Should You Replace Your Dog Bowl With A Slow Feeder?

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.


The Craigslist Controversy

I’ll admit it. I love Craigslist. It’s great for selling furniture, finding purses and getting your next dog.

WHOA, WHAT!? Yep, I said it. It’s OK to get a dog on Craigslist. And that means it’s OK to put a dog on Craigslist. But like so many other things in life, it’s all about doing it the right way.

Our German Shorthair Pointer was 10 months old, spending most of her time in a crate and needed a new home. Her owner had just gotten divorced and recognized she had too many responsibilities to dedicate any time to this dog, but she wanted to find it a good home. So she tried Craigslist.

We had been looking for a young Pointer that could get along with our barn cats. She fit the bill, so I replied to the ad.

Libby, far left, joins the office staff.

Libby, far left, joins the office staff.

In my opinion, our dog’s previous owner did everything right. She advertised her dog but did not put up a photo. She priced her dog at $200. At that price only people serious about that pet were going to call. And, she insisted she be able to do a home visit BEFORE any transaction would take place. We welcomed showing her the farm her dog would now call home and the other Pointer she would have as a buddy.

Now before the arguments start, let me just say that I realize Craigslist is used by puppy mills, scammers and just down-right creepy people who buy, sell and give away pets for many wrong reasons. But should the success stories be ignored?

Of course we could have tried to flip the dog, or we could have been creepy and kept the dog locked up or abused. The truth is, no one really knows how another person is going to care for an animal that needs a new home. That means dogs that are adopted from rescues, horses that are sold, or barn cats that are given away are always at some risk.

But if you must rehome a pet, use Craigslist knowing that the scammers are shopping there. For that very reason DO NOT give your pet away. That will attract the category of people looking to “flip” animals — that is, buying low and selling high. Free is even better for them.

It’s a fact of life that there are people out there who want animals to sell as bait dogs, research experiments and puppy mill breeders or worse. It’s repulsive but it’s out there.

Be wary, charge a fee, insist on a vet reference AND a home visit. If it doesn’t feel right, your pet is most likely better off at one of the many rescues, shelters or breed-specific groups that have adoption programs, foster homes and the ability to screen adoption applicants.

Craigslist isn’t perfect. In a perfect world, people would never give up their family pets. But life is messy. It’s ok to use Craigslist to find a pet or even to place a pet; just do everything you can to verify that the pet’s new home is the right new home.

Muzzlebump 🙂