Elevated dog feeders are popular pet accessories, but they can do more harm than good in many instances. Among the different styles, dog bowls on wooden stands are a generally attractive and stylish option, though the bowls themselves are usually made of stainless steel or plastic. Don't use a wooden bowl. Carefully consider the health pros and cons before providing your pooch a raised feeder.
Under normal circumstances, don't feed your dog from elevated bowls; limit use of these accessories to when your veterinarian advises it only. Dogs are designed to eat and drink from ground level. Doing otherwise is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous. Eating from an elevated feeder puts your dog at risk for gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome. The stomach dilates, filling with food and gas that don't get expelled properly. This can cause potentially life-threatening complications, such as inhibited blood flow, lungs not fully expanding, a rotated stomach in the abdominal cavity and stomach lining rupture.
Your vet may suggest an elevated feeder if your dog can't comfortably get down to floor level. Dogs with arthritis, other inflammatory conditions, neck or back deformities or injuries, or other health conditions that make downward mobility difficult or painful, can benefit from eating and drinking out of elevated dog bowls. Additionally, a disorder called megaesophagus is a legitimate cause for using elevated bowls. It's a neurological problem that makes it difficult for a dog's esophagus to carry food to the stomach. If your dog has this condition, she can eat more easily if her esophagus doesn't have to push food uphill from floor level, and she's less likely to end up with food in her lungs, a serious potential complication of megaesophagus.
If your vet recommends use of an elevated feeder, you'll need to properly size it. Play it safe by getting an adjustable product if possible. Still, many adjustable ones have small ranges, so get a good idea of how high you need the bowls to be. They should sit just about at the height of your dog's lower chest; she should be able to eat from it without lowering herself or straining. Measure the distance from the floor to your dog's withers, or the top of your dog's shoulder. Subtract 7 inches from this measurement and you've got an approximate height for the bowls. If your buying without your dog there to test-fit the feeder, err on the side of just a little too low, not a little too high.
Wood stands often look good; if one matches your decor, it may be the most desirable option. Opt for wood that's treated to be water-resistant; commercial products generally are, but keep this in mind if you're making your own or buying a crafted piece. Also, avoid scented woods that might throw off the taste of your dog's food or prompt her to chew on it. The stand should be sturdy enough that your dog won't knock it over in her zeal to eat. If you have cats, they might be tempted to use the stand as a scratching post.
Stay away from dog bowls themselves made of wood. They're prone to nicks and cracks that accumulate food residue and moisture, becoming havens for bacteria, mold and other undesirable micro-organisms. You can't soak wood bowls or put them in the dishwasher, so they require hand-washing. Over time, moisture can create a fuzzy surface texture on the bowls, too, called grain-raise, that needs to be sanded away.
- DogChannel.com: Using Raised Dog Food Bowls
- PetPlace.com: Picking the Right Dog Food Bowl
- American College of Veterinary Surgeons: Gastric Dilation/Volvulus Syndrome in Dogs
- Whiner and Diner: Measuring Your Dog for the Best Elevated Dog Feeder Height
- Livestock Guardian Dogs Association: How to Measure Your Dog
- Crafty Owl: How to Care for Your Wooden Kitchen Utensils
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images