What is Digestion?
Digestion, to put it simply is the process of breaking down food.
Dogs rely on the intake of food which needs to be broken down in order to provide the nutrients required to support overall health and wellbeing. The major food components broken down as food passes through the gut are protein, fat and carbohydrate.
It is commonly thought that digestion begins in the stomach but the true starting point for the digestive process begins in the mouth where chewing helps to mechanically break down the food making it more accessible for enzymes to get in and do their work in the next stages of digestion.
The three basic digestive enzymes are:
- Protease- helps to break down and digest protein
- Amylease- helps to break down and digest carbohydrates and starches
- Lipase- helps to break down and digest fat
Once food has been broken down in to smaller particles within the mouth, it is swallowed and passes down the oesophagus to the stomach. The stomach produces a variety of secretions and is the initial site of protein digestion.
Dogs have a larger more expandable stomach, allowing for a large meal to be consumed once or twice per day. In comparison a cats’ stomach is relatively much smaller and requires small frequent meals throughout the day.
Partially digested food leaves the stomach and enters the small intestine, where the majority of digestion is carried out.
Enzymes complete the digestion of the food as it passes along the small intestine and the specialised cells making up the lining of the small intestine also carry out the important job of absorbing the ‘released’ nutrients from the food into the body.
The large intestine is host to a large microbial ecosystem which carries out the breakdown of nutrients that were not digested and absorbed by the small intestine such as dietary fibre.
Fermentation (the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria) is responsible for the production of gas.
Finally, the large intestine serves to absorb electrolytes and water before the waste is expelled from the body.
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If you have any questions please ask for help