What is Really in Your Dog’s Water Bowl?

Your Dog's Water Bowl

Okay, it’s time for a little honesty.

How many of you refill your dog’s water bowl on a daily basis? Raise your hands.

And how many of you scrub and clean your dog’s water bowl with soap and water before you refill it? Keep them raised…

That’s what I thought.

Today we’re going to look at why it’s important for you to scrub that bowl clean EVERY day.


Your Dog's Water Bowl


Have you ever picked up your dog’s water bowl to refill it and felt a slimy layer around the bowl? Or perhaps you’ve seen a sort of “skin” or film on top of the water? That is called “biofilm”.

What is “biofilm”?

Biofilm is a collection of dead and living organic and inorganic material. Think of it as lots of different types of bacteria holding hands to create a slimy cover on the top of your dog’s water and on the sides of the bowl.

But where does biofilm come from? I mean, you brush your dog’s teeth regularly, right? And you wash their water bowl out at least once a week, don’t you?

Well, regardless of your dog’s dental hygiene, the fact is that he or she still has a host of bacteria living in their mouth.

Yes, regular dental hygiene is going to impact the level of bacteria within your dog’s mouth, but the simple fact of the matter is, is that we all have bacteria in our mouths.

We have good bacteria – bacteria that works to keep our teeth and gums healthy.

Then we have bad bacteria – bacteria that thrives by feeding on sugars and starches that we eat. These are the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Just as we have them, so too do our dogs.

But isn’t it true that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s?

Not really. Dogs and humans can have equally dirty mouths, but the difference (in most cases) is that the bacteria in your dog’s mouth is not as at home as the bacteria in your mouth. So, for the most part, another human’s mouth is more potentially harmful than a dog’s mouth.

Still, that isn’t to say that the bacteria in your dog’s mouth can’t be harmful to you or them.

Even with good dental hygiene, the bad bacteria in your dog’s mouth


Dog Mouth

Of the bad bacteria found in the average canine’s mouth, there are three that are of particular concern – Porphyromonas gulae, Tannerella forsythia, and Campylobacter rectus.

Porphyromonas gulae – Implicated in periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gulae is a gram-negative bacteria found in the mouths of many animals.

Tannerella forsythia – Also implicated in periodontal disease, Tannerella forsythia is a gram-negative bacteria found in the mouths of many animals.

Campylobacter rectus – Implicated in chronic periodontal disease and the bone loss that can result, Campylobacter rectus is a campylobacter species.

When our dog’s drink from their water bowl, these naturally found bacteria can contaminate the water. When we don’t thoroughly clean bowls, this bacteria is allowed to thrive and collect and soon the environment becomes quite hospitable to other bacteria as well.

When left to stand without being cleaned with hot, soapy water, our dog’s water bowls can become host to dangerous bacteria like legionella, listeria, and E Coli.

Legionella – This is a bacteria that lives and thrives in stagnant freshwater that is usually contaminated by other bacteria. It is most often found in lakes and ponds, but can contaminate other freshwater supplies as well. Legionella bacteria is the bacteria that contributes to Legionellosis, Legionnaire’s disease, and Pontiac fever. Legionellosis is an upper respiratory infection caused by the bacteria. A mild form of legionellosis is referred to as Pontiac fever and is characterized by a fever and mild flu-like symptoms. When the bacteria takes up in the lungs, however, it causes a very significant form of pneumonia. This is known as Legionnaire’s disease and it can be fatal.

While humans, as well as other animals, can contract legionella, there has not yet been a case of a dog being infected with the disease. Humans become infected by the bacteria through ingestion or inhalation of the infected water.

Listeria – This is a bacteria that can thrive in both food and water sources. Listeria bacteria is the bacteria that contributes to Listeriosis. Listeriosis is a serious illness that causes fever, diarrhea, and muscle aches, and it can be particularly dangerous to compromised individuals.

Humans are particularly susceptible to listeria infection. While dogs can carry the infection, they rarely become ill from the bacteria unless they have a compromised immune system. Infection by Listeria bacteria is most commonly the result of eating contaminated food, but it can also be contracted by ingesting contaminated water. This is an exceptionally difficult bacteria to eliminate and can even thrive inside a refrigerator.

E. Coli – Escherichia coli, or E. Coli, is a bacteria found in the environment, in some foods, and within the intestines of both humans and animals. There are a great number of different types of E. Coli bacteria types and not all are as harmful as others.  Some forms of E. Coli can contribute to mild diarrhea, some can lead to urinary tract or upper respiratory infections, where others can cause pneumonia. Most commonly when dogs are infected with E. Coli, their symptoms include diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, and vomiting.

Humans and animals both are susceptible to infection from E. Coli bacteria. Infection is caused by ingestion of infected food or water, as well as through contracting the infection from feces or hand to mouth contamination of an infected individual (human or animal.)


E. Coli

…still think you don’t need to wash your dog’s water bowl at least once a day?

And while you’re at it, clean that food bowl as well!

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