Dishes. Most of the time I’m talking about what to put in a pet’s dish (or what not to put in it), so maybe its time to talk about those dishes themselves.

There are lots of things to consider in choosing the vessel you put your pets food into, things like size, shape, height and what they are made out of, yet in some cases style and colour get more consideration than function.

Probably the first consideration should be what the dish is made out of. Oddly, I get questions about this that stem from bits of information taken out of context.

Today, I had someone who was told not to use stainless steel bowls for raw foods. Stainless can be one of the best and easiest materials to choose for your pet and most have no issues with it. But there are a few dogs that develop skin issues when steel bowls are used, which go away when you switch to ceramic or glass. These are a tiny percentage of all dogs, but that info works its way into general advice, sometimes even up to the pet store level depending on how much training the employees get. I’m not saying that it isn’t a real concern, and if your pet does have issues, it can be real and need to be dealt with. But it is a rare case most need not worry about, and SS bowls are affordable, easy to sanitize and available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

If the animal has an issue with steel bowls, ceramic or glass are great options. They are breakable, which is an issue, but are easy to sanitize and can be chosen to fit your décor. My dog prefers a Pier One soup plate to dine out of, which brings us to the next consideration, shape.

Dogs can be wary of dishes they have to stick their muzzles into, many prefer dishes that are flat and wide. Dogs with flat faces especially so, hence Leia the Frenchie’s preference. Some cats may refuse a deep bowl, and some can experience “whisker fatigue” from trying to eat out of one. So, choosing an appropriate dish shape for your pet can be as important as choosing their food. There are many designs, some with raised levels inside the bowl to allow the pet to push the food up the side to easier get it into their mouths. There are saucer shaped cat bowls that prevent the whiskers from touching the bowl. There are even bowls designed like troughs.

Putting the bowl at the proper height for the pet can be a simple task that we forget all about. Many pets have problems bending down to eat. Back issues, neck issues, or joint problems can make it difficult for them. I had a dachshund once who stopped eating, and we could not figure out why. If we gave her a treat, she’d wolf it down, but her bowl full of food went untouched. Light bulb went off, and I put the bowl on a couple phone books, raising it a few inches off the floor, and she gobbled down the food. Her neck was sore, and bending those few inches was too painful.

Another consideration for raising bowls is bloat/inversion. Dogs that inhale their foods can ingest a lot of air when they hoover up food from a bowl on the floor. This puts them at risk for many complications, the least of which is gas from both ends, the worst of which can include getting a twist in their stomach leading to sepsis and death. By simply raising the bowl to chest level, you reduce the intake of air dramatically.

Recently, silicone bowls are making a big splash. Easy to collapse for transport, they make great portable bowls. They can also be made in shapes to “slow feed” pets by making them work to get at the food. Plastic slow feed bowls have been around a long time, and I didn’t mention plastic earlier in considering materials bowls are made out of because unless you need a slow feed bowl, I don’t recommend plastic. They are hard to sanitize and while cheap and colorful, they are my last choice.

Regardless the bowl you choose, they need to be cleaned after every use. Kibble or raw, bacteria can survive on bowls even if the pets licks it clean. Whether you have a number of bowls so they can go in the dishwasher, or just washing them by hand after every use (I keep a special sponge loaded with antibacterial dish soap in a soap dish on the sink back for this purpose) keeping bowls clean protects you as much as it does your pet.

Putting a little thought in up front can save you from problems down the road, its not hard to choose a dish wisely.

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