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Raised Dog Bowls – The Controversy Surrounding Them

elevated dog feeders

If there’s one topic that can really get us going, it’s probably the issue surrounding elevated feeders for dogs.

For those of you that might not be familiar with this controversy, here’s a little background on the argument surrounding whether it’s safe or not to use raised dog bowls.

The Raised Dog Bowls Controversy

Back in 2004, Purdue University published findings of the Glickman Study on their website from what they called “research” regarding feeding the larger and giant breeds from elevated dog bowls.

They claimed that by feeding on raised dog bowls along with chest size, high-fat diets, and citric acid, larger dog breeds are at a higher risk of bloating.
Linda Arndt, a well-respected breeder of Great Danes (more susceptible to bloat than any other breed) shares that this study did not research at all – it was simply a statistical study. What’s the difference?

Research means to establish new and original facts, while statistical studies are the collection, organization and interpretation of data which is what this appears to have been.

According to Linda, they simply gathered information on diet from the original study done on Great Danes. They then looked at the different dog food brands and pulled the ingredient information from each food – and this is how they came to their conclusion.

They basically pulled information from an older study and compared the results to the dog food ingredients and came up with something like this – if you take this and add that, then these are the results.

Not sure that makes the study valid or conclusive.

Unnecessarily Scaring Dog Owners

raised dog feeders

Purdue scared the pants off dog owners that own large and giant breed dogs with this study. As a matter of fact, I hear it all the time from dog owners of all breeds and sizes that think raised dog bowls/feeders are a no-no.

Prior to this, Purdue University always taught that all large and giant breeds should be fed from elevated dog bowls / feeders and books from way back taught this as well.

Purdue’s idea of not feeding dogs from raised dishes was a statistical study – not Scientific research, and quite honestly this analysis, just doesn’t make sense.

We remember around the time that their study came out, we had just purchased raised dog bowls for our own dogs. All three of our dogs, including our deep chested Lab and deep chested very large Doberman were doing much better using elevated dog bowls.

We noticed a big difference with gas and burping, yet we were completely confused after reading the article. Should we switch back to feeding them on the floor or not?

After further research into the matter and watching our own dogs respond, we chose to stick with using raised dog bowls and we still do today.  The dog is more comfortable and doesn’t have to strain his neck and back to eat his meal from the floor.

Reputable and experienced breeders of large and giant breeds, know what works and go back to what they were taught before this study became available.

Stress Is Believed to Be a Large Factor

Stress of any kind is believed to be one of the biggest factors in dogs bloating. Feeding time should be a quiet, relaxing time — before and after the dog actually eats.

Whether the stress is due to poor nutrition, nervousness, lack of exercise, dysfunction in the home, the over use of antibiotics causing a Ph imbalance, the dog being over vaccinated or hormonal issues; it is believed that all of these stress factors may contribute to bloating.

It’s VERY IMPORTANT that your dog’s feeding time, be a quiet time. Allow him or her to eat in peace. Having more than one dog, we always allow one dog to eat in the pantry (we call it her room) with the door closed, and the other to eat in our dining room.

PEACE WHILE EATING PLEASE!

Allow your dog to eat without the threat of people or other animals walking around him or her while eating.  AVOID allowing children around the dog while he’s trying to enjoy his meal.

The Connection Between the Spine and Bloating

Dr. Peter Dobias is a reputable, Holistic Veterinarian who over the years, found a connection between the stomach and the spine.  He found that dogs who are prone to stomach problems will show symptoms of congestion, inflammation, and sensitivity located directly at the thoracic-lumbar junction of the spine.

He interviewed several emergency veterinarians and asked if they found vertebral degeneration, arthritis or spondylosis when reviewing the X-rays of dogs who have bloated. The vets confirmed that those symptoms are commonly present in bloated dogs, which confirmed Dr. Dobias’ theory that back problems are a predisposed influence for Gastric Dilation Volvulus.

Bottom line: Paying close attention to your dog’s spine and including a monthly exam, plays a very important role in preventing bloating.  I’ve used acupuncture on my dogs and they love it. It has helped tremendously for many things.  Dr. Dobias suggests using either acupuncture, physiotherapy, massage or intramuscular needle stimulation for your dog’s back issues.

If you’re not sure, a good Chiropractor that works on animals can certainly help.

It’s Not The Bowl – It’s What’s Inside the Bowl!

best type of dog bowl

Owning Dobermans and large labs over 100 lbs, and very susceptible to bloating for 30 years, we do not believe that bloat has anything to do with raised feeders, despite that every website out there follows suit that “it’s the bowl” issue.

We’ve been feeding our own bloat susceptible large dogs out of raised feeders for years and firmly believe that it’s all about what’s inside that raised dog bowls along with several other factors!

We hear it all the time from dog owners; “I feed a good quality kibble.”  While there may be better brands of kibble; the truth of the matter is that kibble is kibble.  Dogs digest natural forms of protein better than anything else. And, based upon our own experience, dogs digest raw forms of meat protein better than anything else.

The wrong diet weakens the stomach lining.  The stronger the stomach lining, the less susceptible your dog is to bloating.  Be concerned with strengthening your dog’s stomach lining and avoiding excess air intake.

Reputable veterinarians such as Dr. Dobias say that over time, grain-based kibble diets weaken the stomach walls making a dog more susceptible to bloating.  Learn more about feeding raw diets to older dogs here.

You MUST Pay Constant Attention to the Stomach – WATCH and LISTEN!!

One of the most ridiculous recommendations for avoiding bloat that we have read was from a dog trainer who recommends that you toss the kibble all over the house and have the dog search for it.

Working and studying dogs for more than 30 years, we believe that Bloat is definitely a predisposed condition for many large breeds.  We also believe that it has everything to do with what type of diet you feed, the overall health of your dog, stress factors and so on.

THE POINT IS: It’s a matter of looking at your dog’s health and the big picture as a whole, and not just one detail such as feeding from an elevated feeder or not. Your dog’s digestive process is much more complicated than just choosing to feed from the floor or off the floor.

We recently read an article authored by a Vet who cited a study and warned dog owners about using elevated dog bowls/feeders. 

However, he was contacted by another Vet from Colorado in the comment section of his blog, who warned that he should be careful with telling dog owners that feeding from the floor will prevent bloat.  It included another excellent comment from Lazaro who at the time owned 8 Danes and like us, fed them raw from elevated feeders and never had a problem.

Read more about the symptoms of bloat and how to prevent it here.

Editor’s Note: The blog post was originally published in November 2011 and completely revamped and updated for accuracy on November 2019.

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