Wait, I Should Be Washing My Pet's Bowl *How Often*?

The more you know.

May 24, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland

My pampered 14-pound mutt, Joey, eats a mixture of organic wet food and dry kibble with a crushed-up omega-3 salmon bite on top. He has his own special spoons for the wet food, and we rotate between metal bowls and ceramic bowls with his name on them. His bowls sit on a little doggie placemat in the hallway outside our kitchen—yes, the placemat is adorned with a pattern of tiny dog bones—and Joey can be found optimistically sticking his snout inside his empty food bowl at all times.

Unless it’s during the couple of minutes I spend every day giving it a deep clean.

When we first brought Joey home, our vet reminded us to clean his food and water bowls regularly, suggesting we treat his bowls just like the dishes we use to feed human people. Veterinarian Jim Carlson of Riverside Animal Clinic in McHenry, IL, tells his clients to hand-wash pet dishes with a liquid dishwashing detergent and air-dry them before the next use. (Veterinarian Travis Arndt of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America says you can toss them in the dishwasher—provided the bowls are dishwasher-safe, of course.)

Your pet bowl cleaning schedule will vary depending on what type of food your pet eats.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“My dog eats dry food only so I wash her bowl every few days. I fill her water bowls daily and give them a quick swipe each time, then a full clean about once a week. ”
— Helen F.

“Dogs and cats eating wet foods should have their bowl scrubbed daily,” says Joanna Woodnutt, a vet based in the U.K. “This is important to remove the caked-on gunk that occurs when small amounts of this food dry in the bowl. Dry food bowls don’t need cleaning as often, but I would still rinse them out every other day and give them a full scrub weekly.” And provided you're giving your pet fresh water every day, you can probably wash their water bowl once a week.

If you feed your pet a raw diet that includes meat, Woodnutt says, you should essentially treat their bowl like something that has had raw chicken in it. “You should clean the bowl properly after each and every meal,” she says. “Raw food can contain salmonella and E. coli, which can infect humans, and hygiene is an important part of preventing infections. Ideally, you should wear gloves and wash your own hands well after handling the bowl.”

Another consideration? The length of your pet’s fur. “If your dog has long facial hair, the bowl will need to be cleaned much more,” says Texas-based veterinarian Sara Ochoa. “These dogs will usually get food or other debris stuck in their fur and then transfer it to their water bowls.” Bearded doggies or long-haired cats might need their bowls cleaned more often for this exact reason. (The beards may need the occasional wipe-down, also.)

Experts recommend using metal, ceramic, or glass dishes to feed your pet. “If you're traveling and concerned about your pet's dishware on the road, consider using biodegradable dishes,” says Carlson.

If you come across a set with a tiny dog–bone pattern, please let Joey know.

How often do you clean your pet's bowl? Let us know in the comments.
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Nina is a writer, editor, and enthusiastic home cook in New York City.


kuhrich June 26, 2019
The top photo shows a dog drinking from a water bowl that looks like a stoneware crock. Any hints on a brand? I love it.
Lorraine N. June 25, 2019
I had to smile when I saw the title of your article. We are a little over the top at my house with our dogs. I have dishpan hands from washing my three dogs bowls so often. Of course after every meal (they eat breakfast and dinner), and pretty much every time they drink we wash the bowls and change the water (refrigerated ionized water).

They have brachycephalic heads and lots of wrinkles so they pretty much get dirt or drool in their bowls every time they drink. They never drink or eat out of anything that isn't clean enough for me to want drink or eat from. And of course since we cook for them, no dog food, it's a must.
Gale H. June 25, 2019
I clean my two dogs’ food bowls after every meal (twice/day) and water bowls once/day unless I see “floaties” they’ve deposited there from bits of food clinging to their beards. I’ve made it super easy by purchasing several stainless water and food bowls and after meals they go for a quick rinse and then straight to the dishwasher. It’s a bit of an investment but I bought just a few at a time until I had a good stockpile and besides—they last forever!
DARA G. June 25, 2019
My baby Hadassah’s food bowls were cleaned every day without fail.
Paul B. May 26, 2019
Every day! Why not. It takes 10 seconds to know they have a sanitary setting for their meal. Water bowl too.
Cleowhiskey May 25, 2019
I am shocked. It's never even crossed my mind not to wash my cats' food bowls every day. Even with dry food, their tongues reach the bottom of the bowl--that's moisture--that creates bacteria when mixed with food crumbs. So... An article had to written on this? Really?
Helen F. May 24, 2019
I was guilt-ridden the first time I saw a recommendation for daily cleaning. My dog eats dry food only so I wash her bowl every few days. I fill her water bowls daily and give them a quick swipe each time, then a full clean about once a week.