I am issuing a correction after corresponding with one of the commenters on this post. She’s a fellow vet, and she astutely pointed out an error I made in interpreting the study abstract I used as the basis for some of the numbers.
I stated that the study found an increased risk of 20 and 52% with elevated bowls. The study’s abstract used these exact words:
“Approximately 20 and 52% of cases of GDV among the large breed and giant breed dogs, respectively, were attributed to having a raised feed bowl.”
‘Attributed’ seems to imply that elevation was the cause for GDV in 20 and 52% of the cases in those groups in the study.
Another source specifically stated that an increase in risk of 110% was found with elevated food bowls.
The bottom line, I believe, is as Dr. Leslie said. There are many factors, and we’re best able to help our dogs by addressing more than any single one. Putting too much emphasis on one factor as if it were the only cause or cure is not the best approach.
—–Original Post Below This Line——————————————————–
Now and then, a non-veterinary blog will post something concerning pets or veterinary medicine. I give these posts careful scrutiny when I come across them. I worry about readers getting poor advice. At best, it might mean small problems. At worst, it could cause death.
Two weeks ago, I read a post about ways to keep a pet’s food and water bowl area clean. It turns out that the post was originally written for a style and design blog based in New York City. The advice was:
…use an elevated feeding station to keep bowls in place and up off the floor. Elevated bowls aid in digestion and prevent strain on your pet’s back and neck. Place near a wall to prevent tipping.
This is very bad advice if you have a large or giant breed dog. Elevated food bowls were tied to an INCREASE in risk for a large or giant breed dog to develop bloat or bloat/torsion. This problem is also known as gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV).
Bloat simply means that the stomach undergoes rapid expansion with food and/or gas. It can get so big and so high-pressure that it starts to squeeze the other organs in the abdomen. While bloat alone can be dangerous for a dog, it’s generally not lethal.
Sometimes as a stomach is bloating, it flips in the abdomen. The stomach literally rotates, which twists the attachment at the esophagus and the outflow part at the duodenum. Once a stomach is twisted (volvulus), no gas can be burped or vomited out, so the stomach continues to bloat. Thi sis highly dangerous. Shock, organ damage, and death can occur rapidly.
TThe dog’s head is far to the left off the xray, and the spine is at the top, running left to right. The big darker circle in the middle of the radiograph is the distended stomach. It’s full of gas. The pylorus of the stomach is seen at the top near the spine in those 2-3 very dark oblong shapes.
Dogs present in bad shape most of the time. The only way to fix GDV is to treat shock and then take the dog to surgery, untwist the stomach, and then deal with any of the many complications that come from the torsion. The risks of complications during and after surgery is often fairly high. Some complications are minor, but some can be lethal in and of themselves. GDV is a nasty, nasty problem. It’s extremely hard on the dogs and costly to handle.
When I read that tip, I was horrified. I emailed the original authors. They told me they would issue a correction on the blog. Three days later, the correction went up and the post was removed from the authors’ main blog. The site that I read it on first has not been corrected.
The study I cited recruited 1,637 dogs. Owners were contacted yearly to see how many had developed GDV. Several factors were considered for increased risk. The results showed a 20% increase in large breed dogs and a 52% increase in giant breed dogs with elevated bowls. That’s a huge increase in risk!
Body shape/size, temperament, and breed may play a part in developing GDV. We can’t affect those factors. We can lower risk with meal frequency, meal size, time of exercise, food/water bowls. Dogs should have 2-3 smaller meals spread out across the day instead of one big one. Exercise should be avoided for a few hours after a meal. We certainly should NOT elevate food and water bowls.
Today’s moral: be careful what you read and check with your vet!