The dog accessory market is full of useful and not-so-useful items, and among them are all manner of elevated dog feeders. Elevated feeders offer some benefit in a few specific instances, but for the vast majority of dogs they're entirely unnecessary -- they are possibly even harmful. If your vet suggests getting an elevated dog feeder, choose an adjustable one.
Unless your veterinarian advises using an adjustable elevated dog feeder because your pet has a specific condition that would make it beneficial, don't use one. Using these products requires a risk-benefit analysis, because they do carry a risk many people are unaware of. If your pet has no health problem that would be eased with use of an elevated feeder, buying one is at best a waste of money, because it isn't a natural or comfortable position for your dog to eat in. At worst, these products may lead to a potentially fatal condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome, or GDV.
GDV is a condition in which the stomach dilates and internal pressure builds. As it progresses, it interferes with circulation and respiration. It is quite painful and may lead to twisting of the stomach or rupturing of the stomach wall. It can develop in any breed, but dogs with deep chests, and large or giant breeds, are most susceptible. Other risk factors for GDV include splenectomy, eating one large meal per day, stress and an inherited predisposition. Common signs and symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, standing and stretching, anxiety, repeated looking at the abdomen, increased drooling and nonproductive retching. Seek emergency veterinary care if you suspect your dog has GDV.
Despite the risk involved, adjustable elevated dog feeders certainly offer benefit to some dogs. Elderly and arthritic dogs often have difficulty bending down to the floor to eat their meals. If you have a senior dog or one with a degenerative joint condition, ask your veterinarian about using a heightened feeder. Canines coping with neck or back ailments or injuries may experience less pain or discomfort eating from elevated feeders. Dogs with megaesophagus may benefit from these products. This neurological condition impairs the esophagus's ability to push food down into the stomach and creates a risk of aspiration pneumonia. Elevated feeders help food go down properly, since it's not fighting such an uphill battle -- literally.
While there's a decent formula for sizing elevated dog feeders, it's certainly not foolproof, so opting for an adjustable model helps ensure you'll be able to use the particular product you purchase. With your dog on a hard, level surface, measure the distance from the floor to the top of her shoulder. Subtract 7 inches from this measurement to get the rough desired height for the top of your elevated feeder; it should come to the bottom of your dog's chest. Since this is just an approximation, watch your dog eat to see if she can do so without bending, craning or straining. Adjust as needed.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.