Many dogs poop after eating, often making dog owners wonder how in the world food travels through their digestive tract so fast, what' going on with these dogs?
You won't find your dog reading the newspaper while sitting on the toilet, but you may find that your dog poops after eating almost as if food worked as the world's fastest acting laxative. What gives?
If it's happening quite frequently, this may no longer look like a mere coincidence.
Here at Dog Discoveries, we don't mind investigating into Rover's private matters.
When we asked dogs why they do this, they tilted their heads and then shrug their shoulders, but when we asked puppies, they told us that the urge is for real and that it was messing up their owner's potty training goals big time.
Yet, they couldn't give us a reasonable explanation as to what was happening. So we put on our detective hats, investigated the ordeal and found some interesting dynamics going on and thought to share them on the web.
Introducing the Dog's "Gastrocolic Reflex"
Believe it or not, turns out there is a physiological explanation for the dog's urge to poop after eating. Its medical term is "gastro-colic reflex."
No worries, this isn't a particular disease or condition affecting dogs and puppies; rather, it's a pretty much normal occurrence as peculiar as it may sound.
So what is the gastro-colic reflex and how does it affect dogs?
Wikipedia tells us that this is a physiological reflex that controls the motility of the gastrointestinal tract.
Interestingly, it seems that, as the stomach stretches, the motility of the small intestine and colon increases.
This increased motility therefore is what stimulates the urge to defecate following a meal.
Not Only Dogs
The gastro-colic reflex isn't only something exclusively observed in dogs. According to a study, an increase in electrical activity in the colon of animals and humans was seen in as little as 15 minutes after eating.
The gastro-colic reflex is particularly strong during morning time and immediately after meals.
It is particularly evident in young puppies, and in humans, it is over-exaggerated in those poor people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, where the single act of eating or drinking causes them to rush to closest restroom.
The heightened visceral sensitivity in these sufferers leads to abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. However, this is beyond the scope of this article, so yes, let's get back to dogs!
A Matter of Storage
So why would dogs, humans and other animals be blessed with such a reflex? Well, turns out there is a reasonable explanation why food seems to go right through dogs and it sure makes so much sense!
According to Dr. Lauralee Sherwood, author of the book " Human Physiology: From Cells to Systems" the presence of the reflex is there for a very noble purpose,... drum-roll please...that is... simply making room for more food!
A Potty Training Secret
Being aware of the gastro-colic reflex can make you a better puppy owner and help you expedite the potty training process.
Indeed, if you keep in mind this reflex, you will be more likely to succeed, as countless puppy owners fail to recognize this reflex with the end result of setting their puppies for failure.
Many puppy owners often rely too heavily rely on the outdated "puppy's age in months plus 1" formula which only leads to frustration.
The formula states that, in order to determine after how many hours a puppy should be taken out to eliminate, one must count the puppy's age in months and add 1. This means that a 4 month-old puppy should be taken out every 5 hours.
The formula though doesn't take into account the gastro-colic reflex and the many variabilities that may occur on a day-to-day basis such as drinking more after exercise.
I can almost hear frustrated new puppy owners make statements as such: "I just sent my puppy out at 5PM, my puppy had the opportunity to defecate, but he didn't. I then served him dinner when we came back in, and just an hour later, he had an accident on the carpet! Arrgh.. wasn't he supposed to be able to hold it for 5 hours?"
So by being aware of this reflex, you're likely to feed your puppy on a schedule and take your puppy out shortly after meals (generally, within half hour) which translates into more outdoor elimination and less cleaning up messes!
Other times pups should be taken out is after a nap, and after playing. Soon, puppies will learn to associate going outside with the act of eliminating, a win-win situation for all!
Did you know? Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Katherine A. Houpt in her book "Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal Scientists," explains how by taking your dog out after every meal, he will learn to associate going outside with the act eliminating.
Soon, the mere act of going outside will stimulate him to eliminate, eventually replacing the gastro-colic reflex!
The Role of Exercise
As seen, after a dog eats, feces in the colon get ready to be expelled. However, food isn't the only factor.
Excitement and exercise can make a dog want to defecate too, explains veterinarian Dr. Lucy.
For this reason, taking your puppy or dog on a walk can help "move things along" and speed up the pooping process.
If you need your puppy or dog to be empty before he goes back into the house, you can therefore take advantage of the gastrocolic reflex by taking him out after a meal, and on top of that, walking your dog too.
The Role of Emotions
If your puppy or dog is also excitable, chances are, he may be pooping in no time. Excitement revs up the dog's system, making them more likely to poop.
I personally witnessed this many times with my dogs. On the days of inclement weather, when walks were cancelled, they would poop considerably less compared to the days we went on long walks.
On the days that my excitable female dog was walked, she would indeed poop even 2-3 times during the walk!
The Role of Food
Finally, something else to consider is your puppy or dog's diet.
In general, consider that highly digestible diets cause dogs to produce less fecal material which translates into reduced stool volume and less frequency.
Diets that are less digestible on the other hand produce more stool volume and more poops considering that there is more "waste."
In general, expect the average dog who is fed the average commercial diet twice a day will typically poop as well twice a day.
Putting your dog on a structured feeding schedule can therefore help produce "more predictable outings" which help facilitate the potty training process.