A dog who eats too fast may suffer from poor digestion, vomiting, and other health problems. In this article, I’ve reviewed six of the best slow feeder dog bowls to force your pet to take his time when eating.
- Why Buy a Slow Feeder for Dogs?
- How to Choose a Slow Feeder
- 6 Best Slow Feeder Dog Bowl Reviews
- Frequently Asked Questions
Unfortunately, fast eating can lead to choking, indigestion, and regurgitation. It has also been linked to bloat, which is a life-threatening condition.
Slow feeders are a simple tool for ensuring your dog eats at a more leisurely pace. These bowls can be beneficial for your dog’s health and mental wellbeing, and there’s less chance of your carpet getting covered in vomit!
Our #1 Pick: Outward Hound Fun Feeder
High-quality slow feeder available in several designs
The Outward Hound Fun Feeder is my top pick for a dog slow feeder. With several maze designs and dishwasher-safe construction, the Outward Hound is an excellent choice for most dogs.
Why Buy a Slow Feeder for Dogs?
A slow feeder is a convenient and safe tool to ensure your dog eats their meals at an appropriate pace. But why do some dogs eat so fast?
The most obvious reason is the instinctual drive to complete a meal before it can be stolen. Scavenging feral dogs and wolves don’t know when their next meal is coming, and often face competition for what they find. Eating as quickly as possible could be the difference between life and death.
Fast eating is also reinforced at a young age. Puppies compete with littermates for milk and food, so eating quickly can become an ingrained behavior. The same is true for rescue dogs, especially if they’ve been neglected or roamed the streets as a stray.
The drive to avoid missing out on food can also cause some dogs to show signs of resource guarding. This can include freezing, growling, lunging and biting over food. If your dog is resource guarding, make sure he’s given space when eating and contact a qualified dog behaviorist.
Of course, some dogs just eat fast because they’re greedy. Certain breeds, like Labradors, are known for being super fast eaters!
Why Fast Eating is Dangerous
Unfortunately, bolting down food can be hazardous for your dog, as it affects their digestive system and causes them to gulp down too much air at the same time.
Some of the most common risks include:
- Choking. If your dog swallows large quantities of food, it’s more likely to get stuck in their throat. This can cause respiratory issues that, in extreme cases, could be life-threatening. Flat-faced brachycephalic breeds, like pugs, who tend to have restricted windpipes and respiratory issues, can be at greater risk.
- Regurgitation or vomiting. A consequence of eating too fast is that food often isn’t chewed enough. This can cause chunks to be regurgitated soon after a meal.
- Digestive Problems. Regurgitating food can lead to problems like acid reflux and, just like with humans, can cause discomfort and indigestion issues.
- Increased risk of bloat (a serious health concern). Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), is when the stomach becomes distended and flips or twists. It’s a fast-developing and potentially life-threatening condition. The exact cause of bloat is still being studied, but experts agree that eating too quickly could be a contributing factor. This is because dogs who eat too fast often gulp down lots of air at the same time.
- Increased risk of aspiration pneumonia. If your dog inhales their food, there’s a chance it could be accidentally sucked down into their lungs. Inhalation is more common if the food is regurgitated. If this happens, it can result in a serious infection developing that can be difficult to treat.
Using a slow feeder makes accessing food more of a challenge for your dog. They can’t grab the food as easily with their tongue and teeth, which forces them to slow down. Many slow feeders use a maze-like design to achieve this.
Note: You should seek veterinary advice if your dog’s appetite suddenly increases. It’s important to rule out underlying health issues. Fast eating can be triggered by diseases that affect the metabolism or hormones, such as Cushing’s disease or diabetes. It can also be a sign of internal parasites.
What’s the Difference Between a Slow Feeder and a Puzzle Feeder?
Slow feeders are similar to puzzle feeders, but tend to have a simpler design.
Most slow feeders have ridges or other structures at various angles within the bowl. These make it more of a challenge for the dog to access food.
Puzzle feeders, like snuffle mats or Kong Wobblers, are more complex. Their design forces the dog to think about how they’ll access the food, and they provide more mental stimulation. The fact that they also slow your dog down when eating is just a bonus.
Although puzzle feeders are a great choice for enrichment, not all dogs enjoy using them. Nervous dogs, for example, might be scared by puzzles that are noisy or unpredictable. Your dog might also need to be supervised more closely when using a puzzle feeder.
Additionally, you shouldn’t use a complex puzzle feeder when feeding a dog who is unwell or recovering from injury.
Check out our article on puzzle feeders if you think your dog would enjoy an additional challenge.
How to Choose a Slow Feeder
There are many types of slow feeder bowls. It’s important to choose one that’s safe, challenging, and the right size for your pet.
Listed below are some of the key elements you should consider when making your selection.
Type and Difficulty
Slow feeders come in a variety of shapes and maze layouts. Some have swirling patterns that allow food to be pushed to the centre. Others use different shapes and varying heights to make eating more challenging.
There isn’t a “best” option. A lot depends on the dog and how much of a challenge they enjoy. You might want to start with a simpler design that only has a few internal walls. Once your pooch has mastered his first bowl, you could then progress to more demanding options which offer your dog a new and interesting challenge.
Aside from getting a bowl with enough capacity to hold your dog’s entire meal, choosing the right size also helps ensure your dog can comfortably eat his food.
Bowls designed for larger breeds, for example, may have spacings that are too easy for a small dog to access. Alternatively, the internal walls could be too high for them to reach the food. This can be a particular problem for flat-faced brachycephalic breeds, like pugs.
If you opt for a slow feeding dog bowl that is too small, the ridges might not be deep enough, and a bigger breed may be able to access the food without much effort.
Most slow feed bowls are made from plastic, as it’s easy to mold into a variety of shapes. Plastic is also cheap and easy to clean.
Plastic bowls, however, aren’t the best choice for prolific chewers. A stainless steel bowl is a more durable option for these dogs, but there are fewer options on the market.
If you opt for a plastic bowl, make sure it’s food-safe and doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals like phthalates, PVC or BPA.
Spill Proof Design
Smart dogs sometimes learn to flip slow feeder bowls. Non-slip feet can help to minimize this problem. Placing the dog feeder on a hard, flat surface also makes it more difficult for your dog to get their snout underneath.
Easy to Clean
Because these bowls have unusual inner designs, it’s common for food and slobber to get trapped amongst the shapes and ridges. This is particularly problematic if your dog is fed a wet or raw food diet.
Trying to clean out the maze-like inners can be awkward and time-consuming. Selecting a dishwasher safe slow feeder bowl tends to be more convenient. If you don’t have a dishwasher, investing in a narrow scrubbing brush or dog-safe antibacterial wipes could be helpful.
6 Best Slow Feeder Dog Bowl Reviews
1. Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow BowlVIEW PRICE
The Outward Hound Fun Feeder is my top pick. These high-quality and dishwasher safe bowls come in three sizes and five designs. They’re a challenging choice for dogs of all shapes – from Chihuahuas to Great Danes.
Providing you select the correct size, the maze design of these bowls slows dogs down considerably during meal times. While clever dogs could learn to tip the bowl, the non-slip base reduces the risk and holds it in place well.
Made from durable plastic, these bowls stand up well to a bit of rough treatment. They’re also top-rack dishwasher safe, so you won’t have to worry about cleaning the maze designs by hand.
I also like that you can pop a little water or bone broth in the bowl and leave them overnight in the freezer. It’s a great option for giving your dog a bit of cooling enrichment on a hot day.
The Fun Feeders have a couple of drawbacks though. The designs are more challenging than other slow feeders, so some dogs may become frustrated when eating. Wet or raw food can also be tricky to access in the complex mazes.
Most dogs will figure it out if you give them a bit of time and encouragement though. You could try smearing some tasty peanut butter or another favourite spreadable treat around the edges to get them started.
Although these bowls are well made and durable, occasionally the outer plastic coating can start to peel off over time.
You also need to be careful about which size you select. If you go too small, the ridges will be shallow and your dog can access the food without much effort. Too large, and your dog won’t be able to reach the food at the bottom of the deep grooves.
Overall, Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow Bowls offer a good challenge, regardless of your dog’s size or shape. They’re robust, easy to clean and effective.VIEW PRICE
2. Dogit Go Slow Anti-Gulping Dog DishVIEW PRICE
Are you worried that the Outward Hound’s maze designs could be too challenging for your dog? If so, the Dogit Go Slow Anti-Gulping Dog Dish is a simpler option, with several raised shapes rather than a full maze.
Although the design is straightforward, the bowl does a good job at increasing the amount of time it takes your dog to eat their meal. Food is also less likely to get stuck in this bowl, making it a better choice for wet food.
