The Myths of Elevated Dog Dishes and Bloat

Bloat in dogs, otherwise known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a very serious health risk and potentially life-threatening condition where the stomach becomes stretched by excessive gas content.  As the stomach swells, twisting can occur between the esophagus and upper intestine, thereby preventing the animal from relieving the condition by belching or vomiting.  The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.

Photo of an x-ray showing gastric dilatation and volvulus in a German Shepherd Dog. The large dark area is the gas trapped in the stomach.

Large breed dogs, especially those that are deep chested, are more susceptible to bloat. According to Wikipedia.org, the five breeds at greatest risk are Great Danes, Weimaraners, St. Bernards, Gordon Setters, and Irish Setters.  In fact, the lifetime risk for a Great Dane to develop bloat has been estimated to be close to 37 percent. Standard Poodles are also at risk for this health problem, as are Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers. Basset Hounds have the greatest risk for dogs less than 23 kg/50 lbs.

Some of the more common causes of bloat are rapid eating, eating dry foods that contain fat among the first four ingredients, foods such as kibble that expand in the stomach, drinking too much water before and after eating, drinking too much water too quickly, excessive exercise immediately after eating/drinking, stress and heredity.

Prevention of bloat can be difficult, especially for the dog who has had a relative experience bloat, and avoiding the causes listed above can certainly help.  However, there is a misconception out there that elevated dog dishes will help prevent bloat.  The thought being an elevated feeder will align the head allowing for a balanced eating position and better digestion.  Actually, studies are now showing that the opposite may be true…that elevated feeders may actually be a cause of bloat.

Typical elevated dog dish

An elevated feeder can cause a dog to inhale more air and allow the dog to eat its food at a faster than normal rate.  Both of which are causes of bloat.

The Glickman et al study, done on large and giant breed dogs, found that use of a raised feeder actually increases the risk of bloat by 110%. Dr. Glickman’s data showed that “approximately 20% and 50% of cases of GDV among the large and giant breed dogs, respectively, were attributed to having a raised food bowl.” (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:1492-1499).

While there are many benefits to using an elevated dog dish to feed your dog, new studies are showing that the prevention of bloat may not be one of them and in fact, they could actually lead to bloat.  Careful research should be done before an owner decides to purchase an elevated feeder for a dog that may be susceptible to bloat. 

References: 

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloat 

Peteducation.com: Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in Dogs

Vet Info:  How an Elevated Dog Feeder Could Lead to Bloat

Globalspan.net: Bloat in Dogs

Published in: on October 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

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