Does my dog need a raised bowl?
We treat our fur babies like royalty. When mealtimes roll around, we feed them only the finest cuisine atop a plush pillow as they sit atop their throne. Okay, maybe we don’t go quite that far, but we try to make their life as luxurious as possible.
Any gadget or invention we can find for them, we’ll buy it. Price is no issue. £300 for a dog bed? Sure thing. A Burberry dog coat? Only the finest style for them. So when you hear about people getting excited about elevated bowls, it makes sense.
On the surface, they sound great. They lift the food off the floor to head height, that must be better, right? Well, it’s not a simple yes or no. Before deciding if it’s the right purchase for your pup, we need to consider many factors…
Older doggos that suffer from issues such as arthritis and reduced mobility are ideal for a raised bowl. You can only imagine the pain they go through every time they need a drink or a bite to eat.
When a pup eats from a bowl on the floor, their weight is shifted towards their front as they bend down to eat. If they have arthritis and continue to eat from a bowl on the ground, it could lead to neuromuscular changes that can affect the dog’s balance.
Over time, the shift in weight – paired with a lack of balance – could cause them to fall. As a result, this can make them anxious about mealtimes. A raised bowl stops all their weight from being thrust to the front of their body, preventing this problem.
Raised bowls can also be helpful for canines with certain medical problems. Dogs suffering from megaesophagus often benefit from raised bowls and vets may even prescribe it.
Megaesophagus is a neurological ailment that affects the muscles in the oesophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach). As their muscles are unable to push the food to their belly, eating from a bowl on the ground can be near impossible. With a raised bowl, gravity does all the hard work for them!
If your doggo has this condition, or a similar one that affects their ability to swallow, it’s recommended that the bowl is high enough that their backbone and neck are between a 45 and 90-degree angle to the ground and that their head is above their heart when they eat.
If you have a big boy such as a Husky or English Bulldog – or a GIANT boy like a Newfoundland or an English Mastiff – you might think a raised bowl sounds perfect. But studies have shown that pups who eat from a raised feeder, especially large and giant dog breeds (and those with naturally sensitive stomachs), are at a higher risk of bloat. Maybe even double the risk.
Bloat isn’t the same for doggos as it is for humans. When we’re bloated, we unbutton our jeans, complain a bit, and take an antacid. For pup’s, it’s a serious condition. Also known as twisted stomach or GDV, it occurs when food and gas get trapped in the stomach. This increases pressure and could lead to a rupture, which can be fatal.
Elevated feeders may also make your doggo eat quicker, which has been linked to a greater risk of bloat. If you happen to know any immediate relatives of your pup have suffered from bloat, we recommend avoiding raised bowls. It’s just too risky.
Some breeds might benefit from something else besides a standard bowl. If they’re members of the #squishyfacecrew, their squashed faces make it trickier for them to reach the food at the bottom of their flat bowl. Brachycephalic doggos can also struggle with breathing and are more likely to choke on their food, making standard bowls awkward for them to eat from. Sometimes even eating directly from the floor can be a better solution.
If your squishy faced loaf is struggling to eat from a standard bowl, you could try a bowl designed for flat-faced breeds. The risk of bloat is very real so keep this in mind when choosing. Especially if you have a large breed such as an English Bulldog.
Why do many pawrents think raised bowls are so great?
Perhaps the main reason is that, when they were first sold, raised bowls were marketed as a product to help reduce bloat in dogs. Of course, this has since been disproved.
The study that led to the bowls being marketed this way simply looked at other available information, including anecdotal evidence. No actual research was conducted at all. The idea has just… stuck around.
Many pawrents also believe they can help improve a doggos posture. But after years of evolution, it’s likely dogs have evolved to eat from the ground. I mean, have you ever watched a documentary and seen a wolf drag their dinner onto a tree stump to eat more comfortably? Neither have I.
There’s currently no evidence to suggest that a raised bowl can prevent arthritis (rather than appease it) or other similar ailments in doggos, as others may believe. And why try to fix a problem your pup doesn’t have in the first place? Especially when it could cause bloat?
Are there any positives?
Doggos who can get overly possessive of their food can relax and enjoy their food more when it’s off the ground. The bowl is closer to them and they can see no one is coming for their food. They often feel more in control and less paranoid that someone is trying to steal their grub. Is it worth the risk of bloat though? Instead of encouraging the issue of food possession, speaking with a trainer might be more beneficial in the long term for your dog’s health.
Raised bowls could also stop pups from trying to swim in their bowls. As funny as it is, it’s a bloody nightmare! Plus the potential for drowning isn’t ideal. Yep, some pups will paw at their bowls as if they’re trying to go for a swim or dig a hole. The belief is that if the bowl’s raised, they won’t be able to reach, which will save you having to mop up after every meal. Instead of a raised bowl, try a housed slow feeder instead. Yes, even for water. This way, it’s fixed into place and the shapes in the bowl prevent the risk of drowning and can prevent these pesky behaviours.
The same goes for doggos that like to reenact last night’s Strictly by gliding around the kitchen floor as they try to get that last bite of food. Pop a rubber placemat underneath to keep them stuck in place.
But if you still think a raised bowl is the perfect choice for your pooch based on age or illness, it’s important to choose one that’s the right height for them.
Choosing the right bowl
An elevated bowl should be square with their chest. But to get it right, it’s a good idea to measure your pup. Let them stand with their legs directly below them. Then, measure from the floor up to the point where their front legs meet their chest. For larger dogs, subtract 6 inches off, and that’s how tall their raised bowl should be. For smaller dogs, subtract 3 inches.
If you can’t find the measuring tape, here’s a general rule of thumb you can try. A good height for small breeds is between 2-6 inches. For medium breeds, between 7-14 inches. And for larger breeds, between 15-20 inches should be about right. If you’re ever in doubt, check out our blog on dog bowls to help you decide which is best for your pup.
It’s clear to see why so many pawrents love raised bowls. But before jumping onto Amazon, please consider the risks. More research is needed, but based on what we do know, raised bowls just aren’t necessary unless your pup genuinely needs them. So think twice before jumping on this trend.
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