Quick Guide To Choosing The Right Slow Feeder Bowl For Your Dog

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You know how you go to a restaurant, order your favorite dish, and when you look down it’s suddenly gone and you know you inhaled it?

Well, to many dogs every meal is their favorite. Slow feeder bowls were invented for just this purpose – to slow down dogs who gulp their food. Having lived with highly food motivated Labrador Retrievers for years, I can tell you it’s very possible for a dog to literally eat a bowl of food in seconds.

What Are Slow Feeder Bowls?

Slow feeder bowls are designed to do just that – slow down eating and prevent gulping. They come in a variety of styles but boil down to a bowl with ridges or knobs designed to decrease the amount of food a dog can take in at one time.

By creating barriers or obstructions in the bowl, your dog has to eat a few pieces of kibble or wet food at a time.

Lick mats are also an option for slowing feeding. They work with any size or breed of dog if you’re feeding a wet or canned diet. A lick mat is basically a flat silicone or similar mat with small nubs on it that you spread wet food over. It takes your dog longer to lick the food up than if the food was in large chunks.

What Are Slow Feeder Bowls Good For?

There are several reasons why slow feeder bowls were invented. Most of them have to do with reasons why gulping food is so harmful for dogs.

One of the original purposes, and the most important, of dog slow feeder bowls was to decrease the chances of bloat in deep-chested dog breeds. Bloat in dogs is a serious, life-threatening medical emergency requiring surgery. It happens when the dog’s stomach twists and fills with gas.

In addition to being extremely painful, as the stomach fills with gas it can push on the diaphragm causing breathing problems, cut off blood flow to the heart, and cause stomach tissue to die and rupture.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), without treatment, a dog will go into shock in one to two hours and will die. Even with treatment, bloat is fatal in approximately 30% of dogs.

While veterinarians still don’t know the exact causes of bloat, they do know that bloat:

  • Occurs more often in large and giant breed dogs such as St. Bernards, Great Danes, large hound breeds, and standard poodles
  • Affects males more often than females
  • Affects more middle-aged dogs
  • Affects dogs who eat and drink large volumes and are then excessively active

In addition to helping reduce the risk of bloat, there are several other advantages to slow feeder bowls. The pros and cons are outlined in the table below.

Pros and Cons of Slow Feeder Bowls

Pros of Dog Slow Feeder BowlsCons of Dog Slow Feeder Bowls
May help reduce the risk of bloatSome dogs may be uninterested or have difficulty figuring out how to use the feeder
Reduces dog flatulence (stinky farts!) by reducing the amount of air they take in while eatingSome feeders are not as sturdy as others and unsupervised dogs may chew them in frustration or to
get at tiny pieces of food left
Provides mental stimulation and encourages problem-solvingDogs who aren’t food motivated just won’t eat (and probably eat so slowly that they don’t need a
slow feeder anyway!)
Reduces boredom and problem behaviors like barking or chewingCan be messy if pet tips bowl over or knocks many pieces of food out
Reduces chances of choking and throwing up from eating too fastBowls can be harder to keep clean due to food getting stuck in small spaces

If you don’t think a slow feeder bowl is the right fit for your pup but are still looking for ways to entertain them and wear them out a little in a fun way, you can find out more about interactive dog puzzle toys here.

Choosing The Right Bowl For Your Dog

Fortunately, there’s a bowl or mat for every size and shape of dog!

Dogs with flat faces tend to do better with a mat to lick or a bowl with shallow knobs placed fairly far apart so their muzzle can reach the bottom of the dish.

Dog with slender muzzles will be slowed down more by a deeper bowl with the knobs placed closer together.

I’ve looked through A LOT of bowls on Amazon, and these are the ones that have been highest rated. There’s something here for everyone regardless of breed. I’ve divided the categories into lick mats, made in the USA, stainless steel, elevated bowls, bowl only if you already have an elevated feeder, and small dog bowls.

I didn’t include a separate category for large dogs because many of these bowls and the lick mat have sizes meant for medium to large dogs. It seemed a little harder to find bowls for small dogs, perhaps because there aren’t as many speed eaters among the smaller crowd ๐Ÿ™‚

Dog Lick Mat

Good For: All dogs, wet food

The Lick’A’Licious Oral Hygiene Mat is a generous 11″ x 18″ size that would work for any dog but is great for bigger dogs. You can put wet food or treats such as peanut butter spread over the silicone nubs in the mat for your dog to lick. The company also promotes the silicone as a way to clean your dog’s teeth if they know on the silicone, but I would watch my pup carefully if they start to chew on it.

