What Is A Slow Feeder Dog Bowl?

What is a slow feed dog bowl?

Almost every pet store offers a wide range of brightly colored dog feeder bowls, known as a slow feeder dog bowl. But what is a slow feeder dog bowl and why would you use them?

A slow feeder dog bowl comes in various designs, ranging from bowls with maze-like patterns to others with plastic obstructions.

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But what really is the purpose of the bowls? Do they work? Is it just another way of manufacturers getting your hard-earned money?

The good news is that slow feeder dog bowls are beneficial and are a good choice for dogs that eat too fast.

Two Slow Feeder Dog Bowls on wood background

What is a Slow Feeder Dog Bowl?

Slow feeder dog bowls are food bowls with many obstructers built into them to make your dog eat slowly. The slow feeders are made of various materials, such as stainless steel and brightly colored plastic.

Manufacturers include various obstacles so that your dog can take time to figure out how to get the food out. Some have the shape of mini labyrinths and others look like puzzles or games. However, they are all designed to protect your dog from various medical conditions.

While your dog might be food-motivated, eating very fast can be dangerous. One of the risks of fast eating is choking and gagging.

Most dogs that eat very fast do not chew their food thoroughly and as a result, they inhale small food pieces. Some of the food pieces they inhale might get stuck in their throat.

What Is A Slow Feeder Dog Bowl? A puppy with a food bowl in the background.

When that happens, your dog will start pawing at the face, start gasping for air, and open the mouth while lunging the body forward to dislodge the objects.

Food getting stuck in the throat of your dog is a medical emergency and it can lead to death.

Further, fast eating increases the risk of vomiting and Gastric Dilation Volvulus (Bloating). A dog that eats very fast gulps down a large amount of air along with the food. That causes expansion of the stomach. Bloat is uncomfortable and can be life-threatening.

The stomach twists while expanding therefore making it hard for food to pass from the stomach to the intestines.

If this happens, your dog might go into shock and eventually die. Symptoms of Gastric Dilation Volvulus include belching, distended stomach, retching, restlessness, pale gums, rapid breathing, and trying to vomit.

What Is A Slow Feeder Dog Bowl? A border collie smiling.

What is the Main Cause of Fast Eating?

Your dog might eat very fast for various reasons. Therefore, before you buy a slow feeder dog bowl, it is important you determine the key reason behind fast eating. You might realize that you do not need the bowl. Here are the main causes:

  • If you have many dogs, they may be competing for the food you provide to them. In such cases, feeding them in separate rooms may help prevent bad behavior.
  • Leaving your dog hungry for a long time may also influence the behavior. So, if you have been feeding your dog once per day, try to give her 2-4 small meals properly spaced throughout the day.
  • Meals that consist of high-caloric and nutrient food may limit the amount your dog eats at mealtime. Your pet might slow down when eating after you switch to low-calorie and high-fiber dog food, which means providing her/him with more food for each meal.

If none of the above tips works and your dog looks very hungry each time, you have to invest or make a slow feeder dog bowl or take the dog to a vet. The vet will examine the pet to rule out some of the common issues that make dogs very hungry.

If you want to make your own bowl, we have a DIY Slow Feeder Dog Bowl tutorial to show you how.

What Is A Slow Feeder Dog Bowl? A dog eating out of a slow feeder dog bowl.

How to Use a Slow Feeder Dog Bowl

The main disadvantage of using slow feeder dog bowls is that some of them are very hard to fill and clean. You have to fill the food in all the crevices and your dog will have to figure out the best way to get the food. Here are the tips you need to use the bowl in a better way.

  • When using the slow feed dog bowl for the first time, use something that is super tasty and a rare treat. That will tell him/her that the bowl is something good. Your dog might get frustrated and abandon the bowl if is very hard and the food is boring.
  • If the dog wants you to get the food out of the bowl, walk away. He has to figure out the easiest way to access it.
  • Make your slow feeder dog bowl more challenging after your dog learns that he has to try various strategies to reach the food. You have to be creative to get the best results.
  • Have a few different styles of slow feeders and swap them out every few days. 
  • Depending on how hard yours is to fill, prepare your slow feed dog bowls ahead of time, especially in the morning.
What Is A Slow Feeder Dog Bowl? A dog eating out of a slow feeder dog bowl.

Choosing a Slow Feeder Dog Bowl

When buying a slow feeder for your dog, you have to consider several factors. You do not want to buy a bowl that will not work for your dog or one that will only last for a few days. Here are the factors:

1. Design

Select a design that is not very hard for your dog’s age and personality. A slow feeder that is very hard to use may discourage your pet from eating altogether.

One that is very easy to use may not have any effect on the eating speed. Consider other aspects of design such as a non-slip feature.

Keep in mind that some designs may not work for your dog. For example, a bowl with a very narrow ridge may not work for a dog with a large snout as it could hurt the nose.

2. Material

The material used to make the bowl is important for both the durability and safety of your dog. Rubber, plastic, and stainless steel materials are the most popular.

Rubber and plastic bowls offer complex design options and they are softer on teeth. However, stainless steel bowls are long-lasting and durable. 

3. Capacity

The depth and size of the slow feeder bowl are also important. A small size bowl will hold around 1-2 cups of food while a large one will hold up to 4 cups. So, choose the size ideal for your dog.

4. Ease of Cleaning

The bowls are made to make food hard to reach. Therefore, they can also be hard to clean. Fortunately, most of them are dishwasher-friendly. So, if you do not want to spend your time scrubbing one, go for one that is dishwasher safe.

A good scrub brush also helps get into those little cracks.

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