Your dog is ready to eat or drink, and he doesn't really care what kind of bowls he has to lap from. But to keep your dog healthy, be sure the bowls you choose are safe and durable.
Stainless Steel Bowls
Although possibly the least interesting of all dog bowl choices, stainless steel is generally the safest choice. Stainless steel is non-porous, which means tiny bacteria can't seep into the surface of the bowl. These shiny metal bowls also don't scratch easily, which means no cracks or crevices for food particles or bacteria to hide. Stainless steel bowls are easy to clean and can safely be washed in a dishwasher.
If you choose stainless steel bowls, be sure to ask questions before buying the bowls. In July 2012, some stainless steel bowls were recalled from 11 Petco stores based on concerns about low levels of radiation in the bowls. To lower the risk of any radiation in the bowls (often as a result of recycling scrap metal), stick to stainless steel bowls sourced and manufactured in the United States.
Dogs generally have an easy time eating and drinking from stainless steel bowls. If your pooch has a short snout, consider one a bowl with a sloping side to make it easier to get the food. Stainless steel slow-feeding and non-tipping bowls are also available.
Ceramic bowls are generally safe for your canine companion. The most important factor in choosing a quality ceramic bowl is the glaze. A ceramic bowl should have a lead-free glaze and be labeled as safe for food. Ideally, the entire bowl will be glazed, and not just the eating or drinking surface. With a quality glaze, a ceramic bowl will be easy to clean.
Ceramic bowls are generally easy for dogs to use. The heavy bowls are hard to tip over or pick up, so ceramic is a great choice for an exuberant eater.
Some of the newest and most popular dog bowl are made of silicone. These flexible and durable bowls are available in a variety of colors and sizes, and work great for travel bowls. Silicone bowls are fairly easy to clean and are almost always safe for the dishwasher. They do offer a hospitable surface for algae, so be sure to wash the bowls often, especially water bowls.
Silicone is commonly used in cookware and bowls used for humans, too, and is generally considered to be a safe product. Silicone dog bowls are relatively new, so there isn't a lot of evidence about the safety of the bowls yet.
Some of the newest bowls on the market are made of renewable products, including corn, sugar and paper. These biodegradable bowls are great for traveling, since you can use them a few times and then safely toss them in the trash. Bamboo bowls are also eco-friendly, but are more durable than the disposable bowls.
Avoid Plastic Bowls
The most popular and least expensive dog bowls available are plastic bowls. However, you should avoid plastic bowls for your canine companion for three reasons. First, plastic bowls aren't very durable. While your back is turned, your dog may decide that the bowl is a chew toy and destroy it. Small bits of plastic can cause intestinal blockage or internal bleeding. Second, plastic bowls are very hospitable to bacteria. They are easily scratched, leaving small crevices for food particles to hide and for bacteria to grow. Finally, you have to be concerned about BPA leaking from the bowls and causing permanent health damage to your pup. It's worth it to spend a few extra dollars to get a a cleanable, durable, safe bowl.