Tips and tricks for cleaning your dog’s water and food bowls

October 5, 2021

How often should you be cleaning out your dog's food and water dishes? Find out here!

How often do you clean your dog’s bowls? For most pet owners the answer is not frequently enough. Both food and water dishes are a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites. Here are some tips and tricks to help you keep your dog’s dishes spick and span!

Why do I need to clean my dog's dishes?

Meal time is many dog’s favourite time of day and they waste no time licking their bowls clean and shiny. So why should they need cleaning? For the same reason we wash our own dishes after a meal. 

While you may not be able to see it, after your dog finishes its meal or drinks from the water dish, it is covered in a layer of bacteria, parasites, mold, fungi and other microbes. This is called a biofilm. 

Now not all of these microbes will be dangerous to your dog’s health but there’s always a chance that some of them can make your dog sick. A few of the harmful microbes that can grow in your dog's bowl include Salmonella and E.coli, which can make both you and your dog very sick. According to Toronto Dog Walking Services, “One of the most common types of bacteria found in water bowls is Serratia Marcesens, which forms a pink slime and causes infections such as pneumonia.” 

Hungry brown dog with empty bowl waiting for feeding Hungry brown dog with empty bowl waiting for feeding, looking at camera, top view dog dish stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Where does a biofilm come from?

The microbes in a biofilm can come from multiple sources. One of them is from your dog itself. Dog’s mouths are full of bacteria and microbes that get transferred to their bowl when they are eating or drinking. 

Water and food dishes are also the perfect environment for growing bacteria. Microbes love moisture and the dampness of the bowls from water and dog saliva creates the optimal environment for bacteria to thrive. Furthermore, the leftover food particles in your dog’s dishes act as a great food source for pathogenic bacteria.

Taken together, your dog’s dishes provide a great home for a growing biofilm. In order to reduce the chances of it collecting harmful pathogens, it is important to regularly clean both your dog’s food and water dishes.

It is also important to keep in mind that different types of dishes can harbour more microbes than others. Porous materials such as plastic and ceramic should be avoided as they have more crevasses for harmful microbes to hide. Hard, smooth surfaces like stainless steel and porcelain make for better dog dishes as they are much easier to clean!

Abstract background virus. Set of virus. Virus icon set. Virus isolated on white background. Colorful bacteria, microbes fungi. Pathogenic viruses that cause harm to a living organism. 3D Illustration Abstract background virus. Set of virus. Virus icon set. Virus isolated on white background. Colorful bacteria, microbes fungi. Pathogenic viruses that cause harm to a living organism, 3D Illustration bacteria stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

How often should I clean my dog’s dishes?

Ideally you want to wash their food dish once per day. After their last meal of the day is best. This prevents biofilm growth overnight and gives your dog a clean dish to eat their breakfast from in the morning.

However if you feed your dog wet or raw food, you may want to clean their dish after every meal. This is because wet and raw food has a greater risk for growing harmful microbes than dry food like kibble.

Just like their food dish, your dog’s water bowl should be changed and cleaned every day. Aside from general cleanliness, dogs also appreciate fresh water everyday! If you have a drooly dog, you may even need to change their water more than once per day.

What is the best way to clean my dog’s dish?

There’s no real technical process to cleaning a dog’s dish. Our suggestion is to clean it in the same way that you would clean your own dishes. Hot water and soap is the best way to ensure that you kill the microbes in the bowl. A soft cloth, rag or sponge is best to use for scrubbing as an abrasive material, like steel wool or plastic scrubbie may scratch the bowl’s surface

Alternatively, you can also place your dog’s dishes in the dishwasher. The hot temperatures in a dishwasher are your best bet for killing resilient microbes.

I'm hungry! spaniel puppy holding its food bowl and demanding to be fed (white background) dog dish stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Take home message

Your dog’s dishes may need to be cleaned more than you think. If you want to keep your dog happy and healthy, try cleaning their dishes everyday. Simple dish soap and hot water should do the trick!

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