Why Do Dogs Poop After Eating?

Adrienne Farricelli

Why Do Dogs Poop After Eating? 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 Why Do Dogs, 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.

 Reflex at Play

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 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.

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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. This reflex is particularly strong 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 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 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. 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!

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 he act eliminating. Soon, the mere act of going outside will stimulate him to eliminate, eventually replacing the gastro-colic reflex!