Tag Archives: zoonoses

Your dog’s water bowl: microbiology

This research was delivered to the 69th Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science meeting in August 2018.

It’s important to clean your dog’s water bowl regularly – don’t be tempted to simply keep filling it up because bacteria grows on the sides of the bowl.  (Run your finