I am so glad that Kristin wrote in about my blog last week and worried about my advice against using a raised feeder. (I was also delighted to know that her parents are proud Greyhound adopters and appreciate her added health advice for Greys.)
Kristin’s comment was: In your “Advice About Adopting Greyhounds,” it says they should NOT be fed from a raised bowl. This is counter to what I have learned about dogs prone to bloat. Isn’t it better for them to eat from a raised bowl so it’s easier for them to eat in a natural position? I think that’s just a typo.
Nope, that was not a typo! That was exactly what I meant! There was a time when raised feeders were actually recommended for big breed, deep-chested dogs but that advice has since been reversed (this kind of reversal happens in the human medical sphere, too, for example even in the recommendations of what foods are high in cholesterol!). While some controversy lingers about whether raised feeders are good or bad, the issue was studied in a scientific way at a university veterinary department by Dr. Glickman — which showed that raised feeders are actually a danger for at-risk breeds of dogs (it is mentioned in the links below).
A similar example is that there was also a time when horses were fed their grain in raised corner feeders in their stalls — until digestive problems emerged and with it the realization that an animal designed to eat with its head down on the ground. It is natural for a horse to eat and chew with her head down — where eating at chest level caused the intake of air and unnatural swallowing (I know this because I spent nearly twenty years competing at a top level in the horse show world and I even bred show jumpers). This would be the same issue with dogs, especially large dogs like Greyhounds: their bodies are designed to put their heads down to eat and drink — people made a mistake interfering with the natural position.
Raised feeders are a poor idea except for dogs who have physical challenges like back, neck or hip problems — where putting their head to the ground (their natural normal eating position) is genuinely difficult for them. But those dogs need to be watched to make sure they don’t gulp and eat too fast, and someone should keep an eye on them for the hour after eating.
Here are just the first few scientific links on the Internet about the dangers of raised feeders and the relationship to bloat:
VetInc.com has an article titled “How an Elevated Dog Feeder Could Lead to Bloat”
Raid the Wind, a Shiloh-Shepherd breeder website clearly recommends against a raised feeder: http://www.raidthewind.com/bloat.htm
Hibourne Weimaraners, a Weimaraner breeder, has the same information page on their website: http://www.hibourne.com/bloat.cfm
It’s a shame to have to be cynical and point out the sorry relationship between health advice and commerce: websites selling the dozens upon dozens of raised feeders are promoting raised feeders! What a surprise. Sadly, the articles on the internet that refer to the benefit of raised feeders are intimately connected to pet supply websites that sell raised feeders and even websites selling raised feeders directly to the public. The conflict of interest is disturbing, and the health consequences to large breed dogs could be deadly. But what are these companies going to do with warehouses full of raised feeders if pet owners learn to avoid them?
I wrote this blog to clear up this issue because the risk of bloat is so serious and I want to prevent people from mistakenly buying fancy raised feeders. Those who already have them should consider converting them to flower planters instead!