Safe Dog Food Bowls (and How to Keep Them That Way)

Lots of different kinds of food bowls are marketed for pets, but are all materials safe? And if dogs are so good at fighting bacteria, how often should their food bowls be cleaned?


[Updated August 3, 2018]

I am sometimes shocked at the state of the dog bowls I’ve seen at some of my friends’ homes. Some of the same folks who would turn pale at the sight of a dish in the cupboard that has dried food stuck to it think nothing of dumping their dogs’ food in a nasty, greasy bowl day after day, month after month, or seeing green slime build up in the dogs’ water dish. While the canine digestive system is capable of neutralizing virulent bacteria when a dog is healthy, when a dog’s immune system is compromised, that bacteria can overwhelm his defenses and make him one sick pup, indeed.

If your dog has periodic or persistent digestive problems such as diarrhea or vomiting, try washing his dishes, daily, with hot water and soap, allowing them to air-dry, and see if that helps. Wait a minute! What am I saying? Everyone should keep their dogs’ bowls clean!

safe dog food bowls

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This advice goes triple for anyone who feeds their dog any sort or amount of raw meat, eggs, or dairy products, which can come from the supermarket infested with potentially lethal Campylobacter, Clostridium Perfringens, Salmonella, Listeria, and other bacteria. Fortunately, most people who have learned enough about canine health to feed their dog a raw diet also have learned about the importance of proper food preparation and sanitation techniques.

Food Bowl Materials Matter

The easiest type of bowl to keep clean – and, not incidently, also the safest bowl for your dog to eat and drink from – is stainless steel. This material will not leach potentially dangerous chemicals into your dog’s food and water, like some plastics, aluminum, poorly glazed pottery, or old ceramic dishes. Stainless steel and glass bowls are similarly inert, but stainless steel wins in my house, due to its durability on the floor and in the sink.

For the dog’s water dish I like to see a shining clean stainless bowl that is scrubbed and air-dried at least a couple times a week – which means you should have more than one of them, to rotate in and out of use. I especially hate to see plastic bowls regularly used to contain a dog’s water. Recent studies have indicated that polycarbonate plastics, often used in the manufacture of food and drink packaging and containers, can emit at least one chemical, bisphenol A, that can disrupt the hormone systems of lab animals, affecting their brains. Phthalates, substances used to soften plastic, are another class of worrisome chemicals that have been shown to cause hormone and nerve damage in children. It’s incredibly easy to avoid these things by buying inexpensive, durable, easy-to-wash, stainless steel bowls for your dogs, so why don’t you?