Should I Elevate My Dog’s Bowl?

Finding a chic elevated dog bowl these days is not the problem—there are plenty to pick from. But it's actually deciding whether or not you should elevate your dog's bowl that seems to be the trickier feat. We've heard murmurings among dog parents that elevated bowls make for easier digestion, after all, it means your dog isn't craning his neck every time you whip out breakfast. But after doing our own research on the subject, we found that it's a little less black-and-white than we thought. Here’s the breakdown and how an elevated bowl could affect your dog's health.

First, you need to understand dog bloat

To understand our research, we’ve got to brief you on bloat, which is exactly what it sounds like: the distention of the belly. (Been there!) Medically, in canines, it’s known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). As food or gas builds up, a dog’s stomach is vulnerable to twisting around itself. (Not good.) Signs that your dog might be suffering bloat include: trying hard to throw up to no avail, restlessness, lethargy and—duh—a bloated tummy. GDV is bad news, very severe and requires emergency treatment (and sometimes surgery).

OK. Now that we’ve terrified you after promising you some low-stakes information on dog bowls, we’ll tie the two together.

Bloat and elevated bowls

For years, veterinarians and researchers have suspected elevated bowls lead to bloat. Regrettably, there’s no significant research on this theory, and the few studies that have been done tend to conflict with one another.

One study from Harper Adams University found feeder height did increase the chance a dog would develop bloat, but it totally depended on the size of the dog. Large breeds were more likely to develop bloat when bowls were one foot (or just under one foot) off the ground, while giant breeds were more likely to develop bloat when bowls were more than a foot off the ground. The thing is, big dogs like Great Danes and Irish Setters are already predisposed to bloat because of their gigantic chest cavities. The researchers basically concluded keeping dog bowls on the ground is your best bet…maybe.

Weirdly enough, the two previous studies Harper Adams University cited in its own findings directly contradicted one another. One said, “Elevating bowls causes GDV,” and the other said, “Nuh uh!” Obviously, we need more data.

Arthritic or injured dogs are the exception

The one instance that everyone agrees requires elevated bowls is a case of arthritis or an injury that prevents a dog from reaching the floor. Elevated bowls provide elderly pups with aches and pains an easier route to dinner. To that, we all say go for it.  

Since we don’t have more data, for now, keep those bowls on the ground, folks! When in doubt, check with your veterinarian about your dog’s specific needs. And buy one of these cute floor-level bowls instead.