UPDATE: There is a longstanding debate on the use of an elevated feeding bowl. A scientific study performed by a prestigious institution has shed some shocking new insights into this subject. Read about it in our article at this link and decide for yourself if an elevated bowl is right for you.
The Elevated Feeding Table Hack
There is a wide variety of opinions on whether to use an elevated feeding table for your Great Dane or leave the food dish on the floor. If you visit your local dog park you’ll hear some very passionate people on both sides of the debate.
The source of the debate centers around gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), commonly referred to as “bloat.” Bloat is a condition where the stomach gets flipped over twisting and blocking the intestines. You can understand why this would be a problem.
Even the AKC can’t put a definitive finger on the exact cause of bloat. Some people say an elevated feeding station will help prevent bloat while others have the exact opposite opinion. Which group of people are correct is unknown – what is known is that due to a Great Dane’s high height-to-weight ratio they are 5 times more likely to bloat than other breeds. In fact bloat is the #1 killer of Great Danes. So you can understand the passion behind opinions on this topic.
Whether to use an elevated feeding station or not is a topic for another day. Today we want to look at creative ways to make, or improvise an elevated feeder without breaking the bank.
It’s true you can find elevated feeding bowls for as little as $10, but these inexpensive models are usually only 8″-10″ high -not high enough to provide optimal comfort for a Great Dane.
The first question is how high should the feeder be? This will vary depending on your dog. The feeder should be no higher than the middle of the chest. Our brindle Great Dane Lucy is rather tall, she’s 33″ at the shoulders and 24″ to the middle of her chest. So our 22″ high feeding table is perfect. (We’ve recently dropped her bowl down to 11″, read about our reason for this decision in the article at this link.)
This idea is pure genius! I wish I could say I came up with this, but I have to credit a couple FaceBook friends who are clearly more clever than me and gave me permission to share their idea.
Simply cut circles out of the cover of a plastic storage bin. A 30 gallon size will hold two 55 lb. bags of food. You can pick one up from Amazon for less than $25. The bin stores the food while the steep lip on the lid keeps spills to a minimum.
The 30 gallon size is 19.5 inches tall and the 20 gallon is 17.5 inches tall – a little lower than the optimal height for most Danes, but it’s pretty close. A plastic storage tub may not fit the decor of your house but if you feed in an out-of-the-way room like a mud room or laundry room that won’t matter. I love this idea!
We repurposed a small file cabinet that used to be part of a work desk. This cabinet is the perfect height for Lucy as shown in the above illustration. I placed an old golf towel on top to catch the slober and voilà, a feeding table. Another benefit of this solution is that the drawers can be used for other dog related items such as brushes, leashes or treats.
This cabinet is only large enough for one bowl while most elevated feeding tables have room for two bowls. The fact is we only put one bowl down at a time any way. Back to the bloat thing. It’s not good to let your Dane drink with or immediately after eating especially if you feed them dry food. Dry food will expand in the stomach if it’s chased with too much water and increase the potential of bloat. So we pick up the water bowl when we feed Lucy and only put it back down 30 minutes after feeding.
I know this might seem obvious and many people might feel that a chair is too high for effective feeding. (This will depend greatly on the height of your Dane.) A chair is not meant to be a long-term solution, but in a pinch, say if you’re visiting friends who don’t by chance have an elevated feeding table you may have to improvise. If they have a child sized chair that might be even better.
If you can’t find a chair or other piece of furniture that’s the right height it’s always best to err on the low-side rather than too high. If it’s too high it will be uncomfortable for your pup.
Thrift Store Furniture
Now that you know the optimal height for your feeding table (measure the height to the center of your dogs chest) start visiting local thrift stores to find an end table, coffee table or even piano bench that’s close to the right height. If it’s too tall you can always cut the legs down to the proper height.
If you like woodworking and you’re handy with a router you can cut a circle in the top of the table to let your feeding bowl drop in, similar to some commercial feeding tables.
I’ve been looking for a while now for the perfect piece of furniture to convert into a feeding table. What I’m looking for is a low, wide table with one or two wide drawers. I’d like to be able to fill the drawers with dog food so I can simply open the drawer, scoop the food and be done. I’ll be sure to update this post if and when I find the perfect table.
That’s right, the toilet. Lets be honest – we’ve all caught our dog drinking out of the toilet more than once. (Don’t tell me I’m alone on this.) It’s not just because we forgot to put the water bowl back down after feeding time (although that can be a contributing factor). It’s partly because a toilet is at a comfortable height for most Great Danes. Again, I’m not suggesting this as a long-term solution but this is a great option if you travel with your Great Dane and find yourself in a hotel that welcomes dogs.
I travel a lot for my “day job” and I’m finding more and more hotels that welcome dogs. Surprisingly many of these are high-end hotels and resorts. I find most of them in western United States, like Colorado and California. It’s becoming more common. So if you find yourself traveling to a hotel with your Great Dane don’t bother packing a bulky elevated feeding table, you can use the toilet – just be sure to put the lid down. 🙂
Or just Buy One!
Most commercial elevated bowls or tables are simply not tall enough for an adult Great Dane. Most are only 9″ or 10″ tall. Here’s a link to one that’s 15″ tall which still wouldn’t be tall enough for Lucy, but might work for you.
This adjustable feeding bowl is pretty ingenious, it extends up to 19″ tall. It’s not real pretty, but very practical as you could adjust it as your puppy grows to always keep it at the optimal level.
What have you tried?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s rigged my own solution for an elevated feeding table without spending $50-$150. What have you seen, or better yet what have you tried? Share with the group what you’ve tried – even if you tried and failed we’d like to hear. We promise not to laugh, not out load anyway.
