How High Should a Dog Bowl Be?

Usually, your dog's bowl should be right on the floor.
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With many elevated dog feeders available these days, you may be wondering how high your dog's bowl should be. That's a desired effect for marketers: solving problems people didn't even know they had until seeing a product or ad. Typically, your dog's bowl should only be at floor height, or it creates risks with no benefits. However, in certain circumstances, the opposite is true, and the benefits outweigh the risks.

A Word of Warning

Don't decide to buy an elevated dog feeder on your own. Use one only if your veterinarian recommends it because your pet has one of the few conditions that make it a good idea. Otherwise, keep your dog's bowl on the floor so your dog can eat like she's designed to eat. If you want an elevated feeder because your dog tips her bowl over or makes a mess, just get a heavier bowl or lay down a towel. When you feed your dog from a bowl raised off the floor, she can develop a condition called gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome -- GDV for short -- which can quickly become life threatening.

GDV Danger

If your dog develops GDV, it means her stomach is overly expanded and pressurized. It's degenerative without treatment, meaning things keep getting worse. Your pet's circulatory and respiratory systems become increasingly impaired and the risk of her stomach rupturing or twisting continually rises. Any breed can suffer from GDV, but it's most often seen in very large dogs or those with deep chests. Dogs who are overstressed, who have had their spleens removed or who eat one big daily meal are also more likely to develop the condition. Treatment generally entails IV fluids, oxygen therapy, gastric decompression with inserted tubes, stomach flushing and sometimes surgery.

Why Vets Might Recommend a Higher Bowl

One health condition in particular often indicates use of a dog bowl that's higher than floor level: megaesophagus. It's a neurological disorder that inhibits your dog's ability to swallow food correctly, creating a risk of food going down the windpipe into the lungs instead of down into your pet's stomach. Eating from an elevated feeder reduces the chances of this happening because your dog's esophagus doesn't have to work so hard against gravity. If your dog is unable to bend down to the floor without considerable pain because she's old, arthritic or suffering from some sort of neck or back problem, your vet may advise use of an elevated feeder too.

Determining Bowl Height

If your vet recommends an elevated feeder, you'll need to figure out how high to make it. There's an easy formula, but it only gets you an approximate height. If you don't mind the extra cost, get an adjustable product so you can tweak it to get it just right; otherwise, pick a feeder that's slightly lower than your estimate, as this is better than ending up with one that's a little too tall. Measure the height of your dog's withers -- the top of her shoulders -- on her front legs. Reduce that number by 7 inches and that's your estimate for how high the elevated dog bowl should be. It should come to the bottom of her chest and she should be able to clean it out without stretching, squatting, bending her legs, straining or weirdly positioning herself.