Are Plastic Dog Bowls Safe? The Risks & Signs You Need To Know

by | Dog Food, Dog Safety

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There are many types of dog bowls on the market but are the plastic bowls safe for your dog, who will be eating and drinking out of these bowls each day? Plastic bowls are very popular with dog owners so this is an important question to answer.

I did some digging to find out if plastic bowls are safe for dogs and it turns out that:

Bowls that are made from high-quality, food-grade plastic are considered safest for dogs. Low-quality plastic, wear and tear, allergies, and dogs that like to chew can make plastic bowls unsafe for a dog. Every type of bowl has drawbacks, so if your dog likes plastic buy the best quality you can afford and manage the risks of plastic bowls.

Plastic bowls are a popular choice with dog owners because they are inexpensive, lightweight, and long-lasting. But plastic often gets a lot of criticism in the media and from advocacy groups.

There are actually benefits and risks with each type of dog bowl and who shares the dog bowl and who shares the dog bowl . Knowing the risks associated with plastic bowls and what to look for will help you decide if you want to use plastic bowls and how to minimize these risks, to keep your pooch happy and healthy.

Let’s look at all the reasons why plastic dog bowls might not be considered ‘safe’ for dogs and what we can do to manage these risks.

Why plastic bowls may not be safe for dogs

Photo of a dog eating out of a plastic dog bowl

Some groups claim that plastic releases chemicals

BPA is a chemical that is put into plastic to make it hard. BPA is found in a lot of things we use every day and, if tested, your doctor would probably find some BPA in your body right now.

Some doctors think that BPA gets into the body quickest and easiest through plastic containers for food and drink.

The problem is that experts and advocacy groups cannot seem to agree on what damage, if any, is caused by taking in BPA.

Some groups and researchers claim that BPA affects the liver, kidneys, brain, immune system, and other functions in the body. But these studies often make questionable and/or unverified claims when it comes to their findings on how bad BPA is.

The FDA states that:

‘BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods’ and that the ‘use of BPA in food packaging and containers is safe.’

Another 2-year government study found that authorized uses of BPA by the FDA is safe for consumers, with BPA not being much of a threat.

No studies have been done on the long-term effects of BPA on dogs, so there’s no definitive evidence on this one way or another. Also, there are stringent FDA quality control standards set for human food-grade plastic products but not for pet products, especially those made in other countries and imported.

There is a list of FDA-approved plastics that the FDA deems safe for contact with food and drinks for human consumption.

If you want to use plastic dog bowls, buy the best quality, food-grade plastic that you can find. Choose bowls that are:

1. Made in the USA

2. Not made from recycled material (recycling can change its safety for food and drink contact)

3. Made from a plastic that is approved by the FDA, such as Polycarbonate and PET

If your dog’s plastic food bowl ever gives off a strange smell, called off-gassing, changes shape in any way, or starts looking worn out, it’s time to get a new bowl.

Some dogs are allergic to plastic bowls

Some dogs are allergic to or become allergic to the plastic in a dog bowl. These dogs might be allergic to the type of plastic, or to one of the components used to make or dye the bowl.

When a dog that is allergic to plastic comes into contact with a plastic dog bowl, the dog gets contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis simply means that the skin becomes irritated and inflamed wherever it touches the thing it’s allergic to.

This dermatitis could show up as red skin, small bumps, blisters, cracked skin, raised itchy areas, ulcers, or a rash on the parts of the dog that touch the plastic bowl.

The dog could get dermatitis on its nose, around the mouth, along the chin, and even on its paws if the dog touches the plastic with its feet.

Closeup photo of a pug's mouth with red sores from contact dermatitis

Some plastics have a chemical in them called p-benzylhydroquinone. This chemical affects the body’s ability to make melanin. More melanin gives a dog darker skin and less melanin makes the skin lighter. It’s melanin that gives many dogs a dark black nose and lips.

A dog that is allergic to plastic and comes into direct contact with this chemical may lose some color in their nose and/or lips. These dogs often get pink, discolored patches on their nose or mouth.

This condition is called plastic-dish dermatitis because it is caused by plastic dishes specifically.

Closeup photo of a dog's nose with pink discolored areas on it

The simplest way to treat doggy dermatitis at the first sign of it is to remove the source of the trouble: plastic bowls.

If your dog has any lumps, rashes, discolored areas, or blisters on its face or neck, replace your dog’s plastic dishes with ceramic bowls immediately (some dogs are also allergic to the nickel in steel bowls, so avoid these if your dog is showing signs of having allergies).

If the skin condition does not clear up on its own, you’ll need to see your veterinarian as your dog might be allergic to something else or have another skin condition, such as canine acne or vitiligo.

