It’s not often I get to give advice on washing dishes, but a reader’s question got me to do just that!
Q: How often do I have to clean my pets’ dishes? Can I just give them a quick swish with hot water? And what types of dishes are best?
A: Much as I’d like to save you some time in your kitchen cleanup routine, a hot water rinse isn’t enough to sanitize your dog or cat’s dishes. A pet’s food and water bowls should be cleaned thoroughly in hot, soapy water after every use, just as you would with your own dishes.
Not many of us love washing dishes by hand, although some people say they find it relaxing. You can run your pets’ dishes through the dishwasher. Use the sanitize or high-temperature cycle. For pathogens to meet a steamy death, the water temperature inside the dishwasher must reach and stay at a minimum of 155 degrees Fahrenheit. The other bonus to using the dishwasher is that it’s a water saver. According to a study from the University of Bonn in Germany, dishwashers use less water and require less energy than washing dishes by hand.
That said, I believe you should wash pet dishes separately from dishes used by human family members. I think this is especially important if you have young children, seniors or people with compromised immune systems living in your home. They are most susceptible to bacteria such as salmonella, MRSA and leptospira, which can be spread between animals and humans. Washing dishes separately adds an extra barrier to transmission.
I usually recommend stainless steel or ceramic dishes. They are both long-lasting and easy to clean, but ceramic dishes are prone to breakage. If bowls become chipped, replace them. Bacteria can hide out in the broken areas. Battered plastic dishes can also harbor bacteria, and that can lead to chin acne or other skin problems in cats and dogs.