The bowl doesn’t slide around the floor as it has rubber stoppers on the base. It’s also dishwasher safe and easier to clean than the Outward Hound design. Flat-faced breeds, like a bulldog or pug, will also benefit from the wider spacing of the design
The simplicity of the Dogit bowl design could be a downside for the smartest dogs that relish a challenge. Although this bowl will still slow them down, the Outward Hound designs are trickier to master and ensure meal times last longer.
Clumsy dog owners will also need to handle this bowl with care. The plastic is thick, but it’s also a touch brittle. If dropped from a height or hit hard against something it could crack.
As a starter slow feeder, the simple design of the Dogit bowl makes it an excellent choice, especially for dogs that eat wet food. It might not be challenging for smarter dogs though.VIEW PRICE
3. Mr. Peanut’s Stainless Steel Bloat Stop BowlVIEW PRICE
Is your dog a prolific chewer? If so, the Mr Peanut’s Stainless Steel Bloat Stop Bowl could be the slow feeder you need.
Unlike many slow feeders, the Mr Peanut’s is made from tough stainless steel. It’s also dishwasher-safe, making it easy to clean.
Described as having a ‘Bundt Cake’ interior, the simplicity of this design makes it easy for dogs to master while still slowing them down. It also means food is less likely to get trapped.
The silicone rubber rim that runs around the base helps to keep the bowl in place when in use. Because you can remove the rubber before it goes in the dishwasher, it’s less likely to perish, and food and other debris isn’t going to build up underneath. It’s just a shame that it can start to lose its elasticity if removed frequently.
Available in two sizes, this bowl works for most dogs. Fitting an entire meal for a giant breed into the bowl, however, will likely be a challenge.
The biggest drawback with this bowl is the simplicity of the design. It won’t slow your dog down in the way the Outward Hound designs will. For particularly smart and greedy dogs, the challenge just won’t be enough.
All in all, the Mr Peanut’s bowl is a great choice for dogs who are likely to destroy a plastic bowl once the meal is over. Just don’t expect it to prolong your dog’s mealtime in the way some of the more complex designs will.VIEW PRICE
4. Neater Raised Slow FeederVIEW PRICE
The Neater Raised Slow Feeder has an elevated design to help large dogs and those with mobility issues. It allows your dog to eat in a more comfortable, upright position, without leaning down to reach the bowl.
This bowl also has a generous capacity, making it perfect for big breeds. Because the height is adjustable, small dogs can still use it at ground level.
The egg box shaped compartments make it a challenge for your dog to access the food. It’s not as difficult as a puzzle feeder or more complex slow feeders, but will certainly slow down meal times.
Although the bowl takes up more floor space than a standard design, it can also double as a water bowl. After your dog has eaten, simply lift off the slow feed section and fill the base with water. There’s also a “Double Diner” version with a compartment for both food and water.
It’s reassuring that Neater uses durable ABS polymer plastic, which has been manufactured in the US. This means the feeder can be cleaned in the dishwasher without losing its shape. Also, if you want to color coordinate with your kitchen, you can choose from four colors.
There are a few minor drawbacks to this bowl though. The extending legs aren’t particularly sturdy, and they only raise the feeder by 7.5 inches. For the largest breeds, this may not be tall enough.
I should also mention that one study suggests there could be a correlation between bloat and the use of these types of bowls. Although there’s recognition that more research is needed, it’s something to keep in mind.
In conclusion, this slow feeder could work for owners that already use a raised bowl for their dog. It has a generous capacity and is challenging enough for most dogs. The feeder, however, might not raise high enough for giant breeds.VIEW PRICE
5. JW Pet Skid Stop Jumbo Slow Feed Dog BowlVIEW PRICE
The JW Pet Skid Stop Slow Feed Bowl has a relatively simple design. If you’re worried your dog won’t adapt to a more complex feeder, this could be a good choice.
Available in 3 sizes and with just a few large indentations, this bowl is suitable for breeds of most sizes and is perfect for dogs that don’t relish a complex challenge. The simple design also makes it easier to clean, plus it’s also dishwasher safe.
Because it uses durable rubber sections on the base, this helps prevent the bowl from sliding around the floor too much. With the carved out sides that work as handles, it’s also easy to pick up.
A drawback is that the handle makes it easier for smart dogs to flip the bowl. Flat-faced breeds might also find it hard to eat from due to the high indentations.
