Here’s a sentence almost every dog owner can relate to: “My dog ate something she shouldn’t have.” Our canine friends lick, chew, and eat things that an average human wouldn’t touch with rubber gloves. When many pet parents see their dogs gnashing down raw meat, old grass clippings, and abandoned honeycombs, they assume that their systems can handle just about anything that isn’t overtly poisonous.
But are the stomachs of dogs really as hardy as they seem? After all, feral dogs can thrive on whatever nature and fortune provide, without any of the fresh tap water, kibble, or tasty treats we lavish upon our pet dogs. So surely the GI tracts of our pups can excel without any support, right?
At Wapiti Labs, we’re proud to support the happiness and well-being of companion animals across the country. That’s why we produce a variety of dietary supplements made with natural ingredients that encourage optimal health in canines. Above all else, our goal is to provide pet parents with all of the resources they need to offer the highest quality of care for their four-legged kids. Let’s start by putting this widespread rumor about canine stomachs to bed, once and for all. Read on to learn more about dog stomach issues and what you can do to keep your canine’s GI tract in peak condition.
What Is the Anatomy of a Dog’s Stomach?
Since it seems that dogs can and do eat and digest some things a human would never get away with, some people assume they must have a much different stomach than us anatomically. However, a dog’s stomach far more closely resembles that of a human than, say, a cow.
Some animals, called ruminants, have multi-chambered stomachs. Ruminants are animals like cows and bison that graze and eat only plant material. Cellulose in plants is difficult to digest, and the multi-chambered stomach is designed to extract nutrition from this tough plant material. This is why you see ruminants, such as cows in a pasture, “chewing their cud.”
Dogs do sometimes eat grass, it’s true, but they don’t spend all of their time re-chewing their food like a ruminant animal. Like humans and many other animals that eat food from a mix of plant and animal sources, your canine friend’s digestive system includes a one-chambered stomach.
How Strong Is a Canine’s Stomach?
As most dog guardians can attest, canines have pretty powerful stomachs, at least in comparison to ours. Because dogs evolved on a diet of raw meat, their GI tracts adapted to process large amounts of bacteria, quantities that would turn any human’s stomach sour. This evolutionary boon enables our pups to eat meats and bones in the wild with minimal risk of stomach issues. A dog’s stomach also utilizes strong hydrochloric acid in large concentrations—ten times what an average human stomach offers—to process these rough foods.
This powerful defense system kills a huge portion of the bacteria found in these potentially toxic treats, keeping your canine from becoming ill. Most importantly, dogs have a significantly shorter GI tract compared to humans, meaning that all that nasty food passes through their bodies much faster than it would through ours. This advantage keeps harmful bacteria from impacting the system before they’re eliminated.
Pair all of these natural defenses together, and it’s no surprise that dogs can handle a variety of nasty meals without adverse effects. However, that’s not to say that a canine’s stomach is immune to illness. Dogs can get sick or experience discomfort from eating a wide range of foods, including the raw meats and bones their systems weren’t designed to process. Humans are partly responsible for this problem because we’ve been showering our pups in safe, high-quality foods for thousands of years. Still, even wild carnivores with the strongest stomachs aren’t 100% safe from harmful bacteria. The systems we listed above are incredibly effective, but they aren’t perfect.
So, the answer to this blog’s titular question is a resounding no; dogs do not have iron stomachs. Despite their host of defenses, the GI tracts of canines are still susceptible to health problems and discomfort, especially when they’re forced to process poisonous or inedible materials. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can leverage to maximize your pup’s GI tract health, preventing stomach issues from decreasing their quality of life. But where to start? How about with another commonly-asked question?
Can Dogs Digest Bones?
Whether you give your canine companion bones as treats or not, you probably assume dogs can digest at least some bones. After all, we’ve all heard the phrase “give a dog a bone” or seen the cartoon images of a pooch jealously guarding his juicy prize. It’s true that your furry friend descended from wolves that ingested bones. However, many thousands of years of evolution exist between packs of wolves and your furry friend currently sleeping in a pool of sunlight on the living room floor.
Many veterinarians will advise pet owners not to give bones to their canines but to stick instead to meaty treats or chews designed specifically for dogs. Talk to your veterinarian if you want to know what he or she thinks concerning your pet.
It’s worth noting that many pet owners do indeed give their furry friends bones often enough with no resulting injury or adverse effects. Some dogs can indeed digest some bones. A couple of factors determine if a dog will be able to digest a specific bone. The size and type of bone will have a lot to do with it. Chicken and other bird bones vary wildly from beef bones, for example. Your breed of dog and the dog’s size will also have an impact on whether he will be able to digest a bone, and so will his dental health and general tendency to chew food thoroughly or rush.
Some bones are light and easy for a dog to chew up. Still, small pieces or sharp shards could remain and cause injury inside the mouth, to the esophagus, or anywhere along the digestive tract, including the stomach, intestines, or even the anus as your dog tries to pass them.
Larger bones such as beef bones, while they have less tendency to shatter, can lead to broken or injured teeth. Since the pieces are so hard, your dog could end up swallowing a fragment too large for his throat, where it could become lodged, leading to choking or obstruction. Obviously, choking or an obstruction to the airway is an emergency, and you should seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect it, whether you’ve given your dog a bone or not.
Overall, pet owners want to give their furry friends the best and to share treats to show affection and appreciation. Some vets will have specific advice regarding bones as dog treats, so you should contact yours. In general, while many pet dogs do chew on bones and safely digest them, it’s worth exercising caution as a responsible pet owner.
If you do decide to give your dog a bone as a treat, be sure to check with your vet beforehand, and consider opting for a certified elk antler chew. At Wapiti, we offer chews created specifically for hard and soft chewers. And because our antlers are fresh, they rarely splinter, making them safer for your pup.
Supporting Your Dog’s Stomach Health
Before you run off to look through a bunch of online articles on optimizing your canine’s GI tract, we highly advise you to consult with your favorite veterinary expert. A veterinarian should be your first source of support when seeking health solutions for your pet. They have the tools and expertise required to evaluate the current state of your dog’s stomach and recommend proven tactics to improve matters.
Depending on your dog’s specific condition, your veterinarian may recommend a wealth of stomach remedies to help them. For many mild stomach problems, doing nothing and allowing your canine’s system to work its magic is the best course of action. Your veterinarian might also advise you to look into natural pet supplements that are specifically designed to support GI tract health in dogs.
To give you a better idea of how supplements can help your dog with stomach issues, let’s take a moment to discuss Wapiti’s GI Tract for Dogs. This potent dietary supplement is based on time-tested Eastern Medicine formulas, utilizing a range of natural ingredients, including Saussurea root, citrus peel, mentha herb, coix seed, magnolia bark, and more.
GI Tract is administered to help reduce occasional stomach discomfort in canines. It’s also incredibly effective at supporting proper digestion while soothing and protecting the stomach from many potential threats. GI Tract also reduces the passing of gas, helps to resolve food stagnation (caused by undigested food), and harmonizes the stomach, greatly reducing stomach discomfort and maintaining contentment while supporting digestion and bowel health. This supplement is the perfect tool for pet parents with dogs who like to eat things they shouldn’t or suffer from bouts of stomach discomfort.
Note: Consult with your veterinarian before starting your pup on any new medication or supplement regimen!
Contact Wapiti Labs Today
Feel free to call or message Wapiti Labs if you have any additional questions about dog stomach issues and how to safely resolve them in your pet. You can also reach out if you’d like to learn more about our peerless dietary supplements for canines. We’re always here to help, fellow pet lover.