Shopping for a dog food bowl? You may be tempted to just grab one that looks cute and call it a day. Not so fast. When you think about it, your dog’s food and water bowls are an important part of your dog’s health. These items will come into contact with your dog’s mouth day in and day out, every time your dog eats a meal or drinks water.
Take your time and read up on popular pet bowl materials like plastic, ceramic, and stainless steel bowls. There are pros and cons to each. You’ll also want to make sure you pick something appropriate for your dog’s size, eating style, and feeding habits. Above all, you want to make sure your dog bowl is safe.
What To Consider When Shopping For A Dog Bowl Set
When shopping for a dog food bowl, some considerations include cost, style, safety, purpose, durability, and ease of cleaning. Different dog owners will have different ideas about what works for them in terms of cost and style. Let’s look at the remaining three factors:
The shopper in you may first be concerned with price and attractiveness. But the dog parent in you likely has one priority above all others: safety. One thing’s for certain: if the bowl isn’t safe, it’s not worth buying. Here are the factors that may make a dog bowl unsafe:
- It’s easy to destroy. Some bowls, particularly ones made of plastic, can easily turn into a chew toy for young and teething pups. If your pup swallows chunks of their bowls, it can lead to stomach problems and likely a large vet bill.
- It houses bacteria. Bowls that are porous and/or easy to scratch, like plastic or canvas bowls, can harbor unhealthy bacteria.
- It’s hard to clean. If your bowl isn’t dishwasher-safe, it can be hard to adequately clean it in a way that kills all of the germs.
- It contains harmful chemicals. The material of your bowl matters. Some plastic bowls may contain BPA, a synthetic estrogen linked to health issues. Ceramic or stoneware bowls may contain lead. Stainless steel bowls may contain radioactive materials. To avoid potential issues, check to make sure your bowl is certified FDA food-safe. 1
These days, there are bowls to serve all types of special needs. Here are a few examples of bowls with a special design:
- Narrow bowls for dog breeds with long ears
- Short bowls for small medium dogs
- Slow feeders for dogs who eat quickly
- Bowls with a rubber base for dogs who push their bowls across the room
- Bowls on an elevated feeder bowl stand (or raised dog bowls) for tall dogs or older dogs with joint issues
- Heavy bowls (usually ceramic) for dogs who like to flip their bowls and spill water on the floor
- Small collapsible dog bowls made of silicone
- An automatic pet feeder or water fountain so your dog can eat and drink when you aren’t home
How long will the bowl last? If it’s easy to destroy, there could be a risk of your dog swallowing a piece of it. If it’s made of a more rugged material, like stainless steel, you can rest easy. Most dogs (even Great Danes) have a hard time chewing through stainless steel dog bowls.
There’s also a cost concern here. If you have to keep buying replacement bowls, that may leave a small hole in your wallet.
Ease Of Cleaning
When you fill your pet’s bowl up with fresh water or dry kibble, you’d expect that that’s the only thing in the bowl right? Well if you rarely clean those bowls, there could be microscopic organisms hanging out in the bowl too. Dirty dog bowls are a potential breeding ground for bacteria, germs, yeast, and mold.2
To stay on the safe side, the FDA recommends you clean food bowls daily with warm water and mild soap. Yep, as in: feed dog, wash bowl, every time. They recommend you wash water bowls every few days.3 To minimize hassle, you may want to go with a design that is easy to clean. You could also purchase two sets of bowls and rotate them out.
Pet Bowl Materials: Why Are Ceramic And Stainless Steel Better Than Plastic?
The biggest differentiator between dog bowls is the material they are made from. The most popular dog bowl materials on the market are plastic, ceramic, and stainless steel bowls. Here are the pros and cons of each.
- Can be made into different designs intended to slow feed for fast eaters
- Large design variety
- Easy to destroy, scratch, and shred
- Lightweight makes it easy to tip
- Some pets have allergies to plastic
- It may breed bacteria
- May contain BPA 4
- Easy to clean
- Dishwasher safe
- Microwave safe
- Heavy, hard for a dog to tip or push
- They come in fun, aesthetically pleasing designs and colors
- Suitable for chewers
- Can crack, chip, or break (and therefore must be thrown out)
- More expensive than plastic
- Inconvenient to travel with 5
Stainless Steel Dog Bowls
- Virtually unbreakable
- Can withstand very high temperatures, so typically dishwasher safe
- Easy to clean, dishwasher safe
- Won’t leach chemicals into food or water
- Inexpensive 6
- Lightweight, making them easy for even a small canine to flip over and carry around in their mouths.7
- Limited design options – stainless steel dog bowls basically look the same.8
Finding The Perfect Bowl For You
Which dog feeder is right for you and your pup? First, consider your unique needs. Do you need your bowl to be a specific weight or shape? If your pup tends to splash water or spill food while they’re eating, this may be a priority for you.
Do you have a specific look in mind? You may be more likely to find a ceramic or plastic bowl that matches the look of your house. Stainless steel bowls have a modern look too and can also blend in well with your decor.
Lastly, how confident are you in the quality and safety of the bowl you are considering? Many vets recommend stainless steel or ceramic over plastic. They are less likely to contain harmful chemicals. Whatever you go with, make sure it is BPA free and food safe. Oh, and once you bring it home – don’t forget to wash it daily.