Dangers in the Water Bowl: How Safe is Your Pet’s Drinking Water?
Your pet’s water bowl may be a health hazard to your pet and to your family. Studies have shown that the water bowl can be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria like salmonella, MRSA, and E. coli.
The type of bowl you use for your pet is the problem. According to a study conducted by the University Centre Hartpury in the United Kingdom, the material your pet’s water bowl is made of can affect the bacteria.
What type of bowl should you buy, then?
1. Types of Bowls
Water and dish bowls come in a small variety of materials: plastic, stone, ceramic, and stainless steel. The Hartpury study revealed that plastic and ceramic bowls were more likely to have a high population of bacteria thriving in them. Ceramic bowls also had the highest number of different bacteria species living in them.
Stainless steel, however, is not immune to bacteria growth. While it had less bacteria in it than the plastic and ceramic bowls, it still grew bacteria.
The study also revealed that if plastic, stone, and ceramic bowls have any cracks or chips in them, bacteria would grow in those crevices.
Salmonella, MRSA, and E. coli are also transmissible from your pet to you. That means that you and your family can pick up these dangerous bacteria from your pet’s water bowl and from your pet themselves! All three of these bacteria can be life-threatening to humans.
2. Other Dangers in the Water Bowl
Bacteria should be your main concern, but there are other problems with your water and food bowls. The material they are made of not only breeds bacteria but can also make your pet sick in other ways.
Plastic containers and bowls are often made with phthalates: chemicals that make the plastic stronger and more durable. The overall health effects of these chemicals aren’t known. However, one particular phthalate has been identified as an endocrine disrupter and has been linked to cancer.
Drinking from a bowl manufactured with phthalates may cause your pet harm. The plastic eventually leaches chemicals thanks to your pet’s saliva, causing those phthalates to contaminate your pet’s water. Over a long period of time, this leaching can poison your pet.
2.2 Lead Poisoning
When it comes to stoneware and ceramics, your pet is in even graver danger. The FDA has shown that the glazes made in stoneware and ceramics frequently contain lead. Like the phthalates in plastic, lead can leach out of the glazes and contaminate your pet’s water.
While the FDA has said that small amounts of lead are acceptable, they insist that the glaze must be properly treated. Bowls from China and Mexico are not given the same rigorous production treatment as bowls made in the USA. That means that the glazes on the bowls are more likely to be improperly made, allowing for lead poisoning.
2.3 Other Health Effects
Plastic and metal bowls like aluminum are also often made with Bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical is an endocrine disrupter. Unlike phthalates, this chemical has been shown to affect your pet’s gut microbiome. This can cause metabolic changes in your pet that are hazardous to their health.
Stainless steel is not made with BPA. However, if you search for plastic and metal bowls that are advertised as “BPA free,” they may not be. The marketing regulation for these bowls isn’t policed like other products, meaning you may buy one that does have BPA and phthalates in it.
3. What Do I Do?
Stainless steel is the way to go, although it still can bread bacteria. Silicone bowls have also been determined safe at this time as an alternative to plastic. However, silicone bowls should be high quality, perhaps “medical grade” or at the very least “food grade.”
Whatever bowl you have for your pet, follow these best practices to keep the dangers in the water bowl safe:
- Always clean the bowl! We recommend daily cleanings. Don’t put it off for a week!
- Make sure the plastic, stone, and ceramic bowls don’t have any chips or cracks in them.
- Buy “BPA and phthalate-free” bowls.
- Make sure glaze-coated bowls are made in countries with regulations like the USA. Otherwise, there may be unsafe levels of lead in them!
Just remember: If you like your bowls to be clean, so do your pets!
Visit our Kitten Supplies page to see the bowls we recommend and use.
“Life-Threatening Bacteria Thrives in Pets’ Water Bowls, Hartpury Experts Discover.” Hartpury, September 12, 2018, https://www.hartpury.ac.uk/news/2018/09/life-threatening-bacteria-thrives-in-pets-water-bowls-hartpury-experts-discover/.
“Plastic, Stainless Steel, Stoneware, Silicone or Ceramic Bowls?” Hemopet, February 18, 2019. https://hemopet.org/food-water-bowls-companion-pets/.