but cows don’t actually have four stomachs. They technically have four chambers or compartments that function differently, but make up only one stomach.
But back to dogs, they also only have one stomach.
And you probably don’t think much about your dog’s tummy unless it’s upset and you need some way to remedy it. Or you might not give too much thought to his digestive system other than when you set his food bowl in front of him and later take him out to go potty.
In this article, we’ll dive into learning more about how your pup’s stomach and his body function.
What You'll Learn
How Does a Dog’s Stomach Function?
It’s true that dogs are sensitive to a lot of foods. This can result in upsetting their tummy (which comes with unwanted side effects). But how does food actually move through their body?
Anatomy of a Dogs Stomach
Most dogs are very food motivated (especially Labradors and Retrievers). When your dog gobbles up his food, it’s ground by his teeth into small enough pieces to then travel down his esophagus to his stomach.
Both humans and dogs have saliva in their mouths that help break down food, but saliva operates differently in dogs.
Human saliva contains an enzyme called Amylase that starts the breakdown process before it hits our esophagus and then stomach.
Dog’s saliva doesn’t contain this enzyme. Therefore, the main purpose of the saliva is to lubricate the esophagus as it pushes a dog’s food to his stomach.
The stomach has vital functions that are necessary for the digestive process. Food is stored in the dog’s stomach, where it gets broken down further and can be digested over time.
While both our stomachs and dogs’ stomachs contain acid, theirs contain 100 times more acid than ours. Food can stay in the stomach for anywhere from 4 to 12 hours (depending on your dog’s size).
Because the nutrients and calories are released over time, a dog’s stomach can expand to accommodate for the lack of food in between meals.
From there, the food travels to your pup’s small intestine to get its final breakdown and disperse nutrients. Food moves quicker through the intestine than it does through the stomach.
The small intestine makes up ¼ of your dog’s gastrointestinal system. It is actually three times as long as your dog himself if you were to unravel it.
Signs and Symptoms of Gastrointestinal Issues
The first sign that something is off with your pup is one you might be familiar with–a sensitive stomach that results in diarrhea, vomiting, and abnormal stool.
The complexity lies in figuring out the cause of the upset stomach. The best place to start is to see what your dog ate recently, and if he got into anything he shouldn’t have.
It could be something your pup is allergic to, but dogs can get indigestion and heartburn just like us, so it could be that too.
Whether or not you can find the culprit of the discomfort, you should call your vet just to check in while you monitor your dog.
Additional symptoms of gastrointestinal issues
- Lack or loss of appetite
- Fatigue or malaise
- Loose stool, blood in stool
- Weight loss
How to Help With Your Dogs Digestion
Walking your dog once or twice a day is good for his energy, muscle, and joint health, weight management, stress and anxiety control, and overall quality of life. It’s also crucial for his digestive system.
It’s best to walk or run your pup before eating (no one enjoys running on a full stomach). If you have to walk your dog after he eats (because of your schedule or any other reason), stick with a gentle walk and avoid any intense exercise or play. Basically, don’t throw the ball for him to chase after.
Regular exercise also helps relieve constipation by promoting healthy blood flow. The more you walk or run your dog, the faster the food will turn into energy.
What You Feed Your Dog Matters
Just like humans, the type of food you feed your dog matters. You know as well as I do that even though cake and ice cream sound amazing to you after a long day of work, your digestive system will not be as happy as it would be with some steamed broccoli. Not to say you can’t eat it, it’s just going to digest differently.
Many dog owners feed their dogs dry kibble, a high-grain food that’s harder to digest. Foods that are easier for dogs to digest are higher in calories and protein, like most wet food.
Neither one is wrong as long as your dog is eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. Try to limit highly processed foods to avoid indigestion.
In addition, you can work a variety of organic fruits and vegetables into your dog’s diet. As always, these foods should be introduced slowly and only in moderation until you confirm they’re safe for your dog to eat.
Some of the safest fruits and veggies are:
Celery – Hydrating (95% water), fights bad breath, contains Vitamin A, low in fat and cholesterol, helps with weight management.
Apples – Slice the apple and remove the seeds. Contains Vitamin A, C, potassium, antioxidants and fiber, low in fat.
Carrots – Supports healthy vision, skin, and teeth, high in fiber, low in calories, contains Vitamin A, fiber, and potassium.
Bananas – Contains potassium, Vitamin B, magnesium, low in cholesterol and sodium.
Blueberries – Low calorie, rich in antioxidants and fiber, Vitamin C and K, prevents cell damage, supports the immune system.
Watermelon – Slice and remove the seeds. Contains Vitamin A, B-6, and C, is hydrating (92% water), aids digestion, helps prevent cancer.
Cucumbers – Helps with weight management, low in calories, hydrating (96% water), supports bone and joint health, fights bad breath.
Sweet potatoes – Do not feed raw, only cooked. Protects against heart disease, contains Vitamin A, B5, B6, and C, beta carotene and fiber.
Natural Home Remedies For An Upset Stomach
When your dog vomits or has diarrhea, your first instinct might be to jump to the worst-case scenario and think your dog will not survive the next 24 hours. But I’m here to tell you to remain calm.
While you should always consult your vet if you’re concerned something is wrong with your dog, there are things you can do at home to help ease your pup’s upset tummy.
Pumpkin is known for regulating your dog’s digestive system if he’s constipated. Try mixing pureed pumpkin into his regular food to see if it helps. Don’t overdo it since your dog’s stomach is already sensitive.
A Bland Diet
A bland diet is best. If you’re sick to your stomach, you don’t want a big fancy meal with lots of spices. The same is true with your dog. Even your dog’s kibble might make him nauseous or throw up.
You can incorporate cooked rice and boiled white chicken into your dog’s diet. If you don’t see any change after 24 hours of monitoring your dog closely (or if he gets worse), then you need to contact your vet immediately.
Dog Anatomy is Fun
As you can tell, dog anatomy is very similar to humans, yet different in so many ways. Although dogs only have one stomach, they can store food in their stomachs longer than humans. This means they can go much longer without eating before getting hungry.
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