A Clean Bowl = A Healthy Dog

February 6, 2010

Have you ever wondered how often you should clean your dog's food and water bowls? Have you ever wondered about the proper method of cleaning those bowls? The answer is not quite as simple as one would think.

The Type of Bowl to Use
First, let's discuss the best type of bowl to use. Always use a stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Plastic bowls have small groves that promote bacteria growth. Similarly, when cleaning your stainless steel or ceramic bowl, do not use an abrasive sponge, as this will cause small scratches/grooves in the bowl, making it easier for algae and bacteria to collect and grow.

The Water Bowl
Now that you have the right type of bowl, lets discuss the water bowl. Common sense says that any container that holds standing water for any period of time will breed bacteria. A common bacteria that can grow in water bowls is a reddish/pinkish slimy substance called Serratia Marcescens. This pink slime will grow in any moist location where phosphorous containing materials or fatty substances accumulate. Sources of these substances include soap residues in bathing areas, feces in toilets, soap and food residues in pet water dishes. It is important to note that Serratia will not survive in chlorinated drinking water from the tap, unless the water has been left standing long enough for the chlorine residual disinfectant to dissipate. Serratia has been found to be pathogenic to some, having been identified as a cause of urinary tract infections, wound infections, and even pneumonia.

Clean and disinfect the water bowl EVERY DAY, without exception.

The Food Bowl
Various factors determine the frequency at which you should clean your dog's food bowl. For instance, if you feed a raw food diet, you should wash and disinfect the bowl immediately after each use, so as to prevent salmonella poisoning.

If feeding homemade or a wet food, such as canned, you should wipe the bowl clean after each use, but you only need to wash and disinfect once per day.

If feeding a dry food or kibble, you can probably get by with washing and disinfecting the bowl once every other day. Of course, if your dog slobbers a lot while eating or makes a point to lick the bowl clean, you should probably go back to washing every day.

The Cleaning
A study published in the Canadian Veterinarian Journal sought to find out the best way to kill bacteria in food bowls. Scientists rubbed seven steel bowls and seven plastic bowls with a thin residue of food tainted with various bacteria, such as Salmonella. A quick rinse of warm water for 15 seconds ranked the worst. It was essentially as bad as not cleaning the bowls at all, even if wiped with a paper towel afterward.

The best method was this: Start with a warm water rinse, then scrub with dish soap (using a non-abrasive sponge), before immersing the bowl in a 10% chlorine solution for five minutes. It also doesn't hurt to run the bowls through your dishwasher once a week. To read more about the study, visit http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/.

Now I know what you may be thinking. We are a fast-food nation. I don't have time to wash my own dishes, much less my dog's food & water bowls! If you simply cannot wash your dog's bowls daily, you might want to consider having extra bowls on hand. If you keep 6-8 stainless steel bowls in your cabinet, just switch them out each day. You will only have to wash them twice a week.

Making sure your dogs always have clean bowls may cost a little more money and/or time, but the overall cost is minimal compared to the amount of time and money you will spend if your dogs contract a bacteria-related disease because his bowls are dirty. Isn't your four-legged best friend worth it?

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