Dear Tabby,

Please settle a bet in my home: My partner says there’s no need to wash the dog’s food bowl often. Growing up, he doesn’t remember ever washing his dog’s bowl and his dog lived to be very old. I, however, feel as though we should wash the dog’s bowl more often--possibly even every day. Can you settle this bet and tell us how often we really should be washing our dog’s food bowl?

Grossed out by dog bowl in Garden Oaks

Dear Grossed out,

As much as I hate to play favorites and pick a side on this debate, I must tell you that you’re correct in this particular case. Contrary to what many believe, your dog’s food bowl harbors all kinds of truly nasty, but also potentially dangerous germs -- germs that are not only dangerous for him, but also for some of the members of your household. So, let’s dig right in and clear the air on this topic once and for all.

Basic guidelines for bowl cleanliness

Experts all agree that your dog’s bowls should be cleaned regularly. Now, “regularly” varies based on a few factors, though. For instance, if your dog eats only dry kibble, you can get away with only cleaning his bowl once a day. However, if you feed raw or wet food exclusively, you need to wash that bowl after every meal. Additionally, if your dog has poor dental hygiene, you’ll want to wash the bowl more frequently as well as germs from his mouth can travel to the bowl and vice versa. Also, take him to the vet to address that stanky breath, please.

Be careful of cross-contamination

If you have babies in the home or those with compromised immune systems, you’ll want to be careful not to cross-contaminate your dog’s germy bowls with the dishes of your human family members. Dogs' mouths contain lots of germs that are potentially dangerous to humans. When washing your dog’s bowls, use hot water and wash using a washcloth or scrub brush allocated for dog-bowl-use only. Your best option for killing the germs in your pet’s food bowls is to run them through the dishwasher daily. The dishwasher can sanitize them better than hand-washing can and eliminate most of the gnarly germs the dishes are harboring.

What about the water bowl?

Whew, boy! You might be super diligent about washing your pet’s food bowls, but the pet’s water bowls are often overlooked in many homes. A study conducted in 2011 found that the pet’s water bowls were the fourth-germiest places in the average home! Ideally, your pet’s water dish should be emptied, washed and re-filled daily, but for many of us, that’s just not on the to-do list. If you can try and refill the bowl daily and wash every other day or so, you’ll notice a huge difference in not only the cleanliness of your dog’s water but also in their water intake as dogs prefer fresh water. If a water bowl just isn’t cutting it in your home, consider a pet fountain, which recirculates the water, keeping it filtered and fresher.

Hopefully with a few extra runs through the dishwasher, you’ll notice your dog is healthier and much happier eating and drinking out of clean dishes.

Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at deartabbyquestions@gmail.com.

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