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German shepherd eating from a slow feed dog bowl

The essentials

  • Eating slower benefits your dog physically and mentally — A slow feeder bowl allows your dog to enjoy their meal and process their food at a reasonable pace, reducing their risk of gas, nausea, and bloat.
  • There are different types of slow feeder bowls — They can take the form of a grooved plastic dish, a flexible silicone mat, or a partitioned stainless steel bowl.
  • It works for wet food, too — Be sure to choose a dishwasher-safe option for wet food since mushy food gets stuck in between grooves.

Rushing rarely helps things go smoothly — and your dog’s dinner is no exception. Whether your dog gobbles down their kibbles out of hunger, boredom, or a fear of starvation, they end up with the same result: gas build-up, regurgitation, tummy aches, and putting them at risk of dangerous conditions like bloat.

A slow feeder dog bowl solves the problem by preventing your pup from scarfing down their food and providing mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble while you’re away. Read on to see what type of slow feeder bowl works best for your pet.

What is a slow feeder dog bowl?

A slow feeder dog bowl turns your canine into a maze-licker as they edge their way around the grooves to retrieve their desired food.

Slow feeder dog bowls may be crafted from silicone, stainless steel, or plastic. They can be stand-alone or inserts that convert your dog’s regular dinner dish into a slow feeder. While most slow feeders are bowl-shaped, some lie flat like a dinner mat, which is an ideal choice for flat-snouted breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs.

5 benefits of using a slow feeder dog bowl

There are many reasons pet parents choose slow feeder dog bowls to quell mealtime hysteria. Using a slow feeder dog bowl usually doesn’t pose any risks and may bring many benefits.

1. Aids digestion

When your dog eats slower, they’re less likely to experience nausea, diarrhea, and painful gas. Plus, it cuts down on the smells from the back end since eating slower reduces gas.

2. Prevents choking or regurgitation from eating too fast

Dogs who inhale their kibble risk sucking dry food down their windpipe, potentially leading to choking. Or, the food can come right back up before it gets digested, called regurgitation.

If you have a speedy eater, learning how to do the Heimlich maneuver on your pup can come in handy.

3. Reduces risk of bloat

For dogs, bloating isn’t always as innocent as eating too much ice cream. When a dog’s stomach fills with gas or too much food, it puts them at risk of gastric dilatation volvulus — a life-threatening medical emergency where the stomach twists and cuts off blood supply to their vital organs.

Large-chested dog breeds such as Weimaraners and Great Danes are more susceptible to bloat, but it can happen to any dog.

4. Satisfies your dog’s hunger

Wolfing down an excessive amount of food may not immediately curb extreme hunger, but eating slowly will likely satisfy your dog over time, even in smaller portions. Slow feeder bowls prevent your dog from cramming kibbles into their mouth and quickly forgetting that they’ve already eaten.

5. Relieves boredom

Whether you work from home or your office, long days on the job bore your pup and can wear down their resolve to refrain from shredding the couch cushions. Giving them a slow feeder bowl acts like a treat puzzle by creating something constructive for them to do. Finishing a task also improves their anxiety and trains them to act independently like their wolf ancestors .

Things to consider before using a slow feeder dog bowl 

Unless you have a dog who craves plastic or already detests their dinner, a slow feeder usually won’t hurt. However, this type of bowl might not be beneficial if your dog:

  • Ingests plastic. If you have a super chewer, opt for stainless steel or forgo it completely unless they’re under supervision.
  • Chews anything. Even stainless steel bowls can’t be left out when you’re away if your dog’s mind is bent on destruction. Chomping down on hard objects can damage their teeth.
  • Struggles with visual or motor impairments. If you have a senior dog with vision problems or issues with motor skills, a slow feeder bowl might fuel their frustrations.
  • Doesn’t like to eat their food. Picky eaters may not benefit from slow feeders since they already need coaxing. You can also try these food toppers to encourage your dog to dig into their dinner.

Types of slow feeders

Whether you want a slow feeder insert or a standalone slow feeder dog bowl, there are different types to suit your pup. You can also shop by material if you have a preference.

“I’ve seen a variety of bowls and can’t think of any I dislike,” Dr. Irish says. While puzzle/maze bowls work great for her Labrador, she recommends looking for ones that are dishwasher safe to prevent laborious cleaning.

