While my husband’s parents were vacationing in a Florida RV camp, they met a couple with a tiny little dog. Although this dog’s head only stood about a foot off the ground, the people had a food dish lifter for the dog to eat from. Being a bit curious, my in-laws asked why in the world a dog that small would need a lifter to eat from. The dog’s owners explained how their vet informed them of the dangers of a dog (or cat) not eating with a level head. Now even more curious, my in-law researched this issue and found the information was true.
There are many benefits for having your pet eat from an elevated food and water dish. The first is that it helps reduce the intake of swallowed air while eating. When the pet is bent over eating in a head down position, they will gulp their food down by sucking it up and into their mouth.
When they swallow, all the air in their mouth also go to their stomach. This air will cause painful gas and indigestion to the pet. Elevating the dishes will allow for a more comfortable eating position and proper breathing while eating.
In some cases, excessive ingested air can cause a condition called bloat (gastric dilation and volvulus – GDV). This condition is serious and can be life-threatening to your pet. It is usually seen in larger breed dogs, but can be seen in smaller breeds as well.
Bloat comes from your pet eating too fast and accumulating too much gas or fluid in the stomach. The following are symptoms of bloat seen soon after eating: excess salivation and retching, abdominal distention, restlessness and agitation, weakness, lethargy, or a rapid heart rate.
There are other medical conditions pets can have that make swallowing more difficult. One such condition is megaesophagus. In this condition the esophagus becomes large and flaccid causing the food to gather there instead of making it down tot he stomach. This can lead to vomiting and regurgitation. Elevating the food dish allows gravity to help push the food down to the stomach while eating.
For older pets, especially with arthritis, eating from the floor is not comfortable. Older animals eat less in general anyway, but if it hurts to eat they will eat even less. This could lead to malnutrition and a shortened lifespan. Elevating the dishes will allow the pet to eat in a more comfortable position. Even for younger pets who may have a back or neck problem, elevating their dishes will lessen their pain.
As for the benefits for humans, elevated dishes offer two big ones. First, it will help keep your floors a little cleaner. When animals drink, they usually raise their head up at the end to help swallow the last drink. Any water that doesn’t make it down the throat will usually end up on the floor. Drinking from an elevated level allows the pet to drink at the same level needed to properly swallow. Second, for the elderly owners of a pet, elevated dishes save you from having to bend down too far to fill food and lift water.
When choosing a dish stand, make sure you size it to your pet’s hight. The dishes should come to about the top of the chest. Make sure your pet your pet has their head and neck level to the ground when leaning over to the dishes.
When my in-laws told us about the small dog in Florida, I watched my large dog eat for the next few days from his bowls on the ground. I noticed that he had to bend his front legs halfway just to reach the bowl. Up and down, up and down, and sometimes getting tired and just sitting down to eat. I thought, not only could he be getting too much air in his stomach, but also his legs are probably getting tired.
All that bending halfway and standing up again could cause arthritis in the long run. So my husband built a custom dish lifter sized to Duke’s height. As soon as we put his food and water in it, he went right up to it and started eating. I know dogs can’t talk, but he looked at us so wide eyed after he was done eating as if to say “Thank you!”