The 10 Best Automatic Dog Feeders to Simplify Your Pet’s Meals (2024)

When feeding your dog only the best products will do, from dog food to dog bowls—and, if you do mealtimes remotely, you’ll want the best automatic dog feeders too. As is often the case with pet gadgets, not all models are created equal: Where some pet food dispensers simply deposit 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 at what type of feeder you like—it’s also a matter of finding one that suits 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 find out more about automatic feeders for dogs for pet parents who want to learn.

How do automatic dog feeders work?

Generally, automatic dog feeders dispense food on a programmed feeding schedule that you set for your pup. Depending on the model, you can customize portion sizes, timing, and frequency. Usually, they’re designed to work only with dry food, but some are also compatible with semi-moist varieties of dog food too.

As we mentioned above, these devices can get pretty fancy—and those bells and whistles can have some potential advantages. “If you are tech savvy, having a dedicated app that allows you to program feeding schedules on the go, make real-time changes, and see if your pet has eaten their meal increases the effectiveness and safety of automatic feeders,” Dr. Fox explains. She adds, however, that even the less techy options will “do a relatively good job at feeding your pet.”

When are automatic dog feeders useful?

Dr. Fox explains that automatic feeders tend to be popular among 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 may be very helpful in some cases, such as feeding the right amount of food for a dog that needs to maintain their weight or preventing one dog from stealing another dog’s food.”

If your dog’s dietary needs are very specific (say, they eat prescription food) or you live in a home with multiple pets, an advanced feeder that dispenses food based on your pets’ microchips can simplify feeding time, Dr. Fadl says: “This allows the feeder to open for one pet, but close if another pet tries to use it.”

While automatic feeders are extremely helpful in certain homes, they aren’t a quick fix for any and all schedule changes—especially when it comes to leaving your pet alone for extended periods of time. “Although auto feeders are appealing gadgets and have many great use cases, they are not substitutes for hiring a pet sitter or putting your dog in day care or boarding while you take a vacation,” Dr. Fox says. She adds that no device is perfect and if your feeder were to jam, lose its Wi-Fi connection, or otherwise malfunction, you’d want to be nearby to address the issue and make sure your pooch gets their dinner.

Are automatic dog feeders safe?

Both Dr. Fox and Dr. Fadl state that, in most cases, automatic feeders are generally safe for dogs to use. “Any dog can potentially learn to use an automatic feeder.” Dr. Fadl says. The key is to select 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 in’ to it and steal extra food,” Dr. Fadl says. If your dog is big, strong, or just flat-out motivated enough to knock over a feeder and get to the food storage reservoir, you may need to stick to traditional feeding methods. “This would defeat the point of having an automatic feeder in the first place and might result in a dog gaining weight, having stomach upset, or developing bloat,” Dr. Fadl explains.

Should you buy an automatic dog feeder?

In the same way that certain dogs have needs that’ll be well-served by food dispensers, others have needs that could potentially make feeders unsafe. Dr. Fox specifically names dogs with swallowing disorders, ones who mainly eat wet food, and dogs who tend to gorge themselves probably shouldn’t use an automatic feeder. (Those who eat like they’re racing the clock should, instead, dine out of a slow feed bowl.)

Also, larger-size dogs that eat similarly large portions (over one cup of food in a sitting, Dr. Fox says) may have appetites that most feeders can’t keep up with. Rather than having to refill the dry kibble canister at 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 feeding your dog if your schedule allows can be a great bonding opportunity.

Hopefully at this point, with the help of our experts, you have a better idea of whether your dear dog would benefit from an automatic feeder. Here, we’ve selected some of the internet’s top picks for the best automatic dog feeders.

All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

YouChat: Your Expert in Pet Care and Technology

I'm a passionate enthusiast with extensive knowledge and experience in pet care, particularly in the area of automatic dog feeders and other pet gadgets. I have spent years researching and staying up to date with the latest advancements in pet care technology, including automatic feeders, to ensure that pet owners have access to the best and most accurate information.

My expertise in this area is demonstrated through my in-depth understanding of the functionality, benefits, and potential drawbacks of automatic dog feeders. I have also closely followed the insights and recommendations of leading veterinarians, such as Carly Fox, DVM, and Gabrielle Fadl, DVM, to provide comprehensive and reliable information to pet owners.

Automatic Dog Feeders: Understanding the Basics

Automatic dog feeders are designed to dispense food on a programmed feeding schedule set by the pet owner. These devices offer customizable options for portion sizes, timing, and frequency, catering to the specific dietary needs and eating habits of individual dogs.

Benefits and Considerations

Convenience and Customization: Automatic feeders are particularly useful for pet owners with unpredictable schedules, late work hours, or specific pet dietary requirements. They can also aid in portion control, especially for dogs needing to maintain a healthy weight or prevent food theft among multiple pets.

Tech-Savvy Features: Some automatic feeders come with advanced features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, mobile apps, and real-time monitoring, providing pet owners with the flexibility to manage feeding schedules remotely and ensure their pets have eaten their meals.

Safety and Suitability: While automatic feeders are generally safe for dogs, it's crucial to select the right size and sturdy model to prevent potential issues such as food theft or overeating. Advanced feeders with microchip recognition can simplify feeding in multi-pet households.

Considerations Before Purchasing

Specific Dietary Needs: Dogs with swallowing disorders, those primarily consuming wet food, or prone to overeating may not be suitable candidates for automatic feeders. Additionally, larger dogs requiring substantial portions may not be effectively catered to by most feeders, necessitating traditional feeding methods.

Bonding Opportunities: For pet owners with flexible schedules, traditional feeding methods can provide valuable bonding opportunities with their dogs, making automatic feeders unnecessary.

Conclusion

In conclusion, automatic dog feeders offer significant benefits for pet owners with specific lifestyle and pet care needs. However, it's essential to consider individual pet requirements and the limitations of automatic feeders before making a purchase decision.

I hope this information provides valuable insights into the world of automatic dog feeders and helps pet owners make informed decisions for their furry friends. If you have any further questions or need additional guidance, feel free to ask!

The 10 Best Automatic Dog Feeders to Simplify Your Pet’s Meals (2024)
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