Which bowl is best for my dog?

Have you ever stopped to think about just how much money you spend on making sure your pup has a boujee life? The most comfortable bed. Food that isn’t full of nasties. More chew toys than they’ll ever need. Even down to the bowl we put their food in.

And I don’t just mean a personalised bowl with their name on it. Raised bowls, automatic feeders, puzzle bowls – there are a lot of options. But which is the best one for your doggo?

It’s a more complicated question than you might initially think. Let’s look at the considerations you need to make when choosing the perfect dog bowl…

Dog bowl materials

First, we need to look at the material it’s made out of. It’s more than just how it looks – different materials can have various effects on their health and wellbeing.

Plastic bowls

Plastic is everywhere and we use plenty of it in our daily lives. But is it any good for dogs? Well, not really; there are some potential issues that could make them dangerous.

First, there’s the chemicals used in making plastic dog bowls. Just look at what goes into one of them:

  • BPA – This is used to harden plastics. Numerous studies have shown it can cause anything from diabetes, cancer, and reproductive problems to obesity and neurological issues. So not great then. Even in lower doses it can disrupt bodily functions.
  • Phthalates – Try saying that one. These make plastic more flexible. They’ve also been linked to asthma and cancer in humans. Worryingly, one study found that American doggos are contaminated with up to 4.5 times the number of phthalates compared to humans.
  • P-benzyl hydroquinone – This chemical can inhibit melanin, which is what gives us and our furry friends our hair, eye, and skin colour. It can cause pups to lose their colouring on their noses and lips, turning them black with pink blotches. This is what’s commonly known as ‘plastic dish nasal dermatitis’.

The fact this has been given its own medical condition should tell you everything you need to know about plastic bowls. To add insult to injury, these chemicals can easily seep into your pup’s food and water if it’s hot, if you haven’t changed the water for a little while, or if it’s damaged.

Even just a small scratch can have an effect. Never mind what happens to the bowl when a puppy goes on a chewing spree. Any knicks and cuts in the bowl are a theme park for bacteria. I don’t know about you, but “perfect environment for bacteria” definitely wasn’t a quality I looked for when choosing Big G’s food bowl.

That’s not to mention the potential of plastic causing intestinal blockage, sharp pieces cutting up their mouth, or them developing an allergy to it. Yep, that can happen too. If you notice a mild reaction on your pup’s skin around their chin or face, it could be a sign of an allergy.

Ceramic bowls

Ceramic bowls are a firm favourite of many pet parents. They’re stylish, too tough to chew, often dishwasher-safe, and are too heavy for mischievous pups to run off with and bury behind the sofa.

But there are some points to be aware of before you run off to buy one.

Like with plastic bowls, they can easily chip and crack – a nice place for bacteria to hide. One study found that ceramic and plastic bowls are both breeding grounds for salmonella, E.coli, and MRSA. But while researchers assumed the plastic would be significantly worse as it wears down over time, it was actually the ceramic that contained the most harmful microorganisms.

Another downside is that if you have a clumsy pup on your hands, they could smash their bowl. Some like to straight-up flip their bowls for fun. If this sounds familiar, ceramic might not be the best choice. And while unlikely, it’s possible your pooch could cut themselves on it if it smashes. 

Pet products aren’t regulated as strictly as they are for humans. Some bowls have even been tied to lead poisoning, which can cause seizure and blindness, and can even be fatal. The unfortunate truth is some companies would rather put a smooth finish on their bowls rather than look out for pup health.

Stainless steel bowls

If you’ve ever been to a restaurant and had a peek into the kitchen, or even just glanced over the counter at a McDonald’s, you probably noticed the surfaces were entirely stainless steel. There’s a reason for that.

Stainless steel is non-porous, hygienic, easy to clean, and won’t smash if you knock it off the drying rack. It’s not a great place for bacteria or pathogens to hide, and doesn’t come with the risk of chemicals leaking into food and water.

But how clean are they? Well, the study mentioned above found that stainless steel bowls contained far fewer germs than plastic or ceramic. Previous studies also showed that the silver in stainless steel has antimicrobial properties, making it the safest bowl for preventing bacteria. 

They’re also dishwasher-safe, so you can give them a real good clean at the end of the day. Yes, you should wash your pup’s bowls every day.

Another benefit is that stainless steel keeps its shine, so it’ll always look new! But if you leave it outside, it could start to rust. Thankfully, consuming small amounts of rust won’t harm your pooch. But if it’s sharp, they could cut their mouth. To be safe, if your pup’s bowl becomes rusted, we recommend getting a new one.

The downside to these bowls is that, if you have a pup motivated by mischief, they’re light enough for them to carry off and hide around the house. And, if you have a determined, strong chewer, they could damage their bowl and teeth.

There are negatives to every kind of dog bowl, but it’s good enough for humans to use in kitchens and hospitals, it’s good enough for our doggos.

Bamboo bowls

For an environmentally conscious pawrent, bamboo bowls can be a great choice. They’re biodegradable and made of natural, renewable materials, fused together with heat and pressure. And many are coloured using natural plant dyes. 

These bowls are relatively new to the scene, so there haven’t been many studies on their cleanliness.

