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Communal dog bowls – yum or yuck?

The dog bowls have become a regular sight on the high street and in parks. You often spot them outside cafes, put there so that when you stop for a refreshing drink, your pet can join in too.
But just as you wouldn’t share the same glass with people in the café, should your dog be drinking out of a water bowl that many other pets have also used?

Communal health risk
Pet owners and vets are becoming increasingly concerned about shared water bowls and the potential risk of cross-infection of contagious canine diseases such as Distemper, Kennel Cough (Bordetella) and Parvovirus.
It is true that there are few communicable diseases that are spread directly by mouth. One example is the canine papilloma virus which may spread through your dog’s saliva if he has contact with a dog carrying the virus. Symptoms are small warts or benign tumors that develop on your dog’s tongue, lips, gums or in his throat.
However, although not spread directly by oral contact, many other infections and viruses can find their way into a communal dog bowl and affect your pet.

Canine flu
Take Kennel cough and canine flu for example. These airborne respiratory diseases are transmitted though sneezing and coughing. The germs can survive in water in a communal dog bowl too, if an infected dog has coughed nearby.
Dogs with their fondness for sniffing each other’s body parts are already exposed to faecal waste. However, if faecal bacteria get into the communal drinking bowl, intestinal pathogens such as roundworms and parvovirus could be easily spread from pet to pet.

While you might well give your dog fresh water every day and regularly clean his water bowl, can you be sure the communal bowl in the park is receiving the same level of cleanliness? Or whether the low water level is just being topped up rather than removed and replaced?
Dog water bowls are more common in the very hot weather in a bid to keep pets hydrated whilst they are out and about. However, it is good to remember that a dog’s water bowl can be affected by the heat and should be placed in the shade. Stagnant water is never good to drink.

Easy solution
If your dog has a strong and healthy immune system, it is less likely he will contract a serious disease from a shared water bowl. However, if you pet suffers from poor or ill health, you might want to carry your own portable dog bowl and water supply with you.
A stainless steel, non-porous dog bowl which is regularly put in the dishwasher, is the best option for dog bowl hygiene.
Finally, extend this good hygiene practice to the home too. If you have more than one pet sharing a water dish, make sure to wash your dog bowl thoroughly every day.

Emma Hammett
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