Bowls are bowls, right?
Many dog and cat owners use a bowl from the cupboard or bowls purchased from the pet store with paw prints circling the base and don't think any more about it. And you know what? Those might be just fine. But there are other options.
Plastic bowls are inexpensive and handyThe commonly found plastic pet bowls with a wide base that makes them difficult to tip over are inexpensive, easy to use and most pets eat from them with no difficulty. However, some dogs like to chew on them and small plastic pieces can pose a danger to the dog if swallowed. As the plastic bowl ages, it can become pitted and bacteria can build up in those pits. Some pets will develop acne on the chin from rubbing against the bacteria infested bowl. It's important to scrub the bowl daily and run it through the dishwasher often to make sure it's really clean.
Metal bowls are sturdy and easy to cleanStainless steel bowls are sturdy and can survive being tossed around by an eager dog. The bowls may become dented or mis-shapen but will remain serviceable as long as the dog doesn't bite holes through them. The metal bowls can be easily cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher. If your dog likes to push his bowl around many have non-slide material on the base. Some dogs who wear dangling tags dislike the sound of their tags hitting a metal bowl, however.
Ceramic bowls are attractiveThese can be found in a variety of shapes and attractive designs and glazes. Make sure, however, that the paints and gazes are safe for the bowl to be used for food as not all are; in fact, some contain lead. Ceramic bowls are generally heavy and can resist pushing by cats and smaller dogs. These are generally sturdy but they are breakable so don't use them for a dog who likes to pick up his bowl.
Narrow bowls are unusual but have their placeIf you have a dog with long ears—such as Basset Hounds—or if your dog has a lot of long hair on his ears—such as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels—you may wish to use a narrow bowl so that the ears stay out of the food. You might want to look for a taller, narrower mixing bowl from a kitchen supply store.
Slow feeding bowls are great for gulpersIf your pet gulps his food (or eats so fast that he vomits afterwards) take a look at the bowls created specifically for these pets. One type of bowl is wide and has pillars rising from the bottom. Another is wide and flatter but has ridges like a maze. These, and others, are designed to slow down the consumption of the food. The dog (or more rarely, cat) can to move around the obstacles to get his food. Most of these are dishwashers safe so cleaning them isn't difficult.
Elevated feeders are great for older dogsElevated feeders are stands that hold the water and food bowls up off the floor. They're nice in that the bowls are kept in one place and most of the set-ups are attractive. For an older dog, especially one with arthritis, these are wonderful. These set-ups are not inexpensive, though, and rowdy dogs can tip them over. At one time these were strongly advertised for dog breeds prone to bloat (most specifically the bigger, deep chested breeds such as German Shepherds and Great Danes). However, research has shown that elevated feeders can actually raise the risk of bloat for these breeds. If you like the idea of an elevated food and water set-up but have some concerns, talk to your veterinarian.
Food dispensing toys are an optionIf your dog is a gulper, you might want to take a look at some of the food dispensing toys available. These hold a certain amount of food and the dog or cat has to move the toy to cause it to dispense a certain amount of food. These are also great if you're going to busy and need to keep your pet amused. These can be more difficult to clean than bowls although some are dishwasher safe. Make sure to choose one that your particular pet cannot chew up and destroy.
Water bowls need to be cleaned dailyIt's easy to put down a large bowl of water and just continue to refill it. However, bacteria can easily build up in a water bowl as your dog drinks from it. When you pick up the bowl to refill it, just create the habit of scrubbing it before filling it. Or better yet, have two bowls and when one needs filling, put it in the dishwasher and put a clean bowl down with water.
Some additional thoughtsAs you choose bowls, make sure that the water bowl will hold sufficient water especially if you're gone for hours each day. The food bowl needs to be large enough to told your pet's meals without the food spilling out while the pet eats. In you have a small dog or cat, he should be able to reach the food in the bottom of the bowl without his neck pressing against the edge of the bowl.
Although most pets—especially dogs—will eat out of anything, some are concerned when new bowls are introduced. If you find your pet is not eating well from the new bowl or is hesitant, go back to the old bowl for a few days. Then offer special treats from the new bowl. This will make the new bowl more exciting and will reduce any anxiety. Then begin feeding normal meals from the new bowls.