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Are You Cleaning Your Dog’s Bowl Enough?
A new study has found that not cleaning dog bowls frequently or properly leads to health consequences for dog owners and their pets.
Are you cleaning your dog’s bowl after every meal? If the answer is no, you’re not washing it enough. And according to a new study, the way you store your pet’s food and clean their bowls can have negative health consequences on both pet parents and their pups if it’s not done properly. For example, many humans and dogs have become sick after being exposed to E. coli and salmonella-contaminated dog food, which is most likely to happen in households with dogs that eat raw food diets.
In general, not cleaning your dog’s bowl enough turns it into a haven for bugs, mold, and bacteria. Not only does this make your pup’s dinner unappetizing, but it could cause him to catch an infection or pneumonia. Additionally, water bowls that aren’t cleaned frequently tend to collect a slimy build-up called biofilm, which allows harmful bacteria to wreak havoc.
But despite the risks, less than 5% of the hundreds of pet owners surveyed in the study were aware that there are guidelines for safely handling and storing pet food from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Once the study participants were informed, only 8% said they would follow the guidelines in the future. The study found that the majority of pet owners didn’t follow the FDA guidelines whether they knew about them or not, opting to feed their pets on autopilot or storing pet food too close to human food. Of the pet parents surveyed, nearly 40% had a family member in their household who would be considered at high risk for severe illness if they were exposed to E. coli and salmonella, which makes this general attitude of apathy confusing. The study did confirm that pet owners who followed the FDA feeding guidelines were significantly less likely to come into contact with harmful germs and bacteria, meaning it’s time to start being more proactive with our dogs’ feeding routines.
That said, pet parents who haven’t been cleaning their dogs' bowls enough or correctly shouldn’t feel too badly. There is a major lack of education in proper hygiene for handling dog food. Even veterinary nutritionists who advise pet parents on how to feed their dogs for a living didn’t know about the FDA’s hygiene protocols. But now that you know, you can do something about it!
Start by rinsing your dog’s bowls with warm or hot water and soap every day. Your dog’s water bowl should be sanitized once a day, while your dogs’ food bowls should be cleaned and sanitized after every meal. Since slime can build up in your dog’s water bowl pretty quickly, you should avoid topping off their water supply and simply give them fresh water anytime they need more. You can make these cleanings easier by investing in the right type of dog bowls. While plastic may seem like the best choice, stainless steel and porcelain dog bowls are the easiest to keep clean.
Next, follow the FDA’s hygiene guidelines when you feed your dog going forward. Per the FDA, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water both before and after you handle dog food and treats. Start and end the process with clean hands. When you prepare your dog’s food, do not use his bowl as the scooping utensil. Instead, use a clean cup, scooper, or spoon every time. If you are using a reusable scooper or spoon, make sure to only use it for the purpose of feeding your dog.
You also should take care when you store pet food. If your dog eats wet food, immediately throw out leftover food or store it in a refrigerator that has the temperature set to 40 F or below. Make sure the food is tightly covered or sealed. If your dog eats dry food, make sure to store the kibble in a cool and dry place that is under 80 F because excess heat and moisture can cause the food to go bad. We highly recommend investing in an airtight container for this purpose.
You can read more about the FDA’s guidelines for handling and storing pet food here.