Home » Large Dog Breeds » Digestion Problems in Dogs: Do Large Breeds Have it Worse?

Digestion Problems in Dogs: Do Large Breeds Have it Worse?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

Is your large dog having digestive issues at home? Your dog may be prone to such gastrointestinal problems. But, do larger dogs really have worse digestion?

If your dog suffers from digestive troubles it can be inconvenient and difficult to deal with. It can be unsettling to watch your pet struggle with being able to eat and digest meals normally. After all, tummy troubles are not fun for anyone.

If your pup is a larger dog breed, there may be a reason that they are encountering these problems at meal times.

As the owner of a large breed, it can be helpful to understand how their digestive system works and choosing the best dog food for digestive problems.

Our dogs are often our best companions. They deserve a diet that meets their nutritional needs.

Taking care of your pet means understanding their needs, and doing your best to help keep them healthy.

Read on to find out what might be causing your dog’s digestion problems and if there’s anything that you can do to help them.

Is Dog Digestion Different for Large Dogs?

Is Dog Digestion Different for Large Dogs?

Research indicates that large dogs and small dogs digest the same foods differently, with larger dogs tending to have softer stools than smaller breeds after being fed the exact same diet. This is because larger dogs generally have a longer colonic transit time, which can increase colonic fermentation.

So what does that mean exactly?

Well, for large dogs to avoid the tummy aches associated with soft stools and more specifically, diarrhea, they must be fed the appropriate foods, which are not the same as our smaller four-legged friends.

A larger dog needs a diet that doesn’t prolong colonic fermentation, in other words.

Another difference in large and small dogs is that the intestines of large breeds are three percent of their body weight. However, the intestines of small dogs are seven percent of their body weight. Having smaller intestines means there is less room for dog digestion and less area to absorb nutrients from their diet.

Unfortunately, dog digestion is only one of the possible causes that can make your dog not feel their best.

There are several issues that can make dogs sick to their stomach. Some of these are serious reasons for concern and should be treated by your vet. Others are not quite as serious and can be taken care of at home with fairly simple treatment or adjustments.

Unless you are certain that dog digestion is the only reason that your dog is feeling sick, then you should also consider other possibilities.

If tweaking your dog’s diet does not remedy their issues fairly quickly, it will be best to consult your veterinarian.

What is Making Your Dog Sick?

What is Making Your Dog Sick?

Here are some of the other possibilities that could make your dog feel under the weather.


Pancreatitis is a condition that causes swelling and pain in the pancreas. It can be caused by consuming too fatty meals.


Like humans, dogs can contract viruses. A virus can weaken dog digestion and make them very sick. Most of the most dangerous viruses can be vaccinated against at their regular vet checkups.


Worms are contracted most often when dogs digest them through the ingestion of another dog or cat’s fecal matter who already has them. Some types of worms are easily treatable while other types, such as heartworms can be difficult to treat once contracted. In these cases, your vet can recommend treatment options but the best way to prevent heartworms is through prevention pills or treatments.

READ MORE: 6 Common Types of Worms in Dogs and Basic Treatments


Bacteria such as E Coli or Salmonella can cause food poisoning to both dogs and humans. Dogs can pass these bacteria to humans once they contract the illness.

Dietary Indiscretion

If a dog digests something that they should not consume, such as garbage, there is the potential that they will become sick.


Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease which causes inflammation in the digestive tract. It can cause problems with digestion and can be painful. Your vet can help you decide on a treatment plan if your dog is diagnosed with colitis.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder that occurs in both humans and animals and causes gas, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation. There are types of treatment that can help to alleviate the symptoms.

Be sure to check out our guide to the best dog food for digestive problems here. 

Know the Warning Signs

Know the Warning Signs

You should know the warning signs to look for in the event your dog becomes sick. If your dog exhibits the following warning signs they could be a clue that they are experiencing dog digestion issues.

1. Loose or watery stools

The consistency of your dog’s stool may be telling you something. If their stools are extraordinarily loose or watery, such as in the case of diarrhea, then there is a chance that their diet needs to be adjusted. However, as is the case with the other warning signs listed, diarrhea could be a symptom of a larger problem.

READ MORE: Diarrhea in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

2. Constipation

If your dog is constipated and can not produce a bowel movement, or if the bowel movement is hard or ball-shaped, it can be a painful experience for your pet. Constipation is a sign that something is up with your dog’s system. Like diarrhea, it may also point to problems with their dietary intake.

3. Particles

If you notice particles in your dog’s stool that indicate that they are not fully digesting what they are eating. Particles refer to anything that appears to resemble how their food looked in the bowl. It could also be blades of grass or something that they should not have eaten.

4. Size and Frequency

If your dog’s bowel movements are extraordinarily large in size, it can be that they are not digesting their meals well.

If your dog seems to be going to the bathroom immediately after eating, then they are likely to be digesting their food too fast. On the contrary, if they do not produce a movement within several hours, they are likely having trouble digesting their meals. Dog digestion that regularly happens too quickly or too slow is not ideal for your pet.

