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Off to the Food Races: More on Bloat

When we talked about bloat recently, I shared my long-standing habit of putting water on the dogs’ kibble before I fed it. I didn’t let it soak or anything, but I would add water and serve. And, it turns out research shows that increases a big dog’s risk of bloat by 320% (when the food contains citric acid, which man dogs food do).

You can see more details on my Dog Food Dish blog:

Risk Factors and Canine Bloat

Canine Bloat: Questions Answered

Since I consider myself a pretty well-informed Dog Mom, it has really been bothering me that I thought this water thing was a GOOD idea. I’m pretty sure I didn’t just make it up. I’m pretty sure someone told me to do it a long time ago, likely when I got my first dog as an adult.

I am working hard to change this ingrained habit, dating back some 20 years.

So, I’m feeling a little vindicated, after finding this statement in a scientific journal article about bloat (emphasis mine):

“In univariate analysis, many of the recommendations COMMONLY MADE to prevent GDV, such as raising the food bowl, MOISTENING DRY FOOD PRIOR TO FEEDING, and restricting water intake before and after feeding, were associated with a significantly increased risk of GDV.”

Citation: Non-dietary risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus in large and giant breed dogs (JAVMA, Vol 217, No 10, November 15, 2000)

So, indeed, I didn’t just make this up. It’s been a common recommendation that research later disproved.

Own Study

So, one day earlier this week, I did a little experiment of my own. At breakfast, I fed Ginko a kibble meal with no added water, and I timed him. He ate about 1.5 cups of his new turkey/sweet potato kibble in right at 2 minutes.

For dinner, I added water like I’ve always done, and I timed him again. He ate everything in 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

That’s it. 10 lousy seconds … not enough to make any difference at all really, except to increase his risk of bloat.

So, I’m feeding just kibble for now, until I can find a canned food I like to mix in with the kibble.

Either that, or I need to get him one of those dog food bowls with the bumpers that slow down the consumption rate. Do they come in stainless steel? I’m not big on plastic.

What’s Too Fast?

Watching Ginko eat dry food does kind of freak me out, though. He really sucks in his sides as he is gulping down his chow.

I’m usually getting on with my day while the dogs eat, and I’ve never stopped to time it.

Do you think 2 minutes is WAY too fast? Can you time your dogs and report back?

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Sue - October 16, 2010

ummm…that should read so that the KIBBLE expands…not the yahoos themselves 🙂 expanding yahoos is not something we need around here!

Sue - October 16, 2010

Hi Rox,
I was just wondering…the stuff I read shows that the increase in bloat risk with adding water to food is only if the food has citric acid in it, correct?

I really would like to clarify this because I soak my yahoos’ meals every time so that they expand before the dogs eat their food. I feed Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Chicken Limited Ingredients Diet-no citric acid listed in the ingredients so I am hoping I can continue to keep soaking their food 🙂

Any thoughts?

    Roxanne Hawn - October 16, 2010

    Sue … the one summary article I have does indeed say, “Dogs fed dry food containing citric acid and were moistened prior to feeding had a 320% higher risk for developing bloat.”

    BUT, when I contacted that article’s author (a veterinarian at Tufts) with additional questions, he sent me some PDFs of the studies this summary covers, and the one journal article that covers this topic only says, “… many of the recommendations commonly made to prevent GVD, such as raising the food bowl, moistening dry food prior to feeding, and restricting water intake before and after feeding, were associated with a significantly increased risk of GVD.”

    It doesn’t seem to mention citric acid, even in the chart that has all the data.

    I’ll see if I can find the file on my hard drive and email it to you so that you can read the whole thing.

Val/Toby - October 8, 2010

A little late to respond, so not sure you’ll get this… but bloat over here is a pretty scary thing. More so than normal. Toby eats so fast his stomach swell (it’s never flipped) but seeing it for the first time swell up like balloon scared me. (And to make matters worse, I called our vet at the time and they told me it was no big deal and to let him drink lots of water…. x.x) While mom was in a panic to find the emergency vet number I walked him like a horse in colic and his stomach went back to normal. It’s saved up countless times over the years.

Since that first time we’ve taken a LOT of precautions to stop it from happening again. (He was a little over a year when it happened that first time, but I remember in those few weeks after he got over parvo as a puppy that we had to hand feed cause he ate so fast he’d throw it back up). He has always been a fast eater. He’d put Ginko’s time to shame… I don’t even think it takes him a full minute.

We tried the tennis ball/rocks he just lifted them out. We tried a huge coffee cup (that did make his time to eat grow by about a minute, and for the most part seemed to work), but he’d nudge it to one side, swallow half the bowl, nudge it to the other side and swallow half the bowl. We did do water in the food for awhile it made it easier for him to slurp it whole. He did get raw fed for awhile and that was probably the best year of our life – not a single bloat-type occurrence once. Sadly, I just can’t afford it anymore.

What we’ve ended up doing and has lasted us well this past year, was in addition to that coffee cup (it’s a nice sized mug, and round/oblong so he can’t pick it up) is started splitting his meals into several throughout the day. So far, so good.

    Roxanne Hawn - October 8, 2010

    Yikes. That’s so scary, Val. Thanks for your insights and ideas. I suspect that my best bet is to switch Ginko to an activity feeder. That would at least take him a few minutes.

MarthaAndMe - October 3, 2010

OMG we put water on our dog food all the time. We started doing it when we had a dog who would often choke on the food while eating it. The water seemed to make it all go down faster and prevented us from having to stick our fingers down the dog’s throat to dislodge the hunk of food that was stuck. Now I don’t know what to do! I guess we have to stop adding water.

AC - October 1, 2010

Timed Miss Kona:

90 seconds for 1.5 cups.

Christine - October 1, 2010

Fascinating….I never moistened my own dog’s food, but he was a leisurely eater. My parents’ dog on the other hand, he gulped it down. They always said it was b/c he found it more delicious when moistened with water.

Dog-geek - October 1, 2010

I don’t think their eating speed is too fast , and it’s about on par with all my past dogs, and most of the dogs we have sat for. Some eat a little more frantically (our catahoula friend, who sucks his sides in when he eats, like Ginko) and some a little slower (our obese golden friend, who I think, sadly enough, was so overweight and out of shape that even the effort of eating was exhausting, and she needed to stop and catch her breath more often.)

Laura, Lance, and Vito - September 30, 2010

A couple of months ago I participated in a study that involved timing the dog’s eating vs different types of containers.

Lance’s ave out of normal bowl was 15sec and as fast as 10seconds (he only gets 1/2c). Muffin tin slowed him down to 35sec, but the brake-fast bowl takes him about a minute! I hate that it’s plastic, but it really helps him so much.

Vito has never needed anything because he takes 10+ minutes to eat his 2c.

The chocolate lab I’m raising takes 1min for 2c and I”m looking for another bowl to slow him down.

Dog-geek - September 30, 2010

I timed ours tonight eating kibble with a little bit of canned food: B finished in 1:50, Z in 2:23. I think the difference is mostly in the quantity of food they eat rather than the speed they are eating.

    Roxanne Hawn - September 30, 2010

    Thanks, Dog-Geek, for timing the kids. Do you you consider your dog’s speed of eating TOO fast or fine? I’m trying to figure out if I’m worrying for nothing … or not,

Betsy - September 30, 2010

I just recently started adding water to my dogs food because Lulu would eat and then the food would puff up inside her causing her to vomit, particularly in the am. Wetting the food completely eliminated this. My friend also said she heard that wetting the food was good in high altitude areas for whatever reason. As soon as you made me aware of this, I stopped and she has been keeping her food down. I did notice that both dogs eat noticeably slower when the food is wet. I’m now adding a bit of yogurt to the dry kibble and they *love* it.

barrie - September 30, 2010

Huh I knew they had determined that raised bowls increased risk of bloat, I did not know that combining water with kibble increased it and this is something I do whenever I feed my dogs out of bowls so I will immediately stop!

My dogs primarily eat out of kibble dispensing food puzzle toys or out of my hand but easy ways to slow down a dog scarfing kibble that don’t include plastic bowls:

Use a muffin tin as the bowl.
Stand cans upright in the bowl you normally use as “bumpers”

Amazon gave me these two options as well:

and a metal Brakefast bowl:

    Roxanne Hawn - September 30, 2010

    Yeah, the water thing really freaked me out because I’ve ALWAYS done it. Remember the studies on bloat are done on large and giant breed dogs, so I’m not sure we know how it applies to smaller, lower-risk dogs.

    I’ve talked about moving my “next generation” of dogs to being fed via activity feeder, but maybe I should just go ahead and make the switch for Lilly and Ginko.

Crystal (and Maisy) - September 30, 2010

I would time for you, but my dog eats EVERY meal out of a food-dispensing toy. Usually the tug-a-jug, but we have others. Average meal is probably 10 minutes in those.

They all come in plastic, though. 🙁

Maggie - September 30, 2010

I’ve always mixed water in the boys’ food, but after reading your post, I’m going to stop for sure! Speed eating is something I really struggle with… after I set down the boys’ bowls, by the time I put their food away, they’re finished! Bloat has always been in the back of my mind, but it’s never been the most pressing issue. Why? Because Emmett eats so fast that he has actually choked, which is incredibly scary. We’ve received two pieces of advice to slow him down: Spread his food out in a single layer across a cookie sheet or put a tennis ball in his bowl. I can attest that both strategies work. (Although I ended up investing in a slow-down feeder with separate channels anyway.)

    Roxanne Hawn - September 30, 2010

    It’s so scary. I swore Ginko was choking the other day too. I think I’m just going to have to get one of those special bowls. The ball might work, but I suspect he’d just pull it out of the bowl and keep snarfing away. Stinker.

KB - September 30, 2010

I’ll time it today, just for you Roxanne! I can say that I’m pretty sure that it takes longer to eat homemade dog food than kibble… I’ll have to try R with and without water in his kibble. He’s the daintiest eater that he’s pretty slow. Can you imagine that R is dainty at anything? He is, believe it or not.

An aside for you Roxanne, we are fully embarked in this OCD behavioral program. Do you know anything about that? I’ve searched for books, to no avail. We may end up needing the help of a behaviorist because parts of it aren’t so easy to understand.

    Roxanne Hawn - September 30, 2010

    I do not know a lot about the OCD work, other than some of the media pitches I’ve gotten from Tufts University. I can ask my contact there for some references. Also, I’d be happy to look at the plan they gave you and see if I can explain anything based on my work with Lilly.

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