Remember we’re all in this together.
My Mom’s great dane was huge! I loved her ! She was nearly the size of a small horse ! My mom spent so much money on all the fancy dog bowls but Roxy preferred to use the table. Yup, she would just come right up to your plate and start eating and telling a horse-sized dog “no” was harder than you could imagine ! She knew she was big and in charge! but she was a total sweetheart!
They are definitely hard to refuse. Lucy will put her head on the table right next to your plate but knows better than to eat off the table. She has her own “table” and knows she can eat anything there.
Lucy like to eat off her elevated table. Sometimes if I drop something on the floor and tell her it’s OK to eat it she’ll wait for me to pick it up and put in on her table first. – Yes, she’s spoiled.
Thank you for your great care for Lucy. I never have dog, but own several cats. They are little and have no issues to feed them. I always think all animals stand when they eat, which is good for them to digest the food and for their health. Is it better for your Lucy to sit on the chair to eat?
Our first pet was a cat, but he acted more like a dog than a cat. He would eat out of the trash – not the stereo-typical finicky eater. I became allergic to cats so he was our first and last cat.
Lucy likes to stand and eat with her bowl on the elevated table (or file cabinet as the case may be). I’m not sure I could train her to sit in a chair – although it would be a funny sight to see.
My sister has dogs but my brother has a great dane.
I cannot believe how big this dog is!
It sure isn’t easy feeding this big guy.
The idea of the elevated feeding table is awesome!
It has to be hard for a dog of this height to reach down that far to eat.
These ideas work well to solve that issue.
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for the dog. These all suffice just fine!
Do the great danes get used to this quickly?
It can be difficult for Danes to eat from floor level bowls. They will sometime hack and cough trying to swallow the food UP their throat.
An elevated feeding table puts them in a very natural position for eating (or drinking). It takes no time at all for them to get used to it. They take to it right away if you put the food bowl at that level.
It’s really sad that Danes encounter a lot of bloating issues. But why would it be associated with the position they use for feeding?
While that cannot be completely ruled out, perhaps it’s time we start taking a look at what we give them as food, because it’s probably what goes in that cause the bloating. This is really a sad situation.
You got some awesome recommendations on how to improvise. I particularly love the chair and the file cabinet, but what height would be appropriate for the Dane?
This unfortunate issue is common with most large (giant) breed dogs. You’re right what, and how often we feed them is also very important.
It is also recommended to feed large breeds smaller portions more often throughout the day. It’s about not putting stress on the digestive system. Putting too much food in their stomach all at once can be problematic.
The standing position is also a matter of comfort for the dog making it easier for them to swallow. The proper height is middle of the chest. The diagram in the article shows that to be about 24″ for Lucy, but she’s very tall, even for a Great Dane.
Thank you for the tips!
I would never think to go to a Thrift Shop to buy a piece of furniture for an elevated surface to place the feeding bowls, especially an end table with a drawer to store the food- genius!
I am curious, does bloat only occur in huge dogs? Is it a good idea to have all dog breeds not have any water for 30 minutes after eating? Also, is it a bad idea to add water to dry dog food to make it easier to eat, or is this contributing to bloat? Also, does your formula using the chest height relate to all dogs?
I have a Corgi & Black lab mix, and his chest height is around 6 inches, would it be a good idea to have his feeding dish 4 inches off the floor? He is getting up there in age, and a light bulb went off in my head when I found your post. I am wondering if maybe he may have a bloating problem.
Bloat can occur in any dog, it’s just that deep-chested, giant breeds (like Great Danes) are much more prone to it.
Adding water to dry food shouldn’t be a problem. Lucy always get milk added to her dry food (and maybe a little whipped cream, yes-she’s spoiled). The problem can be if they drink with, or immediately after eating the water can make the food swell inside them and cause the bloat.
Chest high it a comfortable position for any dog. Most readily available “elevated feeding bowls” are only 4″ to 6″ high. You should be able to find one easily.
Keep an eye on your Corgi – if he show signs of distress, unproductive vomiting, excessive panting or drooling get him to a vet immediately, especially if has a distended or hard abdomen. If he has bloat, you’ll know something is wrong.
Keep up the good work! Remember we’re in this together.
Honestly I don’t consider a feeding table for dogs as a necessary thing one should put into consideration. My dog normally eat from low ground and it doesn’t left behind any bad effect. Though I make sure it only drink water some minutes before eating and 30 minutes after eating. My Dane is growing very fast, healthy and adoring. This review has opened my eyes into another way of feeding my dear Dane.
They do grow fast! How old is your Dane?
An elevated feeding position isn’t a requirement, but it does seem to be more comfortable for them especially as they get taller. Lucy is over 30″ tall at the shoulders – that’s a long way down to reach – and a long way up to swallow.
Good job at monitoring the water after feeding this is probably the most important thing to do.
Let me know if you have any ‘Dane’ questions as your pup grows. Remember, we’re in this together!
I found your article very useful. What I want is to tell a friend’s of mine Saint Bernard’s dog. What veterinary said him after some stomach problems dog had was that he had to feed it small meals and feed high. Which means placing the food and water containers on special markers that are marketed rather than having a vigorous activity after eating. So he supplied a high potter.
I think that the Elevated Feeding Table Hack you suggest is the best choice for those big adorable animals. I surely will suggest my friend read your article.
You’re correct – feeding smaller meals, more often is also helpful along with the elevated feeding bowls. Sounds like your friend is doing everything right. It’s strange that these big dogs have such a sensitive digestive system. They just need some special consideration in feeding care.
Thanks for sharing this with your friend. I think they will find some helpful ideas in this article.