You must admit it: You love sharing food with your dog. While you know it's not always advisable to feed your dog from the table, you just can't resist his cute little face that communicates, "Feed me!"
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On occasion, you've let your dog lick your plate clean or eat some food out of your bowl after you finished your meal. While you never thought anything of it, you want to be sure that what you're doing is completely safe for you and your dog.
First, it's helpful to learn about some of the concerns there might be around eating off the same dinnerware as your dog, and assess whether or not it's safe for you and your pup.
Cleanliness issues around pet bowls
Dogs are very susceptible to bacteria, which thrive in their pet food bowls. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, pet bowls are the fourth most prominent hot spot for germs in the home. Plus, 67% of pet bowls will still contain Salmonella bacteria even after you wash them, because dishwashers do not get hot enough to kill all the bacteria.
Some other diseases that can spread in pet bowls – especially public ones or ones that are not cleaned regularly – are giardia, Leptospire, intestinal worm parasites, E. coli, Coccidia, canine influenza virus, and Parvo.
In addition, some bacteria like MRSA and intestinal parasites can be spread between you and your dog, so sharing your plate or bowl with them increases that risk.
Food safety issues
Many types of human foods are not good for dogs. If dogs eat certain "people food", they can become sick or even die if they ingest a fatal amount. Unlike pet food, much human food contains a lot of sugar, fat, and salt, all of which are not healthy for your dog. If your dog licks your plate, he may be getting some of the unhealthy residue from your food.
Also, if you are eating something that is bad for your dog, he could accidentally eat it as well. Let's say you had a chicken leg, and you left the bones on your plate. That could be a choking hazard for your pup. If you ate a chocolate dessert, he may lick up some of that leftover chocolate, which, of course, is not good for your dog either. You can avoid going to the vet by simply keeping your dinnerware separate.
Sharing food from the table with your pup can cause behavioral issues. He may jump up on a chair and sit with you at dinner, annoy your dinner guests, or sneak a piece of food off the table when you're not looking. If this food isn't good for him, again, he may face health issues. When you share dinnerware, you may be communicating to him that he's the dominant one in the household, and you may have issues training him in other areas.
Can dogs and humans share clean plates?
Let's say you want to share clean plates with your dog. You'd like to wash the plates after you eat off them and let your dog use them, or vice versa. Even though it may not seem like there are any health risks, you can never be too careful. Dogs eat things off the ground—including their own or other dogs' feces, in some cases—and your water might not get hot enough to truly sanitize your plates. Or what if you miss some human food on your plate while washing it? That could, of course, pose a problem.
What to do instead
It's best to keep dog bowls and human plates and bowls separate at all times. Additionally, you should invest in stainless steel dog bowls, which are rust-resistant, simple to clean, and last a long time. Ceramic bowls are fine, but avoid using plastic ones, because they can get scratched or dinged easily and provide little spots for bacteria to easily breed.
If you want to decrease the chance of bacteria spreading, then start hand washing your dog's stainless steel food bowls with hot water and mild dish soap after every meal. You can wash water bowls less frequently, like every day or two. You can use bleach if you want to really do a deep cleaning; just make sure to rinse the bowls thoroughly to avoid any issues.
Another option is to put your dog's bowls in your dishwasher, but it's recommended to wash them separately from human dinnerware and make sure the water is hot.
Make sure that you're washing your dog's food mat underneath his bowls as well, and keeping the area around the bowls clean by mopping it frequently.
Any time that you handle your pet's bowls, whether you're handwashing them or throwing them in the dishwasher, wash your hands thoroughly to avoid the chances of contracting bacteria.
It's not the best idea to share dinnerware with your dog, but don't worry: He won't be offended. Simply provide him with his own treats, in his own bowls, and he'll be just fine.
It's safest to keep dog and human dishes separate at all times, even when it's clean. Use stainless steel bowls for your dog's food and water to minimize bacteria, and wash them every day if possible.
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.