What Is a Slow Feeder Dog Bowl & What’s the Point?

If you follow us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or Facebook, you may have seen food served in strangely shaped bowls, toys, or lick mats and wondered: What is a slow feeder dog bowl? What’s the point of slow feeder dog bowls?

Commonly used as dog bowls for fast eaters, slow feeders come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles and primarily serve to make dogs eat slower. Why? Keep reading to learn about the many important reasons why a puzzle bowl for dogs is an excellent investment in your pup’s physical and mental health!

Yellow Honeycomb bowl

What Is a Slow Feeder Dog Bowl?

A slow feeder bowl is anything designed to prevent a dog from quickly gulping their food all at once. You can create a slow feeder bowl by simply putting a tennis ball, large rock, or other obstruction in a food bowl that your dog must work around, or you can buy any number of tools, toys, or bowls designed for the specific purpose of slowing down fast eaters.

What Is the Point of a Slow Feeder Dog Bowl?

Whether it’s a puzzle dog bowl, a lick mat, a stuffed Toppl, a maze bowl for dogs, or any other non-conventional bowl, a slow feeder dog bowl is intended to force pups to eat slower and prevent food gulping, which can cause dogs to swallow a lot of air when they eat.

At best, a dog that swallows a bunch of air while gulping its food down as quickly as possible will likely be extremely gassy as the excess air leaves their system. At worst, the extra air in their stomach can cause potentially fatal bloat, also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV).

In addition to the risk of bloat or gassiness, many dogs these days face a lot of boredom while their humans work or go to school all day. Another excellent benefit of slow feeders is that they provide additional physical and mental stimulation the dog might not otherwise get. A dog that has to spend the energy and brain power to figure out a puzzle before eating may be less likely to be disruptive than a dog that finishes each meal in less than a minute.

Slow feeder

Common Reasons Why Dogs Eat Too Fast

Why do some dogs like to scarf their food down as quickly as possible? There are several possible reasons your dog may be eating like it’s an Olympic sprint:

  • •Competition. If you have multiple dogs, one or more may decide they need to eat their food as quickly as they can to either prevent it from being eaten by other dogs or so they can then try to steal food from dogs who eat slower. In either case, feeding your dogs in separate rooms may help reduce this issue.

  • •Hunger. If you only feed your dog once (or maybe even twice) a day, your dog may scarf their food because they’re extremely hungry. Splitting their food up into more frequent, smaller meals may help prevent them from eating so quickly.

  • •Health issues. Many health problems can cause dogs to become hungrier than usual, including diabetes, thyroid issues, parasites, and Cushing’s disease. If your dog’s food-scarfing behavior is new, you should get them checked out by a vet to rule out any health issues.

  • •Memories of food insecurity. If you adopted your dog, they may have experienced food shortages as a puppy or young adult, leading them to still worry about where their next meal will come from. Some dogs grow out of this behavior, while others don’t.

Dog eating on slow feeder

Problems Caused by Dogs Eating Too Quickly

So, what’s wrong with a dog scarfing their food? Many problems can actually be caused by this behavior, including:

  • •Gassiness

  • •Choking

  • •Nausea

  • •Vomiting

  • •Bloat, which can be deadly

Since eating too quickly can cause potentially life-threatening bloat, it’s always a good idea to use slow feeders for dogs who eat quickly.

Bloated Dog

What Is Bloat in Dogs?

Also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), bloat is a condition in which the stomach fills beyond its usual capacity with gas, liquid, or food. In extreme cases, the bloated stomach can twist upon itself, blocking both the entrance and exit to the stomach. This is a life-threatening condition that requires surgery to correct and can become fatal extremely quickly.

Any dog could develop bloat, especially dogs who quickly gulp their food and swallow a lot of air while eating, but large, deep-chested breeds are the most susceptible to bloat, including Old English Sheepdogs, Doberman Pinschers, Basset Hounds, Standard Poodles, Gordon Setters, Irish Setters, Weimaraners, Saint Bernards, and Great Danes.

People with deep-chested dog breeds should take as many precautions as they can to prevent their dog from developing bloat, including feeding at least two meals per day and using a slow feeder.

Signs of Bloat in Dogs

Symptoms of bloat in dogs include:

  • •Excessive drooling

  • •Pacing

  • •Panting or rapid breathing

  • •Restlessness

  • •Distended (swollen) abdomen

  • •Retching or attempts to vomit with no success

  • •Painful abdomen

  • •Collapse/inability to stand

How to Prevent Bloat in Dogs

In addition to using a dog bowl for fast eaters, here are a few other ways to help prevent bloat in dogs:

  • •Feed at least 2-3 meals per day

  • •Restrict activity for 1-2 hours after mealtime

  • •Avoid letting your dog drink large amounts of water all at once

  • •Don’t use a raised dog food bowl

Different Slow Feeders

How Do Slow Feeders Work?

Food bowls for dogs that eat too fast come in a variety of sizes and styles. Some slow feeders look like a maze inside a bowl and prevent your dog from getting as much food with each bite. Other slow feeders force the dog to perform a task or solve a puzzle before revealing the food underneath. Regardless of the style, all slow feeders work by making it harder for your dog to take continuous large bites of food.

Slow Feeder Dog Bowl Pros and Cons

While we generally believe that slow feeders are a good thing, you should be aware of all the potential slow feeder pros and cons before spending your hard-earned money on one—or a closet full!

Slow Feeder Dog Bowl Benefits

Possible benefits of a dog slow feeder bowl include:

  • •Reduced likelihood of bloat since the dog swallows less air as they eat

  • •Mental stimulation because the dog must think about how to get all the food out

  • •Less risk of choking since the dog has more time to chew and is paying more attention to each bite

  • •Improved digestion because the stomach fills more slowly

  • •Reduced gassiness since the dog swallows less air that then has to travel through their digestive tract

  • •Less risk of vomiting as a result of eating too quickly

  • •May help lessen resource guarding since the dog is more focused on figuring out how to get all the food

Blue Snowflake Bowl

Are There Drawbacks to Dog Slow Feeder Bowls?

While slow feeder dog bowls are great for most dogs, they aren’t right for everybody. Some potential drawbacks include:

  • •Plastic ingestion if the dog is too aggressive about trying to get the food out. This is more common in complicated puzzle feeders and can usually be prevented by starting with easier puzzles to teach the dog how to reach the food properly.

  • •Tooth damage could possibly happen if a dog is overly aggressive with a slow feeder made from a very hard material. You should always supervise your dog with a new slow feeder to make sure they don’t chew on it in a way they aren’t meant to.

  • •Reduced food consumption and weight loss could occur if a dog isn’t food-motivated enough to figure out how to get all the food out of a slow feeder bowl. Picky pups who would rather not eat if they have to work for it may not benefit from dog slow feeder bowls.

How Do I Know if My Dog Needs a Slow Feeder Bowl?

Just about any dog could benefit from a slow feeder bowl, but these tools are especially important for deep-chested large dog breeds who like to eat their food as quickly as possible since these pups are at high risk for potentially deadly bloat.

Easter Toppl

What Is the Best Slow Feeder Dog Bowl?

The best slow feeder dog bowl depends on your dog, your budget, the type of food you feed, and many other factors. While a treat-dispensing ball or a puzzle toy may be the best slow feeders for kibble-fed dogs with owners who aren’t worried about crumbs, a dishwasher-safe stainless steel slow feeder dog bowl, a lick mat, or a Toppl may be the best option for dogs who eat We Feed Raw.

There are TONS of dog bowls for fast eaters to choose from, so you may want to try a few to find one or more that are perfect for your dog.

Still feeding kibble? Adding even some raw dog food to your pup’s diet can have benefits. Find out how much it would cost to get your pooch started on a raw diet here.

Raw food for dogs by We Feed Raw

Complete & balanced raw meals.

Portioned out, packaged up, and cold-shipped (for FREE!).