Slow and Elevated Feeders

Jan 14, 2019   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

You've probably seen them when out shopping at your local pet store or browsing your favorite online vendor – those funny shaped bowls that look like a maze or have small ridges and barriers in them or tall plastic, wood or metal stands with the bowls set high atop – but what are they and why are they important? 

The bowls are called slow feeders and are made to keep a pet from gulping down their food too fast. A slow feeder forces the pet too eat more slowly by separating the food pieces and not allowing a pet to eat a large amount all at once. An overzealous eater can cause many issues for themselves, from a minor upset stomach, to potentially choking themselves to the downright deadly gastric torsion, also known as bloat. When a pet gulps down their food in huge mouthfuls, they are also swallowing a lot of air. In most instances, they will safely pass this air as gas but if too much gas fills in their stomach, this can cause the stomach to twist and flip. While giant and large breed, deep-chested dogs are more susceptible to bloat, it can happen to any pet.  It should be noted that bloat can be caused by many factors, eating and drinking too quickly, especially together, can be only one of the leading factors. 

The plastic, wood or metal stands with the bowls set in are elevated feeders. Large and Giant breeds benefit the most from elevated feeders as it brings the food to them and not them to their food.  By doing so, it allows them the correct posture to eat and aid in digestion. Elevated bowls allow your pet to keep their head above their stomach and allow food to pass much easier through the esophagus with the aid of gravity. This is especially important for dogs suffering from laryngeal paralysis or early stages of megaesophagus. If megaesophagus progresses to advanced stages, they will require a “Bailey Chair.” Bowls sitting on the floor can place strain on a dog's neck muscles and joints as they can be continuingly bend up and down to get to their food. Larger dogs, or arthritic senior dogs, tend to lie down to eat, which can cause many digestive issues that mostly stem from the pets continuously lowering and raising their heads after chewing or drinking water. This raises the risk of choking and again allows for air to become trapped in the stomach.  Bowls sitting on the floor can also be moved or pushed around easily, forcing your pet to chase after their food or water, causing their breathing to increase and more air to be introduced to their stomachs while eating.  Elevated bowls are also more hygienic. Traditional dog bowls sit on the floor and get surrounded by fur and food particles. Dirt can be kicked up and get in their food and water. Elevated bowls raise your dog's meal off of the ground and out of the mess.

There are conflicting studies on whether or not elevated bowls can increase or decrease the risk of bloat in dogs, if you are still concerned about bloat with elevated bowls, you can use a slow feeder in addition to an elevated bowl to reduce the risk of your pet eating too fast.  Be aware there are many contributing factors to bloat, and slow and elevated feeders alone won't eliminate the risk. Both slow feeders and elevated feeders do provide benefits to your pet in different ways, whether by forcing them to slow down while eating or allowing them to eat with ease while standing in a comfortable position.  

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