Puzzle feeder  

Usually featuring plastic or ceramic molds, puzzle feeders entertain your dog while they eat. Some puzzle feeders are divided into compartments that your dog must open for their food, while others arrange the food in a maze pattern that forces them to slow down and enjoy their meal.

Finding a dishwasher-safe puzzle feeder ranks top priority for puzzle feeders since food easily gets stuck in the crevices. A stainless steel puzzle feeder is often a great choice since they’re sturdy and typically dishwasher safe.

If you’re concerned that your dog won’t be interested or become distracted, you can also opt for a lower difficulty level puzzle feeder. While puzzle feeders are an excellent idea for dogs who need mental stimulation, they’re not a good fit for eager chewers who could bite off a chunk of plastic.


  • Puzzle keeps your dog’s mind active


  • Handwash-only models are difficult to clean
  • Not a good idea for super chewers

Bowl inserts 

If your dog loves their current bowl or dislikes change, a bowl insert might do the trick. A bowl insert transforms any dog bowl into a slow feeder. They’re usually made from silicone that you can cut to fit the shape of your dog’s dish. While bowl inserts are a great idea for maze-type slow feeders, there usually aren’t any puzzle options.


  • Customizable to your dog’s bowl


  • Usually only features maze designs

Flat lick mats  

While this option won’t work for a mound of dry food, a flat lick mat is an excellent way to prevent your dog from slurping down their wet food all at once. You can also freeze soft or liquid treats to create a treat puzzle to entertain your pup.

Flat lick mats are also a great idea for dogs with shorter noses who may not be able to use a deep maze or puzzle-style slow feeder.


  • Works with wet food and treats
  • Dogs with shorter muzzles may enjoy the shallow depth


  • May not work for dry food

Snuffle mats  

This type of slow feeder sends your dog searching for buried treasure. The fleece fabric strips hide dry kibble or treats, tantalizing your dog to retrieve them from the rubber mat underneath. Once they’re finished, toss it in the washer to clean. One word of caution: this type of feeder doesn’t really support wet food.


  • Usually machine-wash safe
  • Entertains your dog for a long time


  • Only works for dry kibble and treats

How to choose the best slow feeder bowl for your dog

Consider why you think your dog would benefit from a slow feeder bowl. Are they bored? If so, finding a slow feeder that functions as a puzzle sounds like a better fit than one that simply slows them down.

You should also think about practical factors, such as the shape of your dog’s muzzle and how you plan on cleaning the feeder. For instance, breeds with compact faces, like the bulldog, might require a flat lick mat or slow feeder bowl with shorter grooves, while a pointy-muzzled standard poodle can reach deeper notches.

You may also want to opt for a dishwasher-safe option to curb the risk of harmful bacteria. If you find one that is hand wash only, just be sure to give it a good scrub after every meal and let it dry.

Whether they need mental stimulation or better digestion, most dogs benefit from a slow feeder. Deciding which type of slow feeder bowl works best for you depends on your dog’s needs and your cleaning preferences. At the end of the day, the best slow feeder for your dog is the one that keeps them safe and satisfied.

Frequently asked questions

Are slow feed bowls good for dogs?

Slow feeder dog bowls improve your dog’s digestion and give them something constructive to do. The only times a slow feeder bowl might not be a good idea would be if your dog is already a picky eater or if they might have trouble eating due to vision or motor impairments, such as blindness or arthritis. If your dog is a vigorous chewer, they should only use a slow feeder bowl under supervision.

Do dogs get frustrated with slow feeders?

The good thing about slow feeders is that the food is the motivation to keep going. Cheer on your pup the first couple of times they use the slow feeder so they get the hang of it faster. Once they know that the feeder is coupled with food and your praise, they’ll be more likely to dig in.

What bowl helps your dog eat slower?

Slow feeder bowls feature ridges made out of plastic, silicone, or metal to prevent your dog from wolfing down their food all at once. Any type of slow feeder bowl will likely help your dog enjoy their meal at a more luxurious pace, but the puzzle type of slow feeders really do the trick since it makes your dog work a little harder for their food.

Can you put wet dog food in a slow feeder bowl?

Most slow feeder bowls accommodate wet food, but always check with the manufacturer’s instructions first. Dishwasher-safe options are best for wet food since moisture can get stuck in the grooves and grow bacteria unless they’re thoroughly cleaned after every meal.

How do I introduce a slow feeder bowl to my dog?

Introduce a slow feeder bowl to your dog by encouraging them with lots of praise. The food alone should motivate them, but it always helps to have their favorite human cheering them on.