A good bamboo bowl will last as long as any plastic bowl. And unlike plastic ones, they don’t allow chemicals to seep into your pup’s grub. But despite their strength and durability, it’s possible they could still scratch and harbour bacteria. 

It’s important to note that some bamboo bowls contain melamine. In 2007, in North America, thousands of cats and dogs developed acute renal failure (sudden kidney failure or damage) due to them ingesting certain foods that contained melamine. 

But scientists weren’t convinced that melamine alone caused these health problems. Further investigations revealed that melamine paired with another contaminant, cyanuric acid, is what caused it. If you’d rather not take the risk, we don’t blame you.

Some bamboo bowls may also contain BPA, so if you decide it’s the perfect bowl for your pooch, ensure it’s clearly labelled “BPA-free”.

Silicone bowls 

Silicone dog bowls are usually for travelling. Many are collapsable, so you can easily tuck it away in your bag or pocket. They’re nonstick, nontoxic and don’t hold on to nasty odours or stains. You can even stick them in the dishwasher after a muddy walk to give them a proper clean.

As long as you choose “food-grade silicone”, it won’t leach chemicals into your pup’s food or water and will be able to handle extreme temperatures. The downside is a pup can easily rip it to shreds. But if you’re using it for long walks, it should be fine, as you’ll pack it away before they have the chance. 

dog bowl

Different types of dog bowls

So that covers materials. There’s definitely a lot of options to make you think. But what type of dog bowl should you choose?

Raised bowls

Raised bowls are exactly what they sound like. Many pawrents believe they come with health benefits, such as improved posture and reduced chance of bloat. But, sadly, these claims have been disproven.

In fact, one study showed that raised bowls can even increase bloat, especially in large and giant breed dogs and those with sensitive tummies. And a doggos posture doesn’t really need correcting. Even tall breeds are comfortable eating from a standard dog bowl. It’s how they evolved. Ideally, you’re only choosing a raised bowl when your pups age orillnesses need you to. 

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to raised bowls, so make sure to check out our blog on them!

Flat-faced dog bowls 

Yep, there are bowls out there designed for members of the #squishyfacecrew

Since brachycephalic pups have squashed snouts, they often struggle to get to the bottom of their dog bowl. As they try to get that last bit of kibble, they can end up swallowing a lot of air that turns discomfort in the digestive tract. And farts. Lots of farts.

These bowls are titled and often have a curve in the rim so your pup can lower their face and hoover everything up. This design means they don’t have to put their whole face into the bowl, helping them to breathe better too. 

Slow feeders

Some doggos eat at the speed of light. It could be their instincts kicking in, a worry that someone might try to steal their food, or they might be extremely passionate about mealtimes. Either way, eating too fast is bad for them. It can lead to choking, bloat, GI discomfort, and vomiting.

Slow feeders could be the solution. These bowls have a puzzle- or maze-like pattern built in to slow your pup down. They require some slowing down and problem-solving, just like how their ancestors used to dine. They had to work for their food. Your pup has to figure out the best way to get to their food. It’s great for mental stimulation, which can prevent them from becoming bored and chewing up your trainers.

One big issue with slow feeders is that they’re often made of plastic. So you might have to spend longer looking for stainless steel or silicone versions. And some dogs just… aren’t as bright as others. Your pup may struggle to figure out how to eat from this crazy, complicated puzzle before them. But you can make it easier for them by helping them out and taking it slowly. 

That’s if they have any patience at all. They might just flip it over and eat directly off the floor instead. Can you blame them? They’re hungry after all!

Automatic feeders

These feeders automatically top up your pup’s food or water bowl. It’s like their own personal butler. But does your pup need one?

It depends on how voracious their appetite is. If they’re the type to wolf down every meal and eat everything they can get their mouths on, this could help them slow down.

Pups are still very instinctive creatures. They don’t know when their next meal will come, even though they live a five-star lifestyle. So many will eat more than they should to overcompensate. Given half the chance, they’ll just eat and eat and eat.

Obviously, this can then lead to weight issues which can affect their joints, lead to diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and affect their overall health and happiness. So by doling out their feeding on a more structured basis can balance out their diet.

But automatic feeders can also work wonders if you have a doggo that needs to put on weight. And if you use it for their water, you can keep your pup hydrated while you’re away. 

One concern is that automatic feeders are often plastic, meaning your pup can chew them, creating the perfect environment for bacteria. So you might have to balance the usefulness of the feeder with the material to decide what’s best for your pooch.

So if you want a TL;DR when it comes to a dog bowl, use stainless steel. It’s durable, hygienic, and easy to clean – there’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. It’s your safest choice and it’s hard to go wrong with it! This is for both their food and water bowl, so find a nice set that you think your pup will love.

At the end of the day, we just want the best for our furry loaves. And that includes giving them the top nutrition they deserve…

Looking for a mouthwatering, protein-packed meal free from nasties? You’re in the right place. Swagwags delivers delicious hypoallergenic kibble straight to your door. Check out our range of kibble today.

If you’re ever concerned about potential allergies, take one of our sensitivity tests. It’s non-invasive and takes 5 minutes to do – a small price for perfect pup health!