Gastric dilatation volvulus, a condition commonly referred to as bloat, involves the potentially fatal turning of your dog's stomach. Large, deep-chested dog breeds are most prone to bloat. Some vets used to recommend feeding dogs in elevated dishes to help avoid this condition. But it turns out that the practice actually increases the risk of bloat; for most healthy dogs, raised feed and water bowls are ill-advised.
Bloat: A Stomach-Turning Condition
There are two phases of bloat, the gastric dilatation of the stomach and the volvulus. Gastric dilatation occurs when your pup's stomach fills with gas and fluid. Once your pup's stomach has dilated, it may then rotate 180 degrees within the body. This rotation cuts off circulation to the stomach and some of your dog's vital organs. If Fido seems lethargic or his stomach is distended or tender, he may be suffering from bloat, especially if he appears unable to vomit or burp to relieve the pressure in his tummy. This is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate treatment from a veterinarian to save your pup.
Elevated Bowls -- Undesirable for Bloat-Prone Dogs
While elevated bowls may help alleviate your pup's pain when dealing with conditions like arthritis, neck and back problems and even some neurological issues, if he's prone to bloat, keep those dishes at ground-level. A study published in the November 2000 edition of the "Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association" showed that pups who ate from elevated dishes were more likely to suffer from bloat than those who didn't. Of the dogs studied, a 20 percent increase of developing bloat existed for large breeds eating from elevated bowls and a 52 percent increase occurred in giant breeds fed from elevated dishes. Because of these findings, most vets now recommend feeding dogs in floor-level dishes.
Bowls That Inhibit Bloat
One factor that can lead to bloat is rapid eating because dogs ingest excess air when they eat quickly. Special floor-level bowls are designed to prevent your pup from quickly gulping down his food. These dishes have raised bumps in the center of the basin that force Fido to eat around them, slowing the pace of his eating. Another option is to place a large heavy ball or two in your pooch's existing bowl, forcing him to move it around to eat. Such measures are worthwhile if your pooch is middle-aged or older, has a family history of developing bloat or has developed gastric dilatation or volvulus in the past.
Tips on Avoiding Bloat
To prevent Fido from developing bloat, feed him smaller meals at least twice a day rather than one large feeding. Allow him access to water at all times to keep him from lapping large amounts of it at once out of thirst, which can lead to bloat. Don't exercise Fido rigorously an hour before or after meals, advises the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Consult your vet if your pup is a high-risk, deep-chested breed to see if surgery to secure the stomach in place might be beneficial, or if your pup has other medical issues that an elevated dish might help.