By Linda Cole
One important aspect of your pet’s wellbeing is something that is often overlooked – the cleanliness of his food and water bowls. Even though your pet might “lick the bowl clean” after every meal, that doesn’t mean the bowl is actually clean, and reusing the same dish without washing it properly could put your pet’s health at risk. The same goes for the water bowl, too.
You provide your pet with a quality food like CANIDAE to help him stay healthy and maintain a proper weight; it’s equally important to make sure his food isn’t served in a dish where bacteria can live and grow. Dirty containers can also be bad for your pet’s gums and teeth.
If your pet has a decreased appetite for longer than a day or two, there could be a medical reason and your pet needs a vet checkup. However, another reason your dog or cat may refuse to eat could be a dirty food bowl. If something doesn’t smell right, your pet won’t want to eat it. We would never just rinse off our own dishes with plain water, and it isn’t appropriate for your pet’s dish, either. Rinsing alone won’t kill bacteria hiding in the dish.
NSF International, a public health and safety organization, has rated pet food and water bowls as the fourth dirtiest place in the home. Pet bowls are a haven for germs, and this can have a negative impact on the health of our beloved dogs and cats. Dirty pet dishes can also contain bacteria that are harmful for us.
One of the most common bacteria found in water bowls is Serratia marcescens, an opportunistic pathogen found naturally in soil, water, and the digestive tract of humans, dogs, cats and other animals. It’s the pink stuff that gathers along the side of your pet’s water bowl, and it can cause infections and pneumonia, especially in pets with a compromised immune system. Even if you don’t see it, there’s a good chance this bacteria is lurking in the water. But that’s not the only nasty bacteria that can end up infecting water. Testing done by NSF International found mold, yeast, Salmonella, E. coli and other coliform bacteria in pets’ water bowls.
Biofilm, (slime), can build up on the side of your pet’s water bowl. If you touch the side of the bowl, you can feel it. It’s not necessarily harmful, as long as the buildup doesn’t contain bad bacteria. Biofilm is a collection of organic and inorganic material containing a variety of different kinds of bacteria, all held together in a thick substance that essentially glues the bacteria to a surface. Even though biofilm can be made up of good bacteria, it can also harbor dangerous organisms like Listeria, E coli and legionella, which are also found in rivers, ponds and lakes (that’s one good reason not to let your pet drink from natural water sources).
Many dog and cat owners have a habit of “topping off” the water in their pet’s bowl. It’s really not a good practice. The best way to reduce the chance of your pet picking up something nasty from their water is to dump out the old water, wash the bowl in hot soapy water (or the dishwasher), rinse well and then refill with fresh water on a daily basis.
Your pet’s food bowl is even dirtier than their water dish. You wouldn’t eat supper on the same dish you ate breakfast on, and your pet shouldn’t either. Pet food bowls should ideally be washed after every meal, because the fat in pet food (both moist and kibble) is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. At the very least, wash your pet’s food bowl daily in hot soapy water and rinse well.
The type of dish you use is just as important. Most cats – and even some dogs – prefer eating from a plate or wide, shallow bowl so their whiskers aren’t touching the side of the container. Because their whiskers are so sensitive, it can be painful for them to lower their head into a small bowl, which can cause them to not eat or drink. You can learn more about this in What is Whisker Fatigue?
The best containers for your pets are stainless steel or porcelain. These materials are non-porous and easy to clean. Plastic bowls are porous and easy to scratch; this can leave tiny crevasses where bacteria and mold can grow, even after a thorough cleaning.
It only takes a few minutes every day to wash your pet’s food and water bowls, and keeping them squeaky clean can help you keep your pet healthy!
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