A dog might swallow pieces of plastic

Some dogs simply love to chew more than others, especially dogs that are younger than 7 months when their adult teeth are coming out, or if they suffer from pica and plastic is their food of choice.

These keen chewers might see their plastic bowl as another plastic dog toy and something to sink their teeth into.

If left unsupervised, a dog may chew off pieces from a plastic bowl – and swallow them.

If the dog swallows enough plastic or a large-enough piece of plastic, the plastic may get stuck in the dog’s digestive tract or cause internal damage and bleeding.

If you have a young teething puppy or a dog that loves to chew on hard plastic toys and destroy them, don’t give your dog a plastic bowl. Choose safer dog bowls that are harder to chew, such as stainless steel or ceramic bowls.

Old plastic bowls can grow bacteria and cause infections

Over time, plastic dog bowls get scratches on their surface. These scratches might be from your dog chewing or scratching the bowl, you dropping the bowl, or tiny scratches from cleaning that you can’t even see.

Mold and bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, can find their way into these scratches and grow there, even if you wash and clean the bowl regularly.

It’s quite easy to stop mold from growing in a smooth or a new dog bowl, but you can’t remove all the mold and bacteria from cracks in the surface of an older dog bowl.

If there is mold and bacteria in your dog’s bowl, your dog could get quite ill.

And if the plastic bowl is damaged or rough from wear and tear, it could cause canine acne. This is because the rough surface breaks off fine hairs on the dog’s muzzle and chin when the dog uses the bowl.

Each hair is kept in the skin by a follicle, which is a small sac that sits under the skin’s surface. When a hair breaks off from being rubbed against a rough surface, like a plastic bowl, its follicle can burst and irritate the skin around it. The irritated skin can react with red bumps or pimples.

These red bumps or pimples in dogs are called ‘canine acne’.

You can manage these risks by replacing your dog’s plastic bowls regularly and checking your dog’s face and chin for any signs of acne.

If your dog has been using the same plastic bowl for a while, the bowl has any rough surfaces or broken edges, or you can see cracks or scratches, it’s time to get a new dog bowl.

It’s also good to keep your plastic bowl very clean, and here’s exactly how to do that…

3 steps to clean a plastic dog bowl

Here are 3 simple steps on how to clean plastic dog bowls properly:

Wash plastic bowls in hot, soapy water

Wash all of your dog’s plastic bowls with hot, soapy water every day. This includes the food and water bowls.

You can wash the bowls in a bucket, the kitchen sink, or in the dishwasher if the bowl is dishwasher safe (high-quality plastic bowls generally are dishwasher safe these days).

I recommend keeping a separate soft sponge for washing the dog’s bowls, and not using your household kitchen sponge for the job. This will stop you from spreading any germs and bacteria from the dog’s bowls to your family’s dishes.

Be sure to use non-toxic soap that’s pet friendly, such as this affordable organic soap from Amazon.

If you’re handwashing, give the bowls a few minutes to soak in very hot water so the soap can do its job. Then give the bowls a good scrub down with a soft sponge – don’t use a scourer or anything that might scratch the surface.

Rinse the bowls with clean water until there is no soap residue left.

Disinfect the bowl

Washing in hot water removes dirt on the surface of the bowls, such as natural oils from your fingers and saliva or food particles from your dog’s mouth.

Once a week, disinfect the plastic bowls to kill bacteria and mold.

Most or all mold and bacteria in a plastic dog bowl can be killed or stopped by:

  • Wiping the bowl with a non-toxic disinfectant wipe or spray. It is important to use non-toxic cleaning products that won’t poison your dog.
  • Running a clothes steamer over the bowl
  • Putting water in the bowl and cooking it on high for a minute in the microwave
  • Shining a UV light on the bowl
  • Leaving the bowl out in the sun
  • Freezing the dog bowl overnight

Here are the dog-friendly disinfecting products I recommend (Amazon affiliate links below)

Make sure the plastic bowl is dry

Once you’ve done the daily wash or the weekly disinfecting routine, make sure that the dog bowl is completely dry before packing it away or using it.

Mold and bacteria love growing in damp, dark places so don’t leave them with any moisture to grow while they sit in the cupboard.

Ayo Pets participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, the ShareASale affiliate program, and other affiliate programs. This means that if you buy a product or service through one of our links, we may receive a small commission from the sale for referring you. Thank you for your support!

MONIQUE

Monique has had pets all her life and will have them for the rest of it.

She currently has 4 adopted fur kids.

Monique loves researching and sharing what she finds out about taking the best care of animals.

Ayo is an African word for ‘happy’, which is why this site is called Ayo Pets (Happy Pets).

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