Choosing the Best Dog Bowls for Your Dog’s Health

What you serve your dog’s food in can be a health hazard in a number of ways if you aren’t aware of the dangers. Although it seems basic, choosing the best dog bowls for your dog’s health is something that should be thought through and investigated thoroughly. Everything from the size, height and materials used to produce the bowl should be considered.

Who would have thought that choosing a dog bowl would be such an important event?  It is.  What you serve your dog’s food in can be a health hazard in a number of ways if you aren’t aware of the dangers. Although it seems basic, choosing the best dog bowls for your dog’s health is something that should be thought through and investigated thoroughly. Everything from the size, height and materials used to produce the bowl should be considered.

I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

What size of dog bowl is best?

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Dogs come in different sizes, so their bowls should too.  Your dog should be able to comfortably reach to the bottom of the bowl.  When scooping up the last few bites the rim should not be pressing on her neck.  The small bones in a dog’s neck are extremely fragile and this pressure can cause damage. 

Is a raised bowl better than on the floor?

There are mixed reviews as the benefits of raised bowls.  Some smaller studies have indicated that raised bowls will prevent bloat.  This is a stomach issue that causes extreme pain and potentially even death.  There are some larger dog breeds that are more prone to bloat, but it can happen to all sizes and breeds.  Initially it was thought that the raised bowls would help ease the possibility of bloat, but it has since been found that it may actually increase the risk of bloat.  The only time raised bowls might be recommended would be when a dog has neck or spine issues that make it painful to bend the head downward.  If your dog has spinal issues, it is best to discuss your options with your vet.  A professional will be able to guide you to provide the most suitable accommodations to ease your dog’s discomfort.

What material should a dog bowl be made of?

Dog bowls can be made from a variety of materials. Each of those materials can have high and low- quality levels.  It is important to be sure that, regardless of the material you choose, you are sure that the bowl is of a quality that is safe to serve food on.  If it’s not safe for a human to eat from, it is not safe for your doggo.  You will often see labels that say, “for pet use only”, or “not for use by humans”.  This indicates that the materials used are dangerous.  They may contain high levels of lead or other chemicals that you would not want your dog to consume while eating or drinking. 

Here are the 3 most common types of dog bowls in order of safety:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel dog bowls are the safest choice for your pup.  It must be made of high-quality stainless steel.  It must not say for pet use only, and it must be dishwasher safe.  High quality stainless steel, when washed properly, will not scratch easily.  A scratch-free surface, combined with diligent washing practices, prevents any bacteria from building up in the bowl.  This keeps your dog’s food free from contamination that can cause him to become ill.

Ceramic or Glass Bowls for Dog Food

Golden Retriever Puppy with Paw in Water Dish
Many dogs like to play in their water bowls.  They will use their paws to swish around in the water. Their claws scrape against the sides and bottom of the bowls causing scratches and chips where bacteria can grow.

Choosing a ceramic or glass bowl for your dog’s food and water is still a strong choice.  The caution with these types of bowls is, again, the quality of the materials used. Be sure it can be washed in the dishwasher so that it can disinfected thoroughly,  Many low-quality bowls can contain chemicals and lead.  This can cause serious repercussions for your pet.  If you choose ceramic, be sure that the glaze used to create that shiny finish does not contain lead.  Also, if the bowls become chipped or cracked, these crevices will provide a place for bacteria to build up and create a contaminated area.  By washing your dog’s bowls frequently and safely, you can prevent build-up. 

Another benefit of daily washing is that you have the opportunity to inspect the surface of the bowls. If there are any chips or cracks – even really small ones – you should throw it away.  It’s just not worth the risk to keep it and it will never be cleaned properly once the glazed seal has been damaged.

Plastic Bowls for Dog Food

Many people use plastic bowls for their dog’s food.  This is ok, but they should be washed carefully and replaced more frequently.  Once again, you should always choose a standard of plastic that is safe for human use and it should be dishwasher safe (top shelf).  The biggest concern with plastic is how easily it can be scratched, allowing bacteria to contaminate the food and water you set out for your pup.  There are some plastics that are more porous than others.  Be sure that you choose a bowl with a smooth surface and that you clean and monitor the bowls daily for damage. 

How do dog bowls get damaged?

You may think that your dog bowls are safe because you are only putting soft food and water in them, you are disinfecting regularly and you are washing with a gentle sponge.  These things will definitely help to prevent damage, but there are some sneaky little things that can cause scratches and nicks.

  • Some dog’s like to carry their bowl.  By holding the bowl with their teeth they can scratch any surface, or even leave tooth prints in some softer materials.
  • There are dogs who will use their front teeth to reach the last few kibbles or to grab the last bit of soft food that is sticking to the bottom or side of the bowl.  This can cause tiny scratches that are almost undetectable. 
  • Sometimes a dog’s tags will rub up against the sides of the bowl (inside and out) while he is eating. This causes small scratches and scuffs.
  • Many dogs like to play in their water bowls.  They will use their paws to swish around in the water. Their claws scrape against the sides and bottom of the bowls.
  • There are even dogs who just like to chew on the sides of the bowl.  Puppies are known to chew on anything to easy the discomfort of teething. A water bowl is cool and firm, providing relief.

Summary

Choosing the best dog bowls for your dog’s health is an important dog parenting decision. Stainless steel is the safest option for your pup’s food and water. Regardless of the type of bowl you choose, it is vital to inspect, clean and disinfect your dog’s bowls as a part of your daily and weekly routine. 

See:  Dirty Food Bowls Can Make Your Dog Sick to learn how to properly care for your dog’s bowls.

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