DEAR DIDI: There are so many types of dog bowls available. Plastic, porcelain, stainless steel, raised on stands ... what do you recommend? I have a Great Dane and a Chihuahua. - Stumped in Manteca
DEAR STUMPED: This is an excellent question. There are obviously a lot of factors involved in the purchase of a dog bowl and each dog in the household should have their own individual bowl. Many people prefer to choose porcelain bowls because they can be very decorative and match the owner’s style. Porcelain is also very heavy and may help prevent a dog from shoving their bowl around while eating. The biggest issue with that type of bowl is durability. They tend to crack or shatter when bumped or dropped.
Plastic is inexpensive and colorful but some dog owners will notice an increase in doggy chin acne. Plastic harbors bacteria and while the dog is shoving food around they rub their chins on the edges of the bowl. The bacteria takes up residence and causes pimples that can be very uncomfortable. Lightweight bowls can be placed on rubber placemats to prevent the bowl from migrating across the kitchen floor at mealtime.
I personally prefer stainless steel for durability and they can be sterilized in the dishwasher. It isn’t necessarily pretty but it is highly functional. They can travel with me in the car, be thrown around in bags and last for years. Some stainless steel bowls have become more decorative with paw prints or some other appropriate dog themed etching on the outer walls.
Size of your bowl is purely dependent on the shape of your dog’s face and how many cups of food at each serving. Great Danes need larger bowls to accommodate several cups of food at each feeding. My friend’s English Bulldog only eats one cup per serving but he still needs a large bowl in order to get his flat face in there to grab the kernels!
I don’t recommend raised stands for dogs. Years ago it was thought that raising a dog’s bowl would limit how much air was swallowed and help prevent a horrible condition known as ‘bloat.’ This is a painful and deadly condition where a dog’s stomach flips. Large breed dogs with deep chests are the most prone to this condition. The classic signs of bloat are restlessness and pacing, salivation, retching, unproductive attempts to vomit, and enlargement of the abdomen. The symptoms warrant an immediate emergency room visit. The newest studies demonstrate that raised bowls have not helped prevent bloat. They have actually increased the number of cases significantly. The chances of a dog suffering from bloat is directly related to the age of the dog, genetic predisposition and the speed at which the dog eats.
To this end, there are a variety of bowls now designed to slow dogs down while eating. Martha Stewart has a simple plastic bowl that basically has little mountains in the bowl. The dog has to eat around them. Several other brands offer various intricate mazes as their design. I have personally tested these bowls with a Miniature Pinscher. It took him 10 seconds to clean up his breakfast from a normal flat bottomed bowl. The fastest he could clean up in the Martha Stewart bowl was 40 seconds. An even better option for serious gulpers is the Aikiou bowl (pronounced IQ bowl). It has multiple chambers and sliding closures that the dog has to move around in order to get to the kibble. It can slow a dog down to a full three minutes! The benefits for the health of dogs at risk outweigh the more tedious cleaning and filling time of the bowl.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email email@example.com.