The dog community has always been completely split on the idea of using an elevated dog bowl to feed your dog. The controversial topic comes with each side saying that they know the correct answer. Obviously one side is saying that you should absolutely use one of these bowls, while the other side says that there is good reason why you should not use one. What are your thoughts….should dog bowls be elevated?
Ultimately, there are always 2 sides to every story and this topic is no different. The best way to decide what is the best choice for your dog is…..well keep reading. I am going to give you both sides of this issue and as always you can decide for yourself.
I will tell you that with dogs I have had past and present, my thoughts about using elevated dog bowls has done a complete 180. I will explain why and what made me change my mind a bit farther down. Let’s first discuss what a raised bowl is and each side of this controversial topic.
What is it?
The name “elevated dog bowl” tells you that it is a raised up food bowl for your dog to eat out of. Almost always the raised bowl come in a set with both a water dish and food dish raised up together. These bowls are simply elevated up from the ground. It can be a bowl with a full base that is raised up, a pedestal style, it can be with legs like a little table, or just simply a frame that holds the bowls.
They can be made of things like :
- Stainless steel
There are plenty of design options and amazing bowls to choose from in every style imaginable. The beauty of this selection, is that it gives you the ability to pick the bowls that best fit your house style. Our dogs’ bowls generally sit out all day, so because they are a permanent fixture, you want to get one the blends in the best.
Depending on the style or design you are looking for some choices give you the ability to raise the bowls up and down. This is great option if you have a puppy that is going to grow up to be a big dog. That way, you can just raise the bowl as your dog grows. No need to buy different ones when they are full-grown, which of course is a money saver.
This is the option that I chose for my puppy Fergus. I knew that he was going to get pretty big, so I wanted a self adjusting one that I could adjust when needed. FYI – He absolutely loves this bowl!
What are the benefits?
There are some very clear and beneficial reasons that using an elevated dog bowl can help some dogs’. If a dog has any issues like:
- Orthopedic conditions
- Senior dog
- Joint disorders
- Neck or spine issues
- Overall better way to eat comfortably
Eating using this extra height to eat, can also make the dog eat in a more natural way. There is no force on their bent neck when their head is down which also puts pressure on their throat and esophagus.
One last positive benefit is that some dogs’ like to move their bowl around with their nose when eating. Some to the point of making a huge mess. If the bowl is elevated and stationary then this stops them from any ability to do that.
So that is a win win for everyone!
Reasons not to use
There is some evidence that states that dogs’ that eat from raised or elevated bowls, are at a higher risk of “Bloat or
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV).
GDV or Bloat is a serious medical condition in dogs’. This very serious condition occurs when a dogs’ stomach bloats or expands from gas hence the word “Gastric”. This expansion then can cause the stomach to actually twist or rotate around closing off both ends. If, this happens the gas is caught inside without a way to escape.
A dog suffering from this condition is unable to pass gas and will feel a retching in their stomach. This gas then puts pressure on the organs even to the point of restricting blood flow to other important parts of the body.
This can all happen very quickly with your dog and will require your dog to get immediate medical attention. The seriousness of this illness is so severe that 25% of all dogs’ that develop bloat actually die from it. This is not something that dog parents should take lightly.
Although the exact reasons for this condition is not completely understood. One thing that we do definitively know is that big chested large or giant breed dogs’ have a significantly higher risk of developing this condition.
Some breeds most affected are: Great Danes, Irish Setters, Boxers, Akita, German Shepherds, St. Bernard, and Weimaraners just to name some of the most common breeds.
Other risk factors include dogs’ that : eat super fast, senior dogs’, dogs’ that had a family history of bloat, and dogs’ that are anxious.
These risk factors significantly raise the chance of your dog developing this condition.
In the 1990s a study of almost 2000 dogs’ was done at Purdue University. They used large and giant breed dogs’ that were all over 6 mos old with absolutely no history of “Bloat”. They took this information and more including: the dogs’ diet and overall health.
This study followed these dogs’ year by year checking on their health to determine if they had develops bloat and whether the dog was still alive. Once the study was complete, they took all the data and found that there is a significant risk of dogs’ that use elevated bowls to eat developing “Bloat or GDV”
A report of the Purdue study published in November 2000, however, did conclude, “even in the multivariate analysis, raising the feed bowl appeared to significantly increase, and not decrease, the risk of GDV”.
Dr. Kathy Purcell of the Boiling Springs Animal Hospital had this to stay about the Purdue study: “Bloat is so multi-variable, it’s tough to draw any hard conclusions. This preliminary study shows how little we really know about the etiology of bloat. Dogs that eat from raised bowls are big dogs’ to begin with — something in their bloodlines may have caused their owners to use raised feeding stations”. Purcell recommends raised bowls for dogs’ with neck or back problems.
****This is a direct quote from an article published in McCall.com by Karen Steinrock of “The Morning Call”.****
As you can see, there is a bit of waivering thoughts on whether using an elevated dog bowl is a risk or not.
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that my opinion on this topic had significantly changed over the past few dogs’ I have had. I will explain what I mean.
My dog Finnegan was a Labradoodle that was a sweet, an overall healthy dog, that at times throughout his later years started throwing up his food regularily. He would even throw up water if he drank to much at one time. This happend about the last 3 years or more of his life.
Throughout his life, he always had a food and water bowl that was directly on the ground. I did not use a raised bowl. At the time, I didn’t even think about that as an option for him.
We did consult our Vet a few times, and he determined it to be a food allergy. He was switched to a dog food made of Kangaroo, that was supposed to be the best hypoallergenic dog food available. The Vet also prescribed a steroid pill that FINN would take for the rest of his life. Every time we tried to remove him from the steroid, the vomiting would start back again. So ultimately it wasn’t a food allergy.
All of a sudden one day, we noticed that his bark sounded funny and he was quite lethargic. A trip to the Vet would tell us that he had “Laryngeal Paralysis”. This was a devastating diagnosis, and within weeks, he was gone. It all happened so fast.
This difficult loss, had has reflecting on his entire health the past few years and our thoughts that all the vomiting could have been avoided, if we had known enough to buy him an elevated dog bowl.
I think for us, it may have helped FINN digest his food better and maybe even stop him from developing Laryngeal Paralysis. Of course I am no Vet, but for some reason deep down, I think it may have stopped the years of vomiting that lead to his issues.
The question “should dog bowls be elevated” does not have much in the way of actual data. The one study I shared, and a ton of Vets opinions. You will need to determine for yourself, what your thoughts on using them or not.
This post is my opinion on this topic, and as I always say, make sure to check with your Vet about your dogs’ breed and risk level. With our dog now we have been using the elevated bowl for Fergus pretty much since day one. I just think he is eating in a more natural way when I am watching him. He is not a dog that has had a problem with throwing up, and I believe that the elevated dog bowl may have something to do with that.
Dog parenting is always a series of choices and decisions. Ultimately all we can do is our absolute best. We may not always agree with each other but let’s try to just be there for each other. Provide as much information as we can and let everyone decide for themselves what is best.
Raising a dog is a journey, so enjoy the ride!