Dog Gut Health: How to Support a Healthy Gut and Digestion in Dogs

Mar 2, 2022

Your dog’s gut health affects its overall health and well-being. The digestive system has many important jobs including nutrient absorption, helping with fluid to electrolyte balance, and removing waste from the body. It’s a dirty job but it needs to get done and your dog’s digestive system is up for the task. You may be wondering how to support dog gut health in a healthy dog. Or maybe your pup is having some tummy troubles and you want to know how to help dog digestion. In this article, we’ll discuss how your dog’s digestion works, how to support dog digestion with diet, water, exercise, veterinary care, and pet CBD and the signs of digestive issues in dogs. 

What You Need To Know About Dogs’ Digestion

Your dog’s digestive system is an incredible thing. It takes food and water and almost miraculously turns them into fuel for playing, licking, scratching, and healing. While our digestive tracts are remarkably similar to our dog’s, there are some marked differences. A dog’s digestive system is similar in size to a human, with the small intestine making up about 25% of the total digestive tract. In contrast, cats, who are true carnivores, have a small intestine that makes up 15% of their digestive tract. However, compared to us humans, your dog moves food through its intestines faster. Food moves through your dog’s digestive system in about 6-8 hours, whereas it takes 20-30 hours to move through your digestive system. 

Otherwise, your digestive system and your dog’s digestive system have a lot in common. Digestion starts in the mouth with the teeth and tongue. Your dog’s mouth is specially designed to tear up meat and bones with biting, gripping, and tearing motions. Your dog has ten more teeth than you do-42 compared to 32. Unlike humans, who secrete the digestive enzyme amylase in their saliva, dogs don’t chew their food or produce digestive enzymes in their mouths. Like cats, dogs tear their food and swallow it in chunks. 

After swallowing, food slides down the long tube called the esophagus into the stomach. Digestive enzyme protease starts to break down the protein into its component amino acids. These smaller molecules can be absorbed by the body and used to build new cells. The stomach also produces gastric lipase, which is a digestive enzyme that breaks down fats. Your dog’s stomach acid is 100 times stronger than the stomach we humans produce, which makes sense since dogs evolved eating bones. The rest of your dog’s nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine, which is a long, coiled organ that rests in the belly. This process is similar to humans, who absorb nutrients in the small intestines too. After all the nutrients have been absorbed, the waste moves into the large intestine where leftover water and electrolytes are reabsorbed. Next, the waste is stored in the rectum and then expelled through the anus. 

Diet and Water Intake

Feeding your dog a high-quality, high-protein diet is one important way you can help support dog digestion. Choose a dog food with meat as the first three ingredients. While these foods are more expensive, they will pay out dividends of health in the long run. Most commercial dog foods are formulated to meet the minimum nutritional requirements of the “average” dog. Since all dogs vary in their nutritional needs, this means that some dogs eating this commercial food will not be receiving all the nutrients they need.

Also, commercial dog food tends to use cheap, and potentially indigestible proteins and often contain a higher amount of grain. While some grains are ok for dogs, since they are omnivores, dogs still need high protein diets since they are mostly carnivores. Look for real meat as the top three ingredients when choosing food for your dog. Also, read the rest of the ingredient labels and look for ingredient splitting. This is a technique that dog food companies will use to disguise a cheap grain main ingredient. Look for an ingredient listed in multiple, different ways. For example, corn becomes “cornmeal” and “yellow corn gluten”. 

Equally important to high-quality, high-protein dog food is your dog’s water intake. Water forms the basis for digestion. Without enough water, your dog will not be able to properly digest its food. Water plays a role from chewing to swallowing to breaking down the food to the nutrient absorption. Adequate water supports the elimination of wastes and toxins through the large intestine and the kidneys. Hydration supports the health of all body systems and functions, especially digestion. Hydration supports and is necessary for dog gut health. 


