How an Elevated Dog Feeder Could Lead to Bloat

Elevated feeders have been identified as a non-dietary risk factor for dog bloat. Elevated feeders do have some benefits, however, they may not be the best choice from a health perspective since some breeds are already susceptible to bloat.

What is bloat

Bloat in dogs, gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), occurs most commonly in large breed dogs and is life-threatening. Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air, although food and fluid can also be present. The stomach swells and twisting occurs between the esophagus and upper intestine. Bloat can occur with or without twisting. 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.

Deep-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Dobermans are particularly at risk. Smaller dogs, puppies, and less active dogs, while still susceptible to dog bloat, will not have as great a risk as larger more active dogs. Male dogs are much more likely to suffer from bloat than female dogs.

Causes of bloat

Some causes are believed to be rapid eating, elevated food bowls, dry foods that contain citric acid as a preservative, dry foods that contain fat among the first four ingredients, insufficient pancreatic enzymes, dilution of gastric juices necessary for complete digestion by drinking too much water before or after eating, eating gas-producing foods, drinking too much water too quickly, heredity-especially having a first degree relative who has bloated, build & physical characteristics and disposition. In addition to the risk factors listed, many veterinarians believe that stress also causes bloat.

Benefits of elevated feeders

Elevated dog feeders offer your dog some real health benefits. Dogs tend to lift their heads after taking a drink to facilitate swallowing. With an elevated feeder, they do not have to raise their heads as far. Your dog is able to maintain better posture and a more comfortable stance while eating and drinking. An improved posture causes less stress on your dog's back and joints. This is important for senior, arthritic or dogs with other conditions that make swallowing difficult.

Effects of elevated feeders

It's inadvisable to use elevated feeders if you have a dog already susceptible to bloat. An elevated feeder may increase your dogs risk for bloat especially if he/she has a relative who has bloated.

Research Findings

Scientists at many locations have been studying gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), commonly called bloat, for a long time. They have identified a number of likely factors, including behavioral traits. Breed susceptibility is pretty obvious for many deep chested dogs. The risk of bloat does appear to increase with age.

The Glickman et al study found that use of a raised feeder 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). It should be noted that Dr. Glickman's study was confined only to large and giant breed dogs.

However, studies on risk factors for bloat associated with elevated feeders are unclear. Conflicting results from research studies is not that uncommon. Results may differ because different techniques are used or other medical conditions are present. Elevated feeders could also influence other factors such as the speed of eating. More research needs to be done on GDV in relation to using elevated feeders. It is uncertain whether anything we do such as changing the amount of exercise, using elevated feeders, or speed of eating will decrease or increase the rate of bloat.