5. Avoiding Meals

If your dog is refusing to eat, they may have a tummy ache or the food that they are eating may not be right for them.

If this happens, you can try feeding them a small amount of a different type or brand of food with their next meal. If the problem is due to their distaste for the food, they will often respond to a new type of food with more enthusiasm. If you find that mixing their old food with the new brand still does not appeal to them, there could be something else going on.

6. Behavioral Clues

Most of the time when your pet’s behavior changes, it is noticeable, especially if the change is a drastic one or lasts for an extended period of time.

Your pet’s behavior is a major clue as to how they are feeling. Just like us, if your pet is feeling sick, they probably will show signs, such as lethargy, whimpering, refusing to eat meals or drink water or appearing less upbeat than usual.

Pay attention to your pet’s behavior and if something seems off-kilter, keep a close watch for additional warning signs. If the shift in their behavior is severe enough to contact their doctor, do not hesitate to do so. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

7. Gas

If you notice that your dog is passing gas, it is usually not an indicator that something is wrong, especially if this is their only symptom.

However, if your dog seems to be having severe bouts of gas after eating it could possibly indicate a bigger problem.

If this does occur, be on guard for additional symptoms. If after some time, the flatulence returns to normal or is no longer noticeably out of the ordinary, then they are probably fine. But, if they develop diarrhea, constipation or another symptom that is concerning, it is time to take a look at what might be causing their issues.

8. Abdominal Bloating

If your dog appears to be bloated, it may not just be because their tummy is full. Sometimes, bloating can be a sign that they have worms, or dog digestion problems.

READ MORE: Dog Bloat: A Big Concern for Big Breeds

9. Vomiting

If your dog begins vomiting after eating, it might be their diet. But, if the vomiting occurs more than once or happens spontaneously rather than after mealtimes, it is likely an indicator of another type of illness or irritation.

10. Blood in their Stool

If you notice blood in you pup’s stool, you may want to check them for hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids can be caused by straining and could be linked to what they are eating.

You should take bloody stools seriously. This could mean there is something much worse than simply hemorrhoids. It can be something as critical as a sign of certain types of cancer or internal bleeding.

If your dog has blood present in their vomit, you should be especially concerned and seek a vet’s advice immediately.

11. Noticeable Worms or Movement

If you notice worms in your dog’s feces, that is a sure sign that they need to be treated as soon as possible.

Another tip-off that they may have worms is if you see movement in their bellies or stool. Sometimes worms can be very small and hard to spot in your dog’s bowel movement.

READ MORE: What to Expect After Deworming Your Puppy

What You Can Do to Aid Dog Digestion

What You Can Do to Aid Dog Digestion

If you notice symptoms related to dog digestive issues, then it is time to make some changes in your dog’s diet.

Large dogs have been shown to digest foods that have highly digestible meats and fermentable fiber much better than other types of foods.

Dogs should always have protein included in their diets. But, the protein should be one that is easily digested if you have a large dog.

Experts warn that commercial dog food may not always have the best ingredients for dog digestion.

You might want to consider switching to homemade dog food instead.

Starches are more easily digested by large dogs when they are exposed to extremely hot temperatures. Unfortunately, the heat at this level zaps the nutrients out and in turn, your dog may not be receiving adequate nutrition.

Always make sure that you are supplying your dog with enough water. This typically means providing water for them throughout the day.

If you notice that their water bowl seems to be empty often, then you should probably increase the amount of water that you are offering them.

Dogs can get dehydrated. If they stay outside, are especially active or live in warmer climates, this can occur more rapidly.

You should be able to pinch the skin on your dog’s neck and it should bounce back quickly. If the skin does not immediately bounce back, it is a sign of dehydration. If this happens, your dog needs more water.

If you need help choosing the best diet for your dog’s digestion, ask their doctor for suggestions. They are usually glad to help and happy to hear that you care about your dog’s nutrition.

In Conclusion

If you notice dog digestive issues with your large dog, it could be linked to the food they are eating.

Sometimes, by changing their diets, you can remedy any dog digestion problems that they may be having.

Make sure that you are aware of any of the warning signs or symptoms that your dog might be having. If you notice that your dog is showing signs of sickness that do not improve with changes in their diet, seek a veterinarian’s advice.

If your dog seems to be showing more severe warning signs, call your vet immediately.

You can aid in healthy dog digestion by providing the right types of food and plenty of water for your pet.

Be the best owner that you can be by paying attention to your dog and giving them the nutrition that they need to stay healthy.

To find out more about how to care for your large dog, click here!

You May Also Like:

How Many Times a Day Should I Feed My Dog?

Large Dog Breeds: 10 Huge Dogs Who Love Their Humans

18 Common Health Issues in Large Breed Dogs

The Best Dog Food for Large Breed Dogs

Leave a Comment