Part of good gut health for dogs is regular exercise. Adequate physical activity is necessary for your dog’s overall health and the health of its digestive system. Walking helps to regulate your dog’s digestive system and helps to prevent constipation. Exercise does this by stimulating peristalsis, which is the movement of the digestive muscles. These muscles are what move your dog’s food through its digestive tract. Of course, if your dog has a health condition that precludes exercise, or certain types of exercise, be sure to follow your vet’s instructions around physical activity. But for healthy and mobile dogs, exercise can help keep their guts in tip-top shape. 

Veterinary Exams and Check-Ups

Take your pup in for their regular veterinarian checkups and dental cleanings. Preventative care, like dental cleanings, is important for keeping your pup’s mouth healthy. And, your dog’s oral health is important for their health overall. And, if your pup does have a digestive issue that’s starting to arise, your vet can likely detect it and treat it before it becomes a problem. Of course, take your dog to the vet if they start to have health issues before their next appointment. 

Signs of Gut Problems

The occasional case of intestinal distress or tummy trouble is part of having a dog. But when do you need to start worrying about your dog’s digestive issues? If your dog starts to have more than one symptom or a very severe version of one symptom, call your vet. It’s better to be on the safe side. Here are signs of intestinal distress in dogs.

  1. Vomiting

  2. Diarrhea, with or without mucous or blood.

  3. Constipation 

  4. Large amounts of gas

  5. Decreased appetite

  6. Loss of weight

  7. Fever

  8. Dehydration

  9. Abdominal pain, which causes dogs to hunch, with their front legs and chest on the floor and rear end lifted, or to yelp when picked up. 

  10. Abdominal bloating or distention, which is when the belly is enlarged and hard to the touch.

  11. Can’t get comfortable and other signs of distress.

If your dog is displaying signs of bloat, take them to the nearest animal hospital or emergency center. Bloat is a life-threatening condition where the stomach enlarges and rotates, cutting off its blood supply. This condition must be treated with surgery. Signs of bloat are:

  1. Dry retching or vomiting with no vomit.

  2. Distended (enlarged, hard to the touch) stomach that’s painful when touched.

  3. Panting

  4. Restless and can’t settle.

Feeding dogs twice a day reduces the risk of bloat, as does reducing stress around mealtime. For houses with more than one dog, it’s recommended to feed separately to reduce any anxiety around food. 

Pet Releaf CBD for a Healthy Gut

CBD makes an excellent addition to your dog’s healthy gut routine. CBD supports a healthy gut by promoting healthy bowel function, normal pH in the stomach, and proper gut flora. CBD can aid in reducing the occasional loose stool due to environmental stress or changes in diet, making CBD a useful tool before traveling or a vet visit. 

The people at Pet Releaf are dedicated to helping pets all across the world be their best, happiest, healthiest selves. That’s why they make their full-spectrum pet CBD from hemp plants that are grown in the U.S. with sustainable and regenerative farming practices. They use state-of-the-art technology to extract the full profile of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from hemp using zero heat, chemicals, or solvents. In full-spectrum hemp, all of the plant compounds, including CBD, work together to make the CBD stronger. This is called the entourage effect and is part of why Pet Releaf is so effective at supporting your dog’s optimum health. 

Pet Releaf has a wide range of pet CBD products for every dog. They know that dogs range in size dramatically, so they offer CBD oils in concentrations made for the smallest chihuahua to the largest Great Dane. They have two kinds of CBD oil. Their classic, coconut oil-based Hemp Oil is certified USDA Organic. The award-winning Liposome Hemp Oils are made with a base of sustainably sourced wild Alaskan Red Pollack fish oils. This makes it perfect for finicky palates, and this oil offers a much faster absorption rate, so pet parents can use less of this oil for the same effects. They also have a line of CBD and herbal soft chews for dogs called Edibites. Edibites come in a wide range of flavors, address different health concerns, or feature a healthy ingredient. Your dog will love peppered bacon Edibites, which are full of antioxidants from hemp and black pepper. Pet Releaf offers a helpful product finder that makes it easy to pick out a CBD product for your dog. 

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