There are a wide variety of dog bowls on the market - plastic ones, slow down eating ones, silicon ones, stainless steel ones, ceramic ones, stoneware ones, and yes, even paper ones and ones made of sugar cane.
But how do you know if your dog bowl is safe?
We've done a bit of research on the different types of dog food bowls on the market...here's what we found:
Some of the most popular dog bowls on the market are plastic. But unknown to many, they can be the most dangerous bowls with which to feed and water your pet! There are a couple of reasons for this:
One reason is that plastics scratch and those little crevices can harbor unhealthy bacteria, that even a good safe cleaning can't deter.
In addition, there are many reports in the news that plastics can emit chemicals like Bisphenal A, or BPA. Every few years, articles regarding the safety of plastics hit the news headlines – most recently in the form of reports of a chemical found in baby and sports bottles: Bisphenal A, or BPA.
What is BPA? The EWG
says, "bisphenol a (BPA), a synthetic estrogen used to harden
polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin, is the focus of a growing
number of research studies and legislative actions, reflecting mounting
scientific evidence that it causes serious and sometimes irreversible
damage to health, even at the low doses to which people are routinely
The Environmental Working Group also goes on to say..."in laboratory tests, trace BPA
exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a
wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive
system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions,
cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early
puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy."
So if they are having this kind of effect on humans, imagine what they
are doing to our little dog bodies!
Plastics can also emit dangerous Phthalates, according to the EWG. "These chemicals, called “plasticizers,” are a group of industrial chemicals
used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible or
resilient and also as solvents. Phthalates are nearly ubiquitous in
modern society, found in, among other things, toys, food packaging,
hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings,
lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo."
In addition, HealthyStuff.org,
an organization who tests many pet products for levels of lead,
chlorine, arsenic and more, indicates that even though some plastic pet
bowls may be BPA
free and certified as FDA food safe, some may contain medium levels of
And these chemicals can leach from plastic containers into your dog's food, potentially exposing them to dangerous chemicals with harmful side affects.
There are some safe food plastics, and generally speaking most human plastics containers can be identified by their recycling codes
that can help you find the safe ones. But the pet industry is slow
to add this helpful id tool to pet products, so we are left not knowing
what plastic pet dish is safe and which is not, or taking the word of the manufacturer.
Yes, there are some safe plastic bowls, but how do you know for sure,
without having them tested in a trusted lab?
According to HealthyStuff.org some stoneware pet bowls may contain medium levels of dangerous lead that could be harmful to your dog.
In 1973, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began
phasing out leaded gasoline, a process that was to drag on until 1996.
Lead was banned in household paint in 1978. As a result, according to
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, lead levels in
the blood of American children have dropped by 86 percent since the
The EWG says..."the insidious symptoms of slow lead poisoning -- impaired intellect,
memory loss, mood swings, infertility, nerve, joint and muscle
disorders, cardiovascular, skeletal, kidney and renal problems and
possibly cancer -- were not fully recognized until the late 20th
Some manufacturers tout their stoneware bowls as lead free. But, while HealthStuff.org is sharing a lot of research about stoneware pet bowls, they have yet to test every bowl on the market. So why potentially expose your dog to such a dangerous chemical?
Lately we've been seeing several silicone based pet food
bowls hit the market. While they are deemed made of FDA approved food
based silicone, we are with the the 'jury is still out,' pack on this
new method of feeding.
According to Wikipedia, silicones are largely-inert, man-made compounds with a wide variety of forms and uses. Typically heat-resistant, nonstick, and rubber-like, they are commonly used in cookware, medical applications, sealants, adhesives, lubricants, insulation, and breast implants.
Over the years, we've read about the problems women have had with silicone breast implants, (the same stuff used to create food safe silicone bowls). So many dangers have been found with the various methods we use for feeding, that I'm of the 'better safe than sorry" set. Time will tell...
Many ceramic dog bowls can be a good choice if you do your homework and select carefully. Some glazes used to coat the dog bowl could contain lead and other chemicals.
So if you decide to use a ceramic bowl make certain it is intended for food use and that it is coated with a lead free glaze. And also be certain to check the bowl often for little cracks in the glaze, that can not only harbor bacteria, but can also potentially be ingested if cracked or chipped.
Sugar Cane and Corn
Many disposable pet bowls made of sugar cane and corn are hitting the market. Patterned after human disposable paper plates and made from sugar cane or corn, these pet bowls are touted as being very eco-friendly and green, as well as safe for dogs. Many say after several uses, you can put them into your compost pile to biodegrade, which would cut down on added waste to landfills, and the inability to actually biodegrade when buried under all that trash at the landfill.
Since sugar cane and corn in very low ingestion levels is not toxic or dangerous for dogs, we feel these dishes would be a nice emergency or travel option for dogs. We would keep a watchful eye on my sis, Gracie, however, since she would perhaps be apt to eat something like a bowl made of sugar cane...she's like that you know :) And we know that anything like this in large proportions wouldn't be good for her intestinal tract.
Over many years, stainless steel has be proven to be the safest material for making and storing foods. It is durable, sanitary, rust-free, and non-leaching. And the best part is that they can last a lifetime, and save you money! In their tips to avoid certain chemical exposure, the EWG recommends in many instances to replace non-safe plastics with stainless steel.
What we use!
So what's a dog to do? We recommend going stainless steel. It is widely believed to be one of the safest dog food and water dispensing bowls. It's what we use for all our meals and water, whether at home or on the road, for us pups and our kittie bros.
You can purchase many sizes and types of stainless steel dog bowls, including slow down eating and non-skid, small or gigantic!
Properly cared for stainless steel pet bowls won't harbor dangerous bacteria, and they don't emit dangerous chemicals.
sure to clean your stainless steel bowl after every use to ward off
potential illness from bacteria, and don't clean it with any abrasive
material like steel wool. Just use a safe eco-friendly dish soap and
hot water, or better yet, do what we do, clean with a nice mixture of
vinegar and water.
Update: Please be sure to inquire at your pet store if your stainless steel pet bowls are radioactive and lead free, as reports have been made that some stainless steel pet bowls may contain low levels of lead and radiation. See more information below to learn more.
Oh, and watch what you store your pets food in as well! There are many, many pet storage containers made of plastic, but we are happy to see stainless steel and jute pet food storage containers hitting the market as well. Watch for resource links in our next post.
Update: 7-1-2012 - On July 30th, 2012, stainless steel pet bowls sold in several Petco stores in the Chicago area were found to be radioactive and taken off the shelves. Read our updated post to learn more about these bowls, how they may have become radioactive and how you may be able to purchase stainless steel bowls that are safer.