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You wouldn’t eat your meals off just anything, so why should your dog or cat? Learn how to choose the right food and water dishes for your companion.

Take a look at all the food and water dishes at any pet supply store and you’ll see a wide range of different sizes, shapes and materials. There are big ones, small ones, plastic dishes, ceramic dishes and stainless steel dishes. What kind should you buy? Is there one that’s best for your animal?

Plastic, ceramic or stainless steel?

I’ve done some research, and from what I’ve found all dishes are safe to use for the most part. But there are certain things to look for with some materials after they’ve had some wear and tear.

1. The only dishes that don’t pose any known risks are stainless steel dishes. They tend to last longer than other types of dish. For anyone who likes to buy green, most stainless steel dishes are made from recycled products.

2. Plastic dishes are fine but some can get worn and scratched over time. Bacteria can grow inside the worn parts and scratches and have been known to cause acne. You may need to replace plastic bowls more often than other types unless you buy one made from heavy duty plastic that is scratch proof.

3. Ceramic bowls are good to use as well, but one concern is that some may have lead in the glaze. Check with the store or manufacturer and buy a product that’s lead free. Ceramic bowls can also get chipped over time and bacteria can grow in these areas. If they’re chipped badly enough, they can also cause cuts and scrapes. As with plastic, you’ll need to replace ceramic bowls now and then.

Get the right size

There are many factors to consider when choosing the right sized bowl for your animal.

• Buy a smaller bowl for a small dog. A bigger bowl holds more food, which means you may add more to his meals than necessary – a big bowl with a small dog portion in it can look deceptively empty.

• Consider the size of your dog’s ears. If he has very long floppy ears, stick to a bowl that isn’t so large his ears will be in his food while he eats.

• For a large dog, it of course makes sense to have a big bowl; it can be difficult and uncomfortable for a large dog to eat out of a small bowl.

• If you have a cat, consider his whiskers when purchasing a dish. A cat’s whiskers are very sensitive, and important to his survival. They are so sensitive they can sense the presence, size and shape of objects without the cat seeing or touching them. Cats don’t like their whiskers getting smashed and soiled from food because a dish is too small and/or has high sides. A shallow dish about 5” wide is best.


Keep your animal’s dishes clean. If you don’t, old food can get stuck in them and grow bacteria, attract pests and become rancid, causing illness. It’s also important to clean water bowls. When you don’t, a pinkish bacteria called Serratia marcescens starts to form. This bacteria grows in toilet bowls and other areas where there is water, and has been known to cause infections. It gets worse as it builds up. To avoid this pink stuff, wash water bowls regularly with soap and water. A scouring sponge can help get any residue off the dishes.

Choosing and cleaning dishes for your dog or cat is a simple matter, but it can make a difference to your companion’s well being, not to mention his ability to enjoy his meals.