I never leave my dogs home alone without thinking of Enzo, the narrator of Garth Stein’s wonderful book The Art of Racing in the Rain.
Enzo is a dog. Not just any dog. Enzo is finalizing what he believes to be his last lower-order rotation before his reincarnation as a human. In one poignant episode from the novel, Enzo’s caregiver becomes violently ill. She is incapacitated for three days and Enzo is locked inside the house, alone with no food and only toilet water to drink. The account of those days is provided entirely by Enzo, and it is heart-wrenching.
The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautiful, intelligent book and a must-read, consistently topping bestseller lists of dog books — but today I am writing about automatic dog feeders with timers.
Anxiety about running late or experiencing an emergency while the dogs are home alone is a big worry for many pet owners. If you are fortunate enough to afford and find a reputable doggie au pair, you may still experience a nagging pang of apprehension when the animals are left locked inside. Considering an automated feeder becomes an option worth investigation.
How Do They Work?
One of my dogs is a food maniac. He will eat nearly anything that hits the floor and will not stop until the last morsel is gulped away with satisfaction. The idea of putting down enough food to carry him thorough an entire day or more is not an option; he would gorge until he lapsed into a food induced coma!
For animals like my Luke, an automatic dog feeder with a timer may be a good idea. These products are designed to store food in an air-tight hopper. The hopper then dispenses the fresh food in pre-measured quantities, at timed intervals into the pet’s feeding dish. They are available in a wide range of sizes, materials, programming options and price ranges.
Nourishment Throughout the Day, at Specific Times
A nutritional, balanced diet means more than quality food in measured quantities. A good canine diet includes scheduling food intake that not only controls hunger but provides the pet with easier digestion. Regular feedings minimize a pet’s potential for food aggressions and maximizes a healthy, energetic lifestyle. When your schedule is unpredictable or your dog’s eating periods need regulation, an automatic dog feeder with a timer is the best choice.
Products like the Qpets 6-Meal Automatic Pet Feeder (affiliate link) will serve your dog designated, pre-measured meals over a 24-hour period. Food volume is adjustable and dispensed in sections of a turntable.
Regular meal schedules are of particular importance if a pet is diabetic. Scheduled feeding avoids hypoglycemia, pancreatitis and other such conditions. Meals in conjunction with medications such as insulin are critical to stabilizing blood glucose. Automatic pet feeders with timers are great solutions for workaholics, elderly or physically challenged pet owners, anyone who finds feeding their pet at regular intervals a challenge.
Some feeders are designed to dispense over several days. The Ergo Automatic Pet Feeder is one such multiple-day device, and is available in three sizes of dry food:
- Small (5 pound capacity), $109
- Medium (10 pound capacity), out of stock
- Large (20 pound capacity), $139
The preset trigger drops dog food from the hopper into the bowl as calibrated by the digital timer. The Ergo dispenses food up to eight times a day and runs on 120 volt AC power. Included is an adjustable stand to raise the bowl up to 13 inches.
Health and Convenience – Automated
Obesity in dogs is an emerging epidemic problem, and it creates similar issues with animals as with humans, including diabetes, liver disease and osteoporosis. Conservative estimates suggest that one in four dogs suffers from being overweight. The common-sense approach to the overweight pet (and human) is diet and exercise. Experts agree that a regimen of several small, balanced meals a day is the appropriate start to a weight-control solution.
Hammacher Schlemmer, the retailer that prides itself on offering “the best, the only, and the unexpected” may have outdone itself with its programmable pet feeder. The Hammacher Schlemmer Best Automatic Pet Feeder With Timer uses a patented flexible drive that delivers from two tablespoons to six cups of food — without deviation — at preset intervals.
The hopper holds up to 10 pounds of moist or dry food and can be programmed for up to five feedings per day. HS boasts the only feeder that is battery-powered (requires 6 “D” cell batteries) with an AC adapter for backup. The feeding bowl is even mounted on an adjustable, raised base that holds water to prevent infestation from ants! This automated feeder retails for $249.95.
Options for anxious pet owners are abundant. Automatic dog feeders with timers provide a solution when you need the reassurance that regular meals are not interrupted. Automatic programmable feeders ensure:
- Your pet’s health and energy
- Regular nourishment throughout the day
- Food intake monitoring
- Prevention of gorging
- Diabetes controls
- Caregiver convenience
The only element manufacturers of automatic feeding equipment haven’t figured out is the ultimate cleanup — which, in my estimate, would be priceless!
Or: Make One Yourself
Talk about creative… The video below shows a motorized feeder (with timer) built with Legos and other odd parts by someone with probably too much time on his hands. It’s not the best-looking feeder out there, but it certainly does the trick. Take a look:
- WebMD Ask the Veterinarian: Feeding tips for big and little dogs
- Peter A. Graham BVMS, PhD, CertVR, MRCVS: Information on canine diabetes
- ASPCA: How to care for overweight dogs