As dog owners, we want to do what is best for our furry friends. This includes nailing their nutrition and walking them at the right time.
According to vets, there is a clear answer to this particular question. They advise that you should wait at least two hours after your dog has eaten a meal before walking them.
That’s because walking your dog straight after a meal can cause your dog to bloat, or even lead to gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).
You should also make sure water is always available to your dog to avoid them drinking excessive amounts of liquid on top of their food. When dogs gulp water they ingest large amounts of air, which can add to the risk of GDV occurring. GDV is a dangerous condition that requires immediate attention from a vet.
Read on to find out all about GDV, the best times to feed and walk your dogs, and whether exercising your dog on an empty stomach is a good idea.
Why you should wait to walk your dog after eating
The main reason to avoid walking your dog straight after eating is because of the risk of bloating and GDV.
The same risks apply to other activities that might happen straight after a meal. After they’ve eaten a bowl of food, for example, you should try to stop your dog from playing or running around the garden or house.
What is bloating in dogs? As in humans, bloating is an accumulation of gas in a dog’s stomach. GDV occurs when the stomach, filled with this trapped air, is rotated when the dog makes sharp movements during exercise or play.
The 8 signs of GDV in dogs include:
- Rear checking
- Hard and distended abdomen
As a condition, GDV is not well-known, but it can be potentially fatal. If you spot any of the symptoms of GDV in your dog, seek help from a vet immediately.
GDV develops without warning and can progress quickly. It is always an emergency. However, Stomach distension alone is referred to as a “simple bloat”. This form of bloating can occur on its own and may also resolve on its own within hours or even days. It’s always best to seek advice from a vet if you’re concerned.
Breeds at the biggest risk of GDV
While all dogs can bloat, those at the biggest risk are bigger breeds and deep chested breeds, such as:
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Irish Setters
If your dog is having tummy or digestive troubles (which a qualified vet has confirmed is unrelated to GDV) you may want to find out more about the right foods to feed dogs with sensitive stomachs.
Other risks of walking a dog after eating
Other risks associated with feeding your dog and going on a walk (or playing with them) immediately after a meal are:
- Inhibiting circulation within the digestive tract
- Interrupting proper food digestion
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
How long does it take for a dog to digest food?
How long a dog takes to digest food depends entirely on the breed, activity levels, and the type of food you’ve fed it. As a general rule, however, it usually takes 6 – 10 hours. Wet food takes less time to digest than dry food and can take as little as 4 hours for a dog’s body to break down.
So, how long after eating should I exercise my dog?
As a rule of thumb, if you’re thinking of walking a dog after eating, vets advise waiting at least 2 hours.
There are, however, some exceptions to this rule. The time you should wait between your dog having eaten food and taking them for a walk depends on the amount of food consumed and speed of his digestive system. The best thing to do is to follow this general rule:
- At least 30 minutes after a small snack
- 1 hour after a small meal
- 2 to 3 hours after a large meal
It’s important to remember that, aside from the risks of GDV, walking is good for digestion in dogs. It helps keep their poop regular and healthy and can help manage common digestive issues, such as doggy constipation.
When is the best time to feed my dog?
Mature dogs need to be fed two times a day, usually morning and evening. After about 4 months old, puppies need three meals a day.
For a fully grown dog, you should typically wait anywhere from four to six hours between feeds. This gap allows your dog to properly digest previous meals before they eat again.
What is the best time to walk my dog?
Most experts suggest that the best time to walk your dog is in the morning and afternoon/evening. Your longest walk should be in the morning with a calmer, more relaxed walk later on in the day.
How often should I walk my dog?
You should be walking your dog at least twice a day. This could be split into 20 or 30 minutes of walking in the morning and in the evening.
There are a number of factors that affect your walk length and schedule. These include the dog’s breed and size, age and health condition, personality type and energy level, as well as the schedule of the owner.
Eating and walking: Poop schedule
In this section we’re not talking about walking a dog after eating but about taking him out of the house after food. (Of course, this may amount to the same thing if you live in the city or town without a garden).
Why is this distinction important to make? Well, dogs (and especially puppies) often need to poop soon after they’ve eaten, which means it’s important to let them outside after food so that you help them create healthy toilet habits.
Puppies poop far more often than adult dogs – in fact, up to three times more. Puppies are also more likely to poop directly after they’ve eaten, between 5-minutes to half-hour after feeding is the norm.
So make sure to take your puppy outside immediately after he finishes his meal for both practical and potty-training purposes.
As your dog ages his dietary needs and toilet habits will change. Some dogs will continue to poop right after eating, others may not go for about half an hour after consuming their meal.
This is totally normal. In fact, healthy dogs continue to defecate soon after eating their meals because their stomach is connected to the colon by nerves triggering the reflex to eliminate.
It’s also standard for your dog to poop between 1 – 5 times a day. But just remember: Dogs fed a low-quality food stuffed full of fillers will defecate more often than those fed healthy foods.
Should dogs eat before or after walking?
Often, dog owners are concerned that without food, their dog will feel weak, lethargic, and hungry and won’t enjoy their exercise. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
Walking a dog before eating: the risks
While fuelling your dog with the right nutrients is important, according to experts, provided your dog is being fed a balanced diet, a morning walk without food is perfectly safe. In fact, dogs are built to sustain extended fasting and can go eating for quite some time (provided they are in good health).
While we’re definitely not recommending you put your dog on a fast, healthy dogs can actually do a whole week without food and just water. So yes, if you and your dog prefer it, you can walk them safely before they’ve eaten.
Walking a dog before eating: the benefits
While there are definite advantages to taking your dog out for a walk after they’ve eaten e.g. establishing a feeding and potty schedule. There are also certain benefits to taking your dog out for a walk before they’ve eaten.
Mainly these benefits involve reducing the chances of GDV occurring. However, it does not entirely eliminate the risk of getting a stomach twist completely. That’s because GDV is not always associated with eating and can happen for other reasons.
Walking your dog before a meal may also help bring out your dog’s natural hunting instincts, forcing them to exert some energy (and burn off some calories) before being fed.
Even if you take your dog for a walk before eating, there are some rules regarding exercise and food.
So, what are these? And how long should you wait to feed dog after exercise? In general, vets advise waiting at least 30 minutes before feeding your dog after a walk.
Hopefully by now you know how long to wait before walking your dog after a meal.
According to the experts, you should hold off from walking – or even vigorously playing with – your dog for least two hours after a larger meal. This is to reduce the risks of bloating and GDV, which is a potentially life-threatening condition especially prevalent in larger breeds.
To reduce these risks further, walking your dog before they eat is a good option.
But there are pros and cons to this also. While the risk of GDV is reduced with this walk/feeding routine, it may be problematic when it comes to potty training your dog. Seeing as most dogs urinate or defecate right after having a meal, you’ll might have to take your dog out for a walk soon after eating (even if it’s only for a quick toilet-trip to the nearest green space to prevent any issues of pooping in the house).
To play it safe, make sure to stick to the 2-hour-after-eating rule before you allow your pup to engage in any vigorous exercise or over-enthusiastic playing!