What Bowl is Right for My Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Between types of food, additional supplements, and kinds of feeders, it seems there are nearly as many options for feeding your dog as there are breeds out there.
Each dog varies from the next in many ways--they have different tastes in food, different nutritional needs, and different physical issues. It is recommended that you feed your dog a high-quality dog food and discuss specific formulas of food and supplements with your vet. But as far as feeders, there is one widely accepted way to feed that literally stands above the others: Elevated feeders, also known as doggie diners, or feeding stations.
There are, of course, plenty of other acceptable options, but they each come with their pitfalls. Stainless steel dog bowls are extremely durable and inexpensive. These bowls are not prone to scratches and are not likely to get chewed up or destroyed by even the most over-zealous pup. Stainless bowls, however, are the most obnoxious noise-wise on hardwood or tile floors. If you have a dog who likes to paw at his bowl, it’s likely that one of these bowls will drive you to distraction eventually. Stainless bowls are also not available in many styles or designs, so you don’t get to let your personality and décor shine through.
Ceramic and stoneware bowls are probably the most creative option. There are hundreds of designs of stoneware bowls, mostly hand painted and therefore unique. There is a stoneware or ceramic bowl out there to suit any interior design. They are also often dishwasher safe, and either way, easy to clean. The problem with ceramic and stoneware bowls, though, is that they are prone to developing tiny, hard-to-see cracks. These cracks can harbor harmful bacteria that can potentially make your dog sick. Ceramic and stoneware bowls are not inherently unsafe, but they should be checked regularly for cracks and chips.
Plastic bowls are easy to clean and offer just as many fun and aesthetically pleasing designs. They are also quite handy for the clumsy owner or playful dog since they are difficult to break, even when dropped from human heights. Some dogs, however, can develop allergies to plastic, resulting in irritated skin on the face and in the mouth. Softer plastic bowls are also attractive as chew toys to some dogs, and usually scratch easily. Bite marks and scratches are apt to fill with harmful bacteria.
Automatic feeders and waterers are handy and great for the dog owner who isn’t home as much as one would like. Little to nothing is ever said against automatic waterers; automatic feeders, on the other hand, can be trouble. Free feeding is unhealthy for most dogs. There is no way to regulate how much your dog eats when you’re not around, this can result in weight problems. Many vets warn against automatic feeders and suggest you only feed your dog a specific amount every day, in person.
The choice recommended by many vets is an elevated feeder. When a dog eats from a bowl directly on the floor, he must bend his head down to reach. This can be uncomfortable for dogs with arthritis or back and neck problems. An elevated feeder allows the dog’s spine to stay more aligned, relieving pain and stiffness. Older dogs are prone to eat less as it is, and they may eat less still if it is painful to do so. An elevated feeder will make your older dog more comfortable, and thus, more likely to eat a sufficient amount. Starting your dog young, with a proper diet from an elevated feeder can help avoid this kind of back and neck problem all together.
When your dog doesn’t have to reach down to the floor to eat and drink, swallowing requires less effort. It’s purely logical that if food and water don’t have to travel up the esophagus, against gravity, the process is easier and more comfortable. Elevated feeders help avoid problems like megaesophagus(decreased or absent movement of the esophagus), bloat (swelling and sometimes twisting of the dog’s stomach), and gas. They help the dog chew more and gulp less which leads to a healthier eating experience.
When dogs drink from regular bowls, they often lift their head to help swallow, leading to a slobbery, wet mess around the bowls. An elevated feeder solves this problem completely. It also discourages your fun-loving pooch from playing in his water bowl, further avoiding messes for you to clean up later.
Most elevated feeders sit on four legs, rather than flush against the floor. When bowls sit directly on the floor, moisture and dog food crumbs collect under the bowl and create a prime environment for mold, mildew, and all manner of crawly critters. This can lead to not only bad smells and bugs in your home, but also allergies and other health issues for your dog.
Elevated feeders often come with, or fit a certain brand of stainless steel or ceramic bowls. With all the available designs of elevated feeders, from simple and sleek to elegant and extravagant, you can use a sturdy, durable, stainless steel bowl and still let your style shine through. Since elevated feeders don’t allow your pup to play with his bowls, this prevents the cracks and chips in ceramic bowls that can make your dog sick, so you can pick a beautiful bowl that’s just right for you.
Doggy diners may cost a little more than a couple of plastic bowls on the floor, but think of it as a one-time expense that not only ensures that your dog will have a happier, healthier life, but with most feeding stations, one that will probably last for the life of your dog.