How Often Should You Clean Your Dog Or Cat's Bowls?

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Whenever we use a dish, we clean it afterwards. But we don't really think about doing the same every time our dog or cat eats from their bowl. After all, it doesn't seem necessary to keep a bowl that clean for a pet.


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The truth, though, is that food and water bowls for your dog or cat should be cleaned more often than you think. Find out why, as well as the proper techniques for washing.

How often you should clean a dog or cat’s bowl

You may not believe it, but experts at the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the Food and Drug Administration say that your dog or cat's food bowl needs to be washed in hot soapy water after every single meal.


A water bowl needs to be washed daily or at least every few days in the same manner. Both food and water bowls must be dried thoroughly.

You can either rinse the bowls in the sink or put them in the dishwasher. If you choose the latter, you may want to run the bowls in a separate load, especially if anyone in your home has a suppressed immune system. Mixing human and pet bowls could be unsafe in that situation. Plus, you'll run up your water bill very quickly if you are washing your pet bowls twice a day, so you may want to stick to hand washing in the sink instead.


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The reason you need to clean a dog or cat's food bowl after every meal is because germs easily build up in it. Microbes from your dog or cat's mouth may go into the bowl, and then bacteria can grow there and cause harm. Bacteria like Pasteurella multocida, Salmonella, Streptococcus, and Moraxella could thrive in that environment.


Keeping your pet's food and water bowls clean

When buying food and water bowls for your cat or dog, consider stainless steel. Stainless steel is the easiest material to clean, and you can put the bowls in the dishwasher without running the risk of them cracking, like you would with ceramic bowls. You should steer clear of ceramic for that reason. Another material to avoid is plastic, since it is difficult to thoroughly clean and sanitize.

Though you can use bleach when cleaning the bowls, it's not necessary. Instead, just use your normal dish soap. Make sure you clean your dog or cat's placemat and area surrounding the bowls, too. Anywhere there is food should be swept and mopped. If you don't have a placemat, get one, because it'll stop your dog or cat from eating food off the floor, which you likely use harsh chemicals on to clean. You don't want your dog or cat accidentally ingesting those chemicals.


If you notice your pet's bowls have scratches, throw them out and get new ones. Scratches can attract bacteria and cause your dog or cat to become sick.

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Other cleaning tips for life with pets

Your cat or dog's food and water bowls aren't the only objects you need to clean often. Toys are also hotspots for germs, so hand wash toys or throw them in the dishwasher or washing machine often. Wash your dog or cat's bedding at least once per week as well. To ensure your dog or cat is properly clean, give them a bath when they are dirty or start to smell. Use only dog or cat shampoos, since human shampoos can cause harm to your pet.


Make sure you monitor your cat or dog's health and behavior. If you notice any signs of sickness, such as lethargy, a fever, vomiting, a decrease in appetite, or a nosebleed, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. These are the signs of a bacterial infection, and need to be cared for swiftly and properly.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.