The Dog Digestive System: Anatomy and FunctionsEver wonder how your dog’s digestive system works? Are dogs strictly meat-eaters? Read on to learn about the digestive system, how it works, and the best way to keep your dog’s digestive tract healthy.FirstVet is the #1 online video veterinary service.FirstVet offers video calls with experienced veterinarians for just $35. You can get a consultation within minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Over 500,000 users trust FirstVet to care for their animals. Rating: 4.9 - more than 1600 reviewsRating: 4.9 - more than 1300 reviewsRating: 4.9 - more than 1600 reviews Download app Basic Anatomy of Your Dog’s Digestive TractWe often think that dogs are carnivores, meaning their diet consists primarily of meat-based protein. While meat makes up a large portion of their diet, dogs also need vegetables, grains, and fruits. These provide necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber.In this article learn how your dog’s digestive system works and what you can do to keep them healthy, prevent stomach upset including vomiting and diarrhea, and other illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis, tooth abscess, gingivitis, foreign bodies, and more.Digestion begins in the mouth with the teeth, tongue, and saliva, swallowing the food through the esophagus into the stomach. Gastric juices in the stomach help further breakdown food with help from enzymes produced by the pancreas. Bile made by the gallbladder assists with absorbing nutrients from food. The small intestines (made up of the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum) completes food digestion and absorption. The cecum (known as the appendix in people) and large intestines (made up of the ascending, transverse, and descending colon) complete digestion by absorbing fluid and nutrients from digested food. The waste or formed stool moves to the rectum and out through the anus.Basic Functions of the Digestive TractYour dog’s digestive tract performs many important tasks! Along with breaking down/digesting food, this system absorbs nutrients and essential vitamins and minerals to provide the body with energy and maintain normal function. The digestive tract also absorbs and distributes water to maintain hydration.Keeping your Dog’s Digestive System HealthyA healthy digestive tract begins in your dog’s mouth, literally! Providing daily oral care to your dog will help prevent tartar build-up on their teeth and inflammation of the gums. Digestion begins in the mouth as dogs chew their food, mixing it with saliva, before swallowing. Always provide fresh water daily and keep their food and water bowls clean.Feed your dog a complete and balanced diet. With so many options, choosing a good diet can be quite challenging. Start by checking out the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which publishes standards for nutritional profiles and labeling guidelines. Look for the words “complete and balanced” on the packaging. This is the AAFCO Nutritional Adequacy Statement and means that the food provides all the necessary vitamins and nutrients your dog needs. It’s important to note that pet food labels are not regulated and can entice consumers with words such as “holistic,” “premium,” and “human-grade” without following through on that promise.When in doubt, talk to a veterinarian about the best nutrition and diet choices for your pet.A Healthy Digestive Tract Includes the Following:Regular oral hygieneFresh clean waterA healthy, balanced dietNo sudden food changesNo table scrapsNo bonesIf offering treats: beware of pigs ears, boiled bones, chicken feet, rawhides, etc. that can be choking or foreign body hazardsOnly give puppy milk replacer to puppies needing nutritional supportDeworm puppies and adult dogs as instructed by your vetProbiotics and supplements only as recommended by your vetWhen to Call Your VeterinarianThe following symptoms can indicate an unhealthy digestive tract and require veterinary care:VomitingDiarrheaHard stoolBlood in stoolAbnormal stool color, odor, or worms evidentWeight lossWeight gainFoul odor from mouthRead more:How to Choose the Right Food for Your DogGastrointestinal Diets for Dogs and CatsChoosing the Right Prescription Diet for Your DogHave more questions about your dog’s digestive tract?Schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets.