Dog Food Bowls: All You Need To Know

Whether you’re a veteran at caring for dogs or you’re a newbie, you’d have realized that dogs don’t eat the way we do. We bother about what cutlery to use for what and even what plate to use for what. We set the table, put beautiful pieces and have special rules for eating called “table manners”. All dogs need, on the other hand, are dog food bowls.

They eat with their mouths and their mouths alone so no cutlery, no cups (unless you’re feeding them) and no table setting. However, there is more to dog food bowls than what it seems like.

There is the issue of the material it is made of. Is any dog food bowl Ok? There is also the issue of cleaning: how and how often? And some might be surprised, but you also have to think about proper positioning (so maybe there is table setting).

These are some of the issues we’ll be discussing in this article. So, stay with us.




Types Of Dog Food Bowls

There are so many dog food bowls out there in the market. They come in different colors, designs and even sizes. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll adopt Barkthink’s categorization which is according to the materials dog food bowls are made of.


Plastic Dog Food Bowls


TBC HOME DECOR Round Plastic Pet Bowls - 9 3/4 inch - 3 color set

These are unarguably the most common dog food bowls there are. It’s probably because they are the cheapest to find. However, experience has taught us that cheapest is, more often than not, a bad idea (not like most expensive is always a good idea but you get what we are saying). And in this case, it is.

First of all, feeding your dog using a plastic bowl is like inviting him to chew on the bowl. Plastic usually means chewable and most dogs will not pass up that opportunity. This opens up a whole world of internal bleeding and all such internal issues.

Even if your dog is disciplined enough to not chew on the bowl, the mere fact that his food comes in a plastic bowl could still be an issue. Here’s why.


Some Reasons Plastic Dog Food Bowls Are A Bad Idea

BPA (Bisphenol A)

Most plastics are made using a chemical referred to as BPA (Bisphenol A). According to Barkthink, studies have proven that exposure to even a little amount of BPA can be quite damaging and in some cases irreversible.

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This does not merely refer to the ingestion of plastic containing BPA but the ingestion of any edible that has been in a plastic containing BPA. This, people, is a very sobering thought.

Feeding your dog using plastic bowls can open him up to such issues as chromosomal abnormalities, cancer, obesity and even chemotherapy resistance.



These are industrial chemicals that some manufacturers use in making their plastics flexible. According to Barkthink, the extent of the damage that phthalates can cause to humans and animals alike is not exactly known.

What is known is that phthalates are dangerous and you don’t want your dog to have any part of them.



There are some plastics that are not made using BPA. However, there is still the lead scare.

Lead is a chemical that is found in some plastic products in varying degrees. It is alright if the plastics containing lead are used for things such as chairs and tables. But if they are used for things that should carry food then we have a problem on our hands.

The lead in the plastic bowl could leak into the food and the rest is trouble.

There are plastic dog bowls that are made of plastics that don’t contain any of the above mentioned chemicals. Unfortunately, most manufacturers that make these don’t give us a sign. So it is kinda difficult to know which is which.

However, for BPA, some manufacturers tag their plastic dog bowls “BPA Free”. That should help.


How To Clean Plastic Dog Bowls

  • Not all plastic dog food bowls can be machine washed. So be sure to know what the manufacturer says about that. If the manufacturer declares them dishwasher-proof then go ahead and toss them in the dishwasher.
  • Alternatively, you could hand wash them using regular dish soap and sponge. Basically the same way you would wash your own plates. Have a sponge that’s for your dog’s bowls alone.
  • Always allow them drip dry.



Ceramic Dog Food Bowls

DII Bone Dry Lattice Ceramic Pet Bowl for Food & Water with Non-Skid Silicone Rim for Dogs and Cats (Medium - 6" Dia x 2"H) Gray - Set of 2


Ceramic dog food bowls are a good pick. The only major issue you would have with them is the glaze with which they are coated.

Some of the glazes contain lead. And we’ve already discussed that lead isn’t what you want your dog to use. So, what you want to do is purchase a ceramic dog bowl that has been certified for feeding.

A minor issue you might have is with the bowl breaking. Ceramic materials are usually made to last. But with a little aggression and a little lack of supervision, ceramic dog food bowls could get cracked or broken.

Cracked bowls could lodge food and become breeding houses for bacteria. And how about broken bowls? They could easily become choking or even walking hazards.


How To Clean Ceramic Dog Food Bowls

Ceramic dog food bowls are cleaned much the same way as plastics are. Just be sure to throw out any bowl that has cracks. You know, because of the bacteria thing.



Stoneware Dog Food Bowls

Ethical 9-1/2-Inch Stoneware Crock Dog Dish


Stoneware bowls are really durable. They hardly get cracks which means they are hardly ever breeding grounds for bacteria (unless you don’t wash them of course).

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They might be on the heavy side but that’s not exactly a problem since all your dog does is put their head in the thing and eat.