These lick mats are not only good for slowing down your dog’s eating time but also as a distraction while trimming nails or brushing them.

It’s dishwasher safe and has a non-skid back.

Made In USA

Good For: Flat-faced breeds, large breeds, wet or canned food, elevated

This Neater Pet Brands raised slow feeder elevated dog bowl got great reviews on Amazon. It can either be a raised feeder and water bowl or can sit directly on the floor.

It has a 2.5 cup food capacity and holds nine cups of water. It’ll work for all breeds, including flat-faced and large breeds, and cats.

The set is made in the USA of strong ABS plastic with non-slip feet and is BPA, PVC, and Phthalate free. It’s top-rack dishwasher safe.

If you would prefer a bigger feeder that just sits on the floor, the same company also makes a floor model only available in 2.5 cups or 6 cups of food only, or the food and water combo.

I can see where this model would be great for spreading out canned or wet food. It’s available in four different colors.

Stainless Steel

Good For: Long-nosed dogs, small to medium breeds, fits most elevated one-quart feeders

The Neater Pet Brands stainless steel slow feeder bowl comes in one cup and four cups sizes. The one cup fits most elevated bowl holders for one-quart size bowls; the four cup size fits most two-quart size feeders.

This bowl is dishwasher safe.

Elevated Slow Feeder

Good For: All dogs

This elevated feeding and watering stand includes THE STAND ONLY. It’s fully adjustable to five different heights, so it’s great for adjusting as a puppy grows up. The heights vary from 2.8″ to 13.2″.

It can be used for a food and water bowl for your pup, or it can be used to feed two dogs at different heights. You just pick your favorite bowl and place it at the height you want.

The stand is made of bamboo and is non-skid.

Good For: Most medium to large dogs without a wide muzzle

This single elevated slow feeder stand has a surgical grade stainless steel bowl that’s powder-coated. It comes in a ton of colors.

It’s dishwasher safe. It only comes in size large, which holds 5 cups or 40 ounces. The stand is about 8.5 inches high.

Insert Bowls For Elevated Feeders

Good For: Medium to large dogs with narrower muzzles

If you look in the stainless steel section above you’ll find this same feeder, in case you’re feeling deja vu coming on ๐Ÿ™‚

The Neater Pet Brands stainless steel slow feeder bowl comes in one cup and four cups sizes. The one cup fits most elevated bowl holders for one-quart size bowls; the four cup size fits most two-quart size feeders.

Good For: Medium to large dogs who are NOT flat faced

This slow feed dog bowl for raised pet feeders is the bowl only. It comes in two sizes for a raised feeder holder you already have: a 1.5 cup version for 6″ to 6.25″ hole openings, and a 2 cup version for 7.5″ to 8″ openings. The smaller size is equivalent to a one-quart bowl, the larger size is equivalent to a two-quart bowl.

It has a non-slip grip if you want to use it on the floor. The bowl is made of food-grade plastic and is dishwasher safe.

Small Dog Slow Feeder Bowls

Good For: Small to medium size dogs, puppies

The Outward Hound slow feeder bowl comes in sizes small/tiny (3/4 cup), medium/mini (2 cups), and large/regular (4 cups). Because the raised areas are so close together, I’m guessing this isn’t the best fit for a large dog. You can use dry or canned food in this bowl.

It’s made with high-quality, food-safe ABS plastic that’s BPA, PVC & Phthalate free. It has a non-slip base.

Here’s another slow feeder bowl option for your smaller dogs. It’s made of a food-safe resin. Since it’s not metal, it’s not a bowl for chewers! It has up to a 2 cup capacity.

I’m including this one because it got good reviews. From the written description, however, I can tell it’s not made in the US, so do your due diligence if you’re concerned about where the materials come from.

How To Encourage Your Dog To Start Using Their Slow Feeder

As we all know every dog is different, and dogs who are timid may not know quite what to do with a slow feeder at first. Some dogs just become frustrated easily.

If this is the case for your pup then start slow. Make sure you have something your dog loves that’s easy to lick up and smelly, like liverwurst or peanut butter with some shredded bits of meat or fish mixed in.

Make sure your dog has success getting some small globs of food licked up, and then work up to dry food or whatever food you normally feed.

Wrap Up on Dog Slow Feeder Bowls

And there you have it, a slow feeder for every size and shape of dog.

If you think your pup might like to get in some exercise while they eat, check out my post on interactive dog puzzle toys. Puzzle toys are a great way to give your dog a treat or their whole meal in a way that reduces anxiety, blows off some steam, or just keeps them busy on a rainy day.

Last thought – do they make human slow feeder bowls for cheesecake? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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