I have a yorkie who makes his food disappear faster than a magician can if I don’t give him a slow feed bowl. There’s still a burp after every meal, but at least there’s more time now between me putting the food down and him actually finishing it.
Dogs need slow feeders to make them eat slower, which is healthier. Eating fast can make dogs vomit, burp, get flatulence, bloat, or even end up in hospital. Slow feeders force a dog to work around a puzzle or obstacle to reach their food.
There are many reasons to give a dog a slow feed bowl, but did you know that not every dog needs one? It’s important to understand the pros and cons of this puzzling mealtime feeder before getting one.
Why dogs should eat slowly
Dogs should eat their food slowly. When dogs eat too fast, they take in air with their food. This air can cause many health issues and discomfort, from bloating and tummy sensitivity, to a twisted stomach and an emergency visit to an animal hospital.
In mild cases, swallowed air travels through the gut and simply causes flatulence, or it comes out as burps.
Dogs that eat too fast often vomit or gag after meals from swallowed air. This gagging and vomiting brings stomach acids and food into the throat and esophagus, which can damage these organs over time.
But did you know that bloat is dangerous and can kill a dog?
Swallowed air can make a dog’s stomach bloat, which makes the dog very uncomfortable.
If they play or run around too soon before or after a meal with all this air in their stomach, they risk the chance of their stomach flipping or turning over. When this happens, the pipes to and from the stomach are closed, stopping the blood supply and natural movement through the digestive system.
The dog’s stomach becomes swollen, he/she struggles to breathe, and the stomach could burst.
A turned stomach is a medical emergency and needs a vet’s attention. Unfortunately, dogs can die from this condition.
Why dogs need slow feeders
Many dogs eat too fast. They may do this because they are hungry, love food (are food driven), are anxious, bored, have parasites that make them hungry all the time, or they are trying to get all their food down before another animal steals it from them.
Slow feeders are good for dogs because they slow down the rate at which dogs can eat their food. Slow feeders make it impossible for dogs to gulp down food, which lessens the amount of air they take in with their food. This reduces the risk of the dog choking, vomiting, or getting bloat.
Not every dog needs a slow feeder, but every dog can benefit from using one. The following breeds and traits in dogs make them more likely to get bloat than other dogs:
- Dogs that eat very quickly, like they’re in a fast-eating competition
- Dogs that eat from a raised food bowl
- Large breeds that are older than 5, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers
- Giant breeds older than 3, such as Irish Wolfhounds, St Bernards, Great Danes
- Dogs that like to run around and play immediately after eating
- Deep-chested dogs, with chests that reach or fall below their elbows, such as Dobermans, sighthounds, Standard Poodles, St Bernards, and Boxers
If your dog is any of the breeds or has any of the traits above, it might be a good idea to switch over to a slow feed bowl.
Why puppies need slow feeders
Eating fast is just as risky for puppies as it is for older dogs. Puppies tend to be greedy little guys or gals and often love to run around and play, even if they’ve just had their breakfast.
Puppies should be given a slow feeder bowl to stop them from eating fast. The puzzle in the slow feeder makes it impossible for a puppy to quickly swallow all the food in the bowl, which minimizes the amount of air they take in when eating. This lessens the chance of the puppy getting bloat and becoming sick after eating.
How slow feed bowls work
Slow feed bowls are bowls with raised pieces or a ‘puzzle’ inside. Kibble is placed along the pathways in the puzzle or around the raised pieces. The dog needs to lick and scoop out the kibble in these paths. Because it takes time and accuracy to do this, the dog automatically eats slower than when he/she has access to all the food in a regular bowl.
How often to use a slow feeder
A slow feeder should be used whenever a dog is fed. It is better to divide a dog’s daily food allowance into two smaller meals. Use the slow feeder to feed your dog breakfast in the morning and dinner at night.
The pros and cons of a slow feeder dog bowl
The pros and advantages of using a slow feeder
A slow feeder dog bowl has many advantages when used correctly. Slow feeder bowls…
… slow down dogs that eat fast, which prevents burping, flatulence, vomiting, gagging, and bloat
… give dogs mental stimulation and curb boredom
… fulfil dogs’ natural instinct to ‘work’ for food (like dogs do in the wild)
… give dogs time to feel full, so they are less inclined to eat as much as when they eat quickly
… make eating more fun for dogs, because of the ‘game’ of hunting kibble in a puzzle
The cons and disadvantages of a slow feed dog bowl
By now you might be wondering if there are any disadvantages to giving your dog a slow feed bowl. Let’s take a look at the list of cons.