However, just like the previous two materials, stoneware sometimes contains a medium amount of lead. Fortunately, some manufacturers make their stoneware dog food bowls lead-free. So just look for the stoneware bowls that have the “lead free” tag on them.


How To Clean Stoneware Dog Food Bowls

  • It is not advisable to machine wash stone ware. So there’s no tossing these babies in the dishwasher.
  • Stoneware dog food bowls have to be washed by hand. But first, very gently scrape off any food that might have dried on it. Gently please, don’t be vigorous with it.
  • Next, wash using a sponge and dish soap the way you would wash your own plates. Have a sponge that’s for your dog’s bowls alone, of course.
  • Then rinse and dry properly before storing.



Stainless Steel Bowls

AmazonBasics Stainless Steel Dog Bowl - Set of 2

Everybody loves stainless steel and there are so many reasons why.

Stainless steel is not porous which means no room for vicious bacteria. It has been coated to be resistant to rust which allows it last for a long time.

It is not exposed to as many chemical and chemical processes as the others are (the highest being plastic). And also, stainless steel don’t crack.

We are not saying that stainless steel is perfect (a good number of them are not even fine). After all, sometime in 2012 some stainless steel pet bowls were found to have been accidentally made with Cobalt 60 (just a bit though). But if we are being relative, it is kinda perfect.



How To Clean Stainless Steel Bowls

Stainless steel bowls are usually machine washable so just toss those babies in the dishwasher and they should be good.




How Often Should Dog Food Bowls Be Washed?

You want to treat your dog’s food bowls the way you treat your plates (unless you don’t treat yours well then try not to treat your dog’s badly). The bowls should be washed as often as they are used or at worst, every day.

We know you probably think it is unnecessary to wash your dog’s bowl every day because he always licks it clean.

But the thing is, he can’t lick away all the residue. And the residue that will definitely be left behind is enough encouragement for bacteria to breed. By bacteria we refer to some scary stuff like E. Coli and Salmonella.

So, please wash your dog’s bowls every day. If you can’t, then you could get some disposable dog food bowls and just toss them out when he’s done (you know you can’t reuse disposable dog food bowls, right?).




Dog Food Bowls: To Elevate Or Not To

It is very common practice for dog food bowls to be placed on the floor. But have you ever thought of raising his bowl? Here’s why you might want to…

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First off, your dog wouldn’t need to bend to reach his food, especially if he is really large. This relieves any pressure on the joints he would have incurred from constantly stooping to reach his food.

Also, with his head properly positioned (above the stomach) food goes through his digestive tract easier.

However, despite what some say, using elevated dog bowls does not make for cleaner eating. Your dog eats hands free and that means he will almost always make a mess. But at least, he won’t be attempting to dig through or swim in his bowl.

Wonder how to get your dog’s bowls raised? Don’t bother. There are elevated dog bowls.

With the elevated dog bowls, there is a stand with holders in which the bowls are placed. Usually, the holders are adjustable along the stand so you can adjust the holder to the height of your dog.

If you have more than one dog and they are of different heights, you could still feed them at the same time. Just be sure to adjust the holders according to their heights.

Since we are on the topic of heights, how do we know the right dog food bowl height for our dogs?



Picking The Right Dog Bowl Height

The general rule of thumb for ascertaining the correct height for your dog is to measure him from paws to shoulders then subtracting about 5 inches.

However, Official Dog house gives us some tips that might make things easier. The idea is knowing what works for dogs according to their breed size.


Small Dogs

Small breeds like Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles should be OK with a 2 to 6 inch height. This is subject to the specific sizes of the different dogs of course.


Medium Dogs

Medium breed dogs like Standard Schnauzers and Border Collies should be fine if the elevated dog bowls are between 7 inches and 12 inches high.


Large Dogs

The appropriate elevated food bowl height for dogs like Golden Retrievers and Collies should be between 12 and 18 inches.


Extra Large Dogs

Dogs like bloodhounds and mastiffs should have elevated dog bowls that are as high as between 18 and 24 inches.




With Dog Food Bowls, Does Size Matter?

Yes it does. The reason it does is because you love your dog so much. We’ll explain.

Normal dog food quantity looks minute if put in a gigantic bowl. If you put normal quantity of food in a bowl that is too big, you’ll be tempted to top it up because it looks small to you.

And your act of love might then make your dog overeat. We know all the attendant problems of overeating, don’t we?

Petmd says no dog needs a dog bowl that is 9 inches in diameter. So, what you want to do is to pick a dog bowl that is just large enough to accommodate your dog’s snout. The bowl should give him room to gobble and lick not to swim.




One More Thing

You might want to consider buying place mats for your dog. Because your dog will almost certainly make a mess, place mats will catch whatever falls, allowing for easy cleaning.





From all you’ve read, you have probably come to the conclusion that what your dog eats from is almost as important as what he eats.

Get the right dog food bowls (yup, nothing wrong with getting more than one) and don’t forget to wash them. Your dog’s health might depend on it.