When you’re getting ready to eat dinner, do you reach for a new plate, or one that has already been used? Now put yourself in your dog’s shoes (or paws). Not only does this make for a less appetizing meal, but unclean dog bowls can make your dog sick.
“Dried food material and saliva contain bacteria which can grow rapidly without cleaning,” says Katie Malensek, DC, DVM at Ravenwood Veterinary Clinic in Port Orange, Florida. “Washing them after every use is ideal, just as we would clean our plate after eating.”
In fact, the National Sanitation Foundation ranked dog bowls as the fourth most germ-filled place in the home, after dish sponges and the kitchen sink. Bacteria like salmonella and E. coli are commonly found in dog bowls, as well as watering bowls, which can also contain algae and mold. These things not only affect pet health, but they can also make your human family members sick, too.
Just wiping your pet’s bowls out with a damp cloth or rinsing them under warm water isn’t going to cut it. To eliminate bacteria, prevent dog illnesses and keep your entire family safe from these pathogens, pet dishes need to be cleaned properly.
The Dish on Dishwashers
Washing dog bowls in the dishwasher with your regular detergent is a preferred method because the heat is effective at killing bacteria, Dr. Malensek says. Make sure you use the highest heat setting, as some types of salmonella can withstand warm or tepid temperatures. For a double dose of disinfecting power, soak the dishes in a bleach/water solution for about 10 minutes, then run them through the dishwasher on high heat.
If your dog’s dishes are cleaned regularly, you can wash them in the same load as your other dishes without concern of cross-contamination, she says. But if the idea of stacking your dog’s bowl next to your casserole dish makes you uncomfortable even if you have healthy pets, run them through by themselves.
Look for dishwasher-safe pet bowls like the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Interactive Bowl that’s made with high-quality, food-safe material free of BPA, PVC and phthalates. The Fun Feeder also helps prevent bloat and regurgitation with fun ridges and mazes that slow down your dog’s eating.
Other Things That Raise A Stink
If your dog still smells after his bath, an infection somewhere on his body might be the cause. Use your nose to sniff out where the foul smell is coming from. Here are a few places to check:
- Mouth. Heavy tarter buildup on teeth can produce a strong odor. Make an appointment with your veterinarian for a dental cleaning; he or she will check for diseased gums and teeth, which can also cause bad breath.
- Ears. Wax buildup can cause an unpleasant smell. First, try cleaning your dogs ears. If this dog ear care doesn’t get rid of the odor, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who can check your dogs ears for an infection.
- Anal sacs. These two small sacs, one located on each side of the rectum, contain pungent oil. When your dog defecates, the sacs compress and release the oil. Try washing the hair around your dogs bottom. If that doesn’t get rid of the smell, see your veterinarian. The sacs might be infected.
- Skin. The most common causes of malodor are bacterial and yeast skin infections stemming from allergies or endocrine problems, says Joy Barbet, DVM, ACVD diplomate, and assistant professor at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, in Gainesville.
Barbet estimates 25 to 35 percent of odor-related cases seen in small-animal practices are related to skin and ear problems. That number jumps to about 50 percent during warmer months, she says, when fleas proliferate and allergies to pollens and house dust flare.
Along with scratching, which causes local trauma to the normal skin barrier, allergic reactions actually change the immune chemistry of the skin in such a way that microbes may grow more easily, resulting in infections and more odor, she says.
Other Risk Factors
Think Outside the Bowl
Placemats are great for keeping your pet’s bowls in place and keeping their eating area less messy, but they can also be a hotbed for germs. Choose easy-to-clean mats like JW Pet Stay in Place Mat, which can be washed with soap and water, or wiped with a bleach solution and rinsed.
Storing your pet’s food is also an important way to protect healthy pets from food-borne illness. Pests like rats, mice and insects can easily get into kibble bags, causing contamination. Food can also go stale or spoil in bags, especially after they’re opened. Airtight food storage systems like Gamma2 Vittles Vault Stackable Pet Food Storage keeps food pest-free and fresher longer. It’s made of heavy-duty, BPA-free, food-grade plastic and comes with a free measuring cup, so you can be sure you’re feeding your pet the right amount every time.