Slow feeder bowls…
… can be a bit more expensive than normal dog food bowls
… can make eating more difficult for dogs with flat faces because the shape of their face may make it difficult to reach the food inside the puzzle (lick mats are a better option for flat-faced dogs, which we’ll talk about later)
… can be difficult for some dogs to understand: Start with simple puzzle bowls and move on to more challenging slow feeders as your dog learns what’s expected from them to get to the food
… need to be matched to the size and eagerness of your dog: Dogs that chew their bowls or larger dogs may need a stronger and pricier slow feeder than smaller or calmer dogs
Slow dog feeders can help with vomiting
Slow dog feeders can help with vomiting if a dog vomits from eating too fast. The air that a fast-eating dog sucks in when eating may cause vomiting and gagging. Slow dog feeders will stop the dog from eating so fast and reduce the amount of air swallowed with meals, which might stop vomiting altogether.
The best slow feeder dog bowls
I did some research to find the best slow feed dog bowls on the market today and there are a lot of wonderful options, with all materials, and to suit all kinds of budgets. Let’s take a look:
The best stainless steel slow feeder dog bowl
Recommended bowl: Neater Pet Brands Slow Feed Bowl from Amazon
This stainless steel pet bowl is Amazon’s choice and comes with very high customer ratings.
There are two sizes to choose from, medium and large, and what I like is that it is designed to make it difficult for your dog to tip over the bowl, with a larger base and a rubber ring around the bottom.
I personally don’t use stainless steel bowls for food as my dogs don’t like the sound these bowls make or the feeling when they hit the bowl with their teeth. But many dogs love stainless steel bowls and they’re the most hygienic of all dog bowls out there.
The best ceramic slow feeder dog bowl
Recommended bowl: BestVida Sparks Premium Stoneware Bowl from Amazon
This is the world’s first ceramic slow feeder, with a patent pending.
There are many pros to getting a ceramic slow feeder: They’re hygienic as long as there aren’t any chips in the ceramic, they’re dishwasher safe, microwaveable, and even freezer safe.
This bowl is heavier than metal and plastic bowls, but the weight will also stop your dog from flipping the bowl.
And it comes in a range of colors, from orange or green, to white or blue.
Best plastic slow feeder brand
Recommended bowl: Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slo Bowl from Amazon
This is an extremely popular slow feed bowl that forces dogs to eat 10 times slower than regular bowls. These slow feeders come in a range of sizes and colors.
The non-slip base prevents dogs from tipping over the food bowl. Plus, it’s made with food-safe, lightweight plastic that’s BPA, PVC, and phalate-free.
The best slow feeder dog bowl for flat-faced dogs
Hyper Pet SloDog Lick Mat from Amazon
Lickimat Tuff, Heavy-Duty Dog Slow Feeder from Amazon
A lick mat is a great option for dogs with flat faces. Lick mats have a much flatter/lower surface than traditional slow feeders, so flat-faced dogs find it easier to reach the kibble, dry or soaked, and lick it straight out of the shallow holes.
This still slows down their eating speed.
If you have a French Bulldog, or want to try another slow feed bowl for your flat-faced dog, then there’s also the four-leaf clover slow feeding dog bowl (Amazon link). This bowl has four larger holes to accommodate a flatter dog face.
It’s made of resin that’s food safe and easy to clean.
More tips to stop a dog from eating too fast
Here are some other things you can do to slow down a dog that eats too fast:
- Try different slow feeders so your dog doesn’t learn how to use one quickly. Every time your dog tries a new puzzle, he/she will have to spend time figuring it out, which will slow down eating.
- If you’re at home during the day, take your dog’s daily food allowance and break it up into several smaller portions. Feed small portions throughout the day in a slow feed bowl or use these portions as treats for calm behavior during the day.
- Hide kibble in small bowls around the garden or house, then let your dog go ‘hunting’ for food.
- Get a qualified animal behaviorist to help you train your dog to trust the people and animals around him/her. Sometimes dogs eat fast as a way to protect their food, so no one else can get it before they’ve finished eating it. If this is the case, you may be able to break the habit by teaching your dog that the food is safe, and no one will try to take it.
- Take your dog to the vet for a checkup and de-worm your dog monthly, to make sure there aren’t parasites making him/her hungry all the time.