Even so, if you’re looking for a simple slow feeder, the JW Pet Skid Stop Bowl is a great choice. Just don’t expect your dog to take as long to finish their meal as with a more elaborate design.VIEW PRICE
6. Machao Dogs Slow Feeder MatVIEW PRICE
The Machao Dogs Slow Feeder Mat is made from flexible Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR). This makes it a good choice for enthusiastic eaters who bash their teeth or rub their snout on the hard plastic of a slow feeding bowl.
Unlike a traditional slow feed bowl, the Machao feeder takes inspiration from the design of a snuffle mat. It’s flat and flexible, rather than having rigid sides like a bowl. The rubber is also easy to clean, either by hand or in a dishwasher.
As well as working for dogs that are too over-enthusiastic for a hard bowl, the gentler rubber can be a good choice for flat-faced breeds. The flexible sides can be squashed by your dog to access the food. There’s also the option of placing it inside a larger pet bowl to mimic the design of a regular slow feeder.
You don’t have to worry about the mat slipping around the floor either. The TPR rubber adheres well to food bowl inners and kitchen floors.
This mat does have limitations if you aren’t using it within another bow though. The non-rimmed design can allow food to escape, which may be annoying depending on the type of food. The soft material also isn’t chew-proof, so you should supervise your dog if you want it to last.
On the whole, this mat from Machao could appeal to flat-faced breed owners or those that want to adapt an existing bowl. You’ll need to be prepared for kibble escaping across the floor, however, and it’s not going to be a good choice for dogs that like to chew.VIEW PRICE
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Slow Feeders Beneficial for Dogs?
Absolutely. Slow feeders are great for slowing down fast eaters and offering your dog a new mental challenge.
You just need to make sure your dog doesn’t get too enthusiastic. It’s rare, but some dogs bite down on the raised pieces, which could chip a tooth. Broken pieces of bowl could also cause choking if your pet decides to eat them. Supervising your dog when eating from a slow feeder is always recommended.
If the bowl is too difficult for your dog to eat from, they could become stressed or frustrated. Pick something appropriate for their shape, size and ability level to avoid this.
Should Slow Feeders Be Used for Every Meal?
Yes, they can be. If your dog is a fast eater, then using a slow feeder all the time will minimize the chance of them choking, vomiting or developing bloat.
Can You Put Wet Food in Slow Feeders?
While dry food works best in a slow feeding bowl, it’s still possible to feed wet or raw food from them.
A simple design is recommended for wet food though. Intricate designs can make it difficult for you to spread squidgy wet food evenly, and dogs could find scooping it out too tough. Cleaning wet food remnants out of a simple design is also easier.
How Else Can I Encourage a Dog to Eat Slower?
There are several other ways you can slow your dog down when they’re eating. Some commonly used techniques include:
- Sprinkling Food or Treasure Hunt Games. Scatter food around the house or in a safe garden environment for your dog to seek out. Not only will this slow them down, but it’s a great form of mental enrichment, and it encourages your dog to use their natural scenting abilities
- Smaller Portions. For some dogs, being fed more often could make them feel fuller and less likely to gulp their food. Other dogs may still eat just as fast, but if they’re consuming less at one time, it could help minimize digestive problems.
- Homemade options. Popping a ball into the centre of a bowl means your dog has to eat around it. Of course, smart dogs will learn to lift the ball out. Alternatively, you could spread the dog food out across a large baking tray, cookie sheet or muffin tin. Your dog won’t be able to hoover up large quantities of food in one bite using these techniques.
- Puzzle Feeders and Treat Dispensers. As previously mentioned, you can also incorporate some of your dog’s daily food rations into puzzle feeders or treat-dispensing toys. This is another great way of keeping your dog mentally enriched while slowing them down.
- Hand Feeding. Hand feeding not only slows your dog down, but it can be a great training tool to improve impulse control and confidence. It’s also a great way to build a bond of trust. Hand feeding every meal is probably too time-consuming, but it’s a useful technique for mixing up your pet’s dinners. Don’t hand feed a dog with resource guarding issues without consulting a behaviorist first though.
Slow feeder dog bowls can work wonders for dogs that guzzle their food. They can be mentally enriching for your dog and, more importantly, safer than a traditional bowl.
It’s important to pick a style suited to your dog. You’ll want one that is an appropriate size, shape and difficulty level. While plastic slow feeders are the most common, ceramic or stainless steel is a more durable option for chewers.
My top pick is the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow Bowl. The design of these bowls works well for big and small dogs alike. They’re also challenging enough for even the most determined and clever pooches.
I hope this article has helped you decide if a slow feeder dog bowl could benefit your dog. If you have any input or feedback, please reach out using the comments form below.