By Patrick Wardell
We’ve all seen raised feeders before. Maybe you’ve even heard some of the benefits of raised feeders.
They can be great for older dogs, because there’s less strain on the neck, hips, shoulders and joints.
They can keep the feeding area cleaner by preventing your dog from spilling or pushing their bowl around the floor.
And most importantly, they can reduce the risk of bloat.
But...what if they don’t reduce the risk of bloat at all?
Keep reading, because here’s where things get interesting...
Does this dog have a greater risk of bloat?
Raised Feeders and Bloat
There’s no evidence to suggest that elevated feeders reduce the risk of bloat. In fact, studies done on this topic suggest that raised feeders may actually increase the risk of bloat, especially with large- and giant-breed dogs.
To best understand what’s going on here, let’s look at research behind raised feeders and bloat.
What is Bloat?
We know it as “bloat”, but your Veterinarian calls it Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, or “GDV”.
GDV is defined by two simultaneous conditions:
1. The buildup of gas in a dog’s stomach
2. The twisting of a dog’s stomach
We suspect that taking in large amounts of carbohydrates can also play a role in bloat risk, but we’ll leave that topic for a future blog.
These happy dogs eat a low carb, keto diet!
For now, know this…
Bloat is a very serious condition. If left untreated, severe cases can even be fatal within a few hours of onset.
While the exact cause of bloat remains somewhat unclear, we do know that the risk of bloat tends to increase with age and size.
This is why Veterinary professionals have long recommended raised feeders for large- and giant-breed dogs.
But are all these recommendations wrong?
The Research: Raised Feeders and GDV
After a lot of searching, I found 2 studies that directly examined the question of raised feeders and GDV risk. One of these studies found no significant conclusions. The other study found that dogs using elevated feeders had a higher risk of GDV.
This study looked at large- and giant-breed dogs in the US. All dogs were at least 6 months old and had no history of GDV. A total of 1637 dogs were included in this study.
Researchers determined whether the dogs were using elevated feeders, and then tracked all the dogs over time to survey any cases of GVD.
Results indicated that dogs fed from an elevated feeder had a significantly higher risk of GDV than dogs that ate from bowls on the floor. In fact, the study results suggest that use of an elevated feeder may double the risk of GVD in large- and giant-breed dogs
The study also raised questions about the effect of elevated feeders on eating speed. Elevated feeders may increase the speed at which a dog eats, and this can further elevate the risk of GDV. In the study, a faster speed of eating was significantly associated with a higher risk of GDV.
Eating off of the floor or a ground-level bowl can facilitate slower eating for dogs. This may be partly what contributes to the higher risk of GDV associated with elevated feeders.
Is this happy dog better off eating from a bowl on the floor?
Should We Avoid Raised Feeders?
After looking at the research, here’s my main conclusion:
We need more research.
There’s simply not enough studies on this topic to draw a firm conclusion either way. However, based on the one study we looked at, I personally will not be using a raised feeder.
There may be an elevated risk of GVD with raised feeders. And to me, that’s enough to avoid them for my dogs. Furthermore, I will continue to use a slow feeder to make sure my dogs don't inhale their food at lightning speed.
But what do YOU think?
Do you use a raised feeder? And if so, do you have any concerns about GVD risk?