Do you have a chow hound in your household, a dog that inhales food? The kind of dog that can polish off a mean in about five seconds? I do, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it until I discovered the wonderful world of slow feeders.
Slow feeders simply slow your dog or cat down by creating an impediment to gobbling up all their food as fast as they can. Slow feeders limit the amount of food your pet can get with every bite. Even people are being instructed by doctors to slow down at meal time and chew their food to help digestion.
The same applies to our furry friends. Sammie, the English Pointer, is one of those dogs who can’t eat fast enough. She would suck down her food, then ten minutes later she’d be belching. I thought that couldn’t possibly be good for her. Now her slow feeders have corrected that behavior. Meals that were gobbled in mere seconds now take ten minutes.
Another benefit is that it gives your dog something to do. While Sammie needed the slow feeder to change her eating style, I put my German Shorthair Pointer on a slow feeder just to give her a challenge. She thinks it’s a game.
Larger breeds susceptible to bloat may benefit most from slowing down their meals. Canine bloat or twisted stomach occurs when a dog eats too quickly and gulps down a lot of air. The air turns into gas in the stomach and causes the abdomen to swell, putting pressure on the heart, lungs and other organs. In serious cases, the stomach rotates and blood vessels and nerves get pinched. The condition can be fatal.
Slow feeders can’t guarantee to prevent bloat but they can help modify the eating behavior that often leads to it.
The market offers a wide variety of slow feeders, and they all work a little differently. Some are harder for a dog to learn than others.
The first video demonstrates the Busy Buddy, which took Sammie the longest to figure out. It’s a container that releases food as the dog plays with it. I almost gave up on this feeder. When Sammie didn’t figure it out initially, I replaced it with something a little easier. But when we tried the Busy Buddy again later, she caught on. Maybe she just needed more time to think this one through.
The Busy Buddy (available in small, medium and large sizes) is designed to be a treat dispenser, but I use it as a slow feeder. With this dispenser you must be thoughtful about the size of the kibble to be used. If your kibble is very small, it will fall out too easily. As you’ll see in the video, I’ve removed the rope so Sammie has a higher success rate with each tip of the bottle.
The second feeder is the Northmate “Green,” which earned the 2013 Global Pet Expo Best-in-Show award for best new dog product. Green is a one-piece molded feeder of hard phthalate-free plastic. Green consists of 43 “blades of grass,” in several sizes and all rounded at the top. These blades replicate the sensation of sniffing through the grass for discoveries, hence the name “Green.”
Green is a one-size-fits-all model designed for both dry and wet food, and it’s extremely easy to use by both owner and pup. I really like the wide base of this feeder as it doesn’t tip or even move while in use.
Third up is the Kyjen Coral Slo-Bowl Slow Feeder, designed as a natural, healthy and playful experience for dogs. This design requires your dogs to forage for their meals. It presents a maze in which dogs can chase their food, making mealtime a fun hunting game. Dogs quickly learn to chase their food through the maze of ridges and valleys and, because the Slo-Bowl “rewards” their play with bits of food, dogs become more engaged as the meal goes on.
I like this one for my GSP, but some reviewers find it difficult for small dogs. Kyjen does offer other models for smaller dogs.
The last group of slow feeders are the interactive puzzles. The puzzles usually hide the food in multiple compartments with covers that your pet (these are designed for dogs, cats and even ferrets) must remove to reach the food.
Nina Ottosson is the leader in this arena with multiple toys under wide distribution with the most popular being the Dog Smart, Dog Brick and Dog Tornado. All three are available in both plastic and wood, and the Ottosson line offers several degrees of difficulty within each product.
If your dog can benefit from any of these features, stop by your local pet supply store and discuss slow feeders with the staff. And we always advise that you check in with your vet regarding all changes in your feeding regimen.