When feeding your dog, only the best products will do, from dog food to dog food bowls – and if you’re doing remote meals, you also want the best automatic dog food bowls. As is often the case with pet gadgets, not all models are created equal: While some pet food dispensers just drop kibble so many times a day, others come with fancy extras like Wi-Fi connectivity, cameras, and mobile apps. And shopping for an automatic pet feeder doesn’t stop with the type of feeder you like — it’s also a matter of finding one that fits your furry friend, from their size to their eating habits. Here we spoke with Carly Fox, DVM, senior veterinarian at Schwarzman Animal Medical Center-NYC, and Gabrielle Fadl, DVM, medical director of Bond Vet, to learn more about automatic dog feeders for pet parents who want to learn.
How do automatic dog feeders work?
In general, automatic dog feeders dispense food according to a programmed feeding schedule that you set for your pup. Depending on the model, you can adjust portion sizes, timing and frequency. Usually they are designed to work only with dry food, but some are also compatible with semi-moist types of dog food.
As we mentioned above, these devices can get pretty fancy — and those bells and whistles can have some potential benefits. “Being tech savvy and having a dedicated app that allows you to program feeding schedules on the go, make real-time changes, and see if your pet has finished their meal increases the effectiveness and safety of automatic feeders,” Dr. Fox explains. However, she adds that even the less technical options “will do a relatively good job of feeding your pet.”
When are automatic dog feeders useful?
dr. Fox explains that automatic feeders are popular with people who have unpredictable schedules, work late, or wake up after their pet. In addition to the convenience factor, Dr. Fadl points out that they can also come in handy if your dog has specific needs when it comes to portion control: “They can be very helpful in some cases, such as feeding the right amount of food for a dog who needs to maintain or needs to gain weight. prevent a dog from stealing another dog’s food.”
If your dog’s nutritional needs are: terribly Specifically (e.g. they eat prescription foods) or you live in a multi-pet home, an advanced feeder that dispenses food based on your pet’s microchips can simplify feeding time, says Dr. Fadl: “This allows the food bowl for one pet, but closes if another pet tries to use it.”
While automatic feeders are very useful in certain homes, they are not a quick fix for all schedule changes, especially when it comes to leaving your pet alone for extended periods of time. “While automatic feeders are attractive gadgets and have many great use cases, they are not a substitute for hiring a sitter or taking your dog to daycare or boarding facilities while you are on vacation,” says Dr. Fox. She adds that no device is perfect and that if your feeder were to get stuck, lose its Wi-Fi connection or otherwise malfunction, you’d want to be around to address the issue and make sure you dog gets his dinner.
Are Automatic Dog Feeders Safe?
Both Dr. Fox as Dr. Fadl state that automatic feeders are generally safe for dogs to use in most cases. “Any dog can potentially learn to use an automatic feeder.” dr. Fadl says. The key is to choose the right one for your particular pup. “It should be the right size for your pet and sturdy enough that your pet can’t ‘break’ into it and steal extra food,” says Dr. fadl. If your dog is big, strong, or just motivated enough to knock over a food bowl and get to the food storage reservoir, you may need to stick to traditional feeding methods. “This would negate the point of having an automatic feeder in the first place and could lead to a dog gaining weight, having an upset stomach or feeling bloated,” explains Dr. Fadl out.
Should you buy an automatic dog food bowl?
In the same way that certain dogs have needs that are well met by food dispensers, others have needs that can make feeders potentially unsafe. dr. Fox specifically mentions dogs with swallowing problems, dogs that eat mostly wet food, and dogs that have a tendency to overfeed probably shouldn’t use an automatic feeder. (Those who eat like they’re racing against time should dine from a slow-feed bowl instead.)
Also, larger dogs that eat equally sized portions (more than one cup of food in one sitting, Dr. Fox says) can have appetites that most feeders can’t keep up with. Instead of having to refill the dry kibble container with a constant clip, you may prefer to feed them conventionally.
And finally, if you don’t have a problem with traditional feeding methods, there’s no need to change things up. dr. Fox and Dr. Fadl say it can be a great opportunity to feed your dog if your schedule allows.
Hopefully at this point, with the help of our experts, you’ll have a better idea of whether your precious dog would benefit from a feeder. Here we’ve rounded up some of the best picks on the web for the best automatic dog feeders.