Should Dog Food Bowls Be Elevated?

Are elevated dog feeders good or bad? This is a common question for dog owners, and the answer is: it depends.

Some people believe they have their benefits, others are afraid of them because of their risks. So, should dog bowls be elevated?

There are many different variables to consider before answering that question, including the dog breed, their size, health, and their ability to move.

Once all of those factors are checked, it would be easier to decide whether to use elevated food bowls or not. We will address this topic in-depth, showing both their pros and cons.

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What Is an Elevated Food Bowl?

An elevated food bowl is when a dog’s food container doesn’t sit directly on the floor. Instead, it stands to a certain height above the ground.

A raised dog food bowl comes in different heights, shapes, designs, and colors. It’s also made of various materials depending on what sort of food (dry or not) you put inside of it.

While they have multiple attachments and different methods of usage, their result is the same, which is elevating the food bowl off the ground.

Example elevated feeder that’s height-adjustable

Advantages of Elevated Food Bowls

Whether or not your dog could benefit from a raised food bowl depends on their breed, age, and other conditions. For example, elevated food bowls:

1. May Suit Senile Dogs With Limited Movements

Like any living being, as dogs get older, their movement and agility decrease gradually over time. When dogs eat, they may have to strain their necks downward or even crouch down to reach their food bowls. This sort of movement gets harder as dogs age.

In such a case, an elevated food bowl may be a good idea for your dog to make them more comfortable while eating.

2. A Nice Option for Dogs With Short Snouts

Dogs that have broad faces or short snouts, known as brachycephalic dogs, are subject to more problems while eating than your average pup. This category of dogs includes, but is not limited to, Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, and Mastiffs.

They usually have breathing issues due to their anatomy. While eating from a conventional food bowel, their noses are placed against the food, complicating the breathing issues even more.

They also tend to eat faster than other dogs, making them more likely to choke on food by accident.

Brachycephalic dogs are like humans at this point: it’s much easier for us to lift a glass of water to drink it rather than bend down to it, right? Elevated food bowls can be a great idea if you own such a breed.

3. Good for Dogs With Spinal Problems or Arthritis

Unfortunately, dogs are also prone to spinal and joint problems. Arthritis is a condition that affects your dogs’ joints, making it painful whenever the dog moves.

Larger breeds like German Shepherds, for example, are more susceptible to such a condition.

If your dog falls under this category, then it makes sense to help them be comfortable while eating by limiting movements made difficult by arthritis.

4. Causes Less Mess While Eating

Since they’re fixed in place, elevated dog food bowls don’t slide as much as normal ones do. This can help reduce mess. Likewise, if they normally take a bite of food and then raise their heads to chew, any dropped kibble is more likely to end up back in the bowl if the bowl is elevated.

However, some messy dogs are going to be messy no matter what.

Elevated bowls might help with human-created messes too–having bowls that are off the floor (difficult for small feet to step into) and fixed in place may help households with kids.

Disadvantages of Elevated Food Bowls

After reviewing the advantages, raised food bowls sounds like a no-brainer, right? As it turns out, there are downsides to having elevated food bowls. So if your dog does

If your dog doesn’t necessarily need an elevated food bowl, you should put these cons in mind before getting one.

1. Might Lead to Bloating

Also known as gastric dilation volvulus, bloating is the biggest risk associated with elevated food bowls. It’s a condition when a dog’s stomach is blocked by food, air, fluids, or a combination of them all.

This happens when a dog inhales too much air while eating. Ironically, elevated food bowls were thought to reduce such a thing.

But since they’re raised, they keep the dog’s airway open. This increases the amount of air that they breath in during mealtime.

This study concluded that around 52% of bloating cases in larger breeds were associated with elevated food bowls.

2. May Cause Bacterial Infections

Depending on the material that the dog bowl platform is made of, it may develop cracks that trap food particles and moisture. This creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth, such as E.coli, salmonella and MRSA.

While the construction of a dog bowl feeder varies from product to product, elevated options are more likely to have more complicated constructions and points of failure.

3. A Bit More Expensive

Compared to two average food bowls placed on the ground, an elevated feeder option will likely be more expensive. Of course, we’ve never had a problem spoiling our pets.

4. Harder to Clean

Unlike a simple food bowl, an elevated food bowl is an assembly of multiple parts. Cleaning the junctions between these parts may not be an easy task.

As mentioned before, if they remain inappropriately cleaned for extended periods, the risk of bacterial infection increases dramatically.

How to Use Elevated Food Bowls

If you decide to use an elevated dog bowl, it’s important to know at what height you should place it. There’s no universal height that goes for everything, so it depends on how big your dog is.

As a general rule, if your dog is a small, like a Chihuahua or a Poodle, the bowl’s height should be somewhere between 3 to 6 inches.

For medium-sized breeds like American Eskimos and Bulldogs, the average bowl height should range from 8 to 13 inches.

Finally, for the big pups like German Shepherds and Boxers, their food bowls should rest between 14 and 20 inches above the ground.

If you want to be more specific with medium and large breeds, you’ll want to measure 6 inches below their withers. What’s a “withers”, you ask? It’s the top of their shoulders. This height will allow them to eat or drink from their bowls without stretching their neck up or down too much.

Conclusion

Should dog bowls be elevated? As with many things, it depends.

It’s a matter of risk vs. benefit. Conditions like old age, impaired mobility, short snouts, and medical problems make elevated food bowls a good idea.

However, if your dog doesn’t require any help during mealtime, it’s best to avoid using elevated food bowls to reduce risks like bloating and bacterial infections.

PuppyLists is written by J., who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 14 year old Lab mix.