Find out more about food and water bowls.

When it’s time to feed your pet, you’re probably way more concerned with what’s going into the bowl than the bowl itself. Holds food? Check. Holds water? Check. Seems like enough. But there’s actually a lot more to consider.

Let’s start with cleaning. Some bowls are more porous and bacteria-prone than others (we’ll get to that), but no matter what you select, you should be washing your pet’s food and water bowl daily. Dishwasher-safe options will make your life easier, but if not use soap and the hottest water you can stand to scrub their dishes and rinse thoroughly—unlike us, pets aren’t fans of squeaky clean soap smells.

As usual, the size of what you need depends on the size of your dog.  Little ones like little, shallow bowls, and larger dogs need deeper bowls with more room. Height matters too. A raised feeder can make life easier for older, arthritic dogs and really tall breeds by placing their food and water at the perfect height. Just be sure to keep an eye out while they’re eating, because raised food bowls do make it easier for gulpers to gobble dinner too fast.

Speaking of gulpers, there are bowls that can help slow them down (and save them from throwing it all up). Slow feeders are usually made from plastic or stainless steel and have ridges, grooves or other structures that trick your pet into eating pieces individually rather than hoovering them all up at once

What kind of food are you feeding your pet? If you’re giving them a raw or freeze-dried raw diet, a stainless steel bowl is your absolute best bet. Dishwasher-safe and stainless steel? Even better. It’s the easiest kind of bowl to keep clean and bacteria-free, and that’s important because with a raw diet you’ll need to wash their bowl thoroughly after each meal. Stainless steel bowls are super durable and rust-resistant but remember that doesn’t mean you should use them outdoors (they get way too hot).

Hitting the road with your pet? Collapsible bowls are made of lightweight materials that make them easy to pack. Some are silicone, which is non-toxic, heat resistant, non-porous and easy to clean. Polyester with a nylon liner is another popular option because it’s so light and portable.

If you’re a total design hound, ceramic bowls are a good choice. But be careful— only buy ones labeled “food safe” and “made with lead free glaze.” Plus, because they’re porous, they tend to harbor bacteria. That means you’ll need to wash them after each meal (whether it’s a food or water bowl) and never use them with raw food.

Ever heard of whisker fatigue? It’s a fancy way of saying that cats would prefer their sensitive whiskers not touch the sides of the bowl and give them weird sensations as they try to chow down, thank you very much. Keep your feline friend happy with a food bowl that’s shallow but wide enough to give them plenty of room. Avoid plastic bowls as they scratch easily, allowing bacteria to form.

Don’t forget the H20. A freezable bowl can be placed in the freezer to keep water cold for up to 8 hours, which is so important in summer. Looking for a whisker-friendly water solution? Skip the bowl and treat the furry ruler of your home to their very own cat fountain. Whatever you choose, always keep it full of clean water (out of a purifying system is best) and keep it clean daily (yes, water bowls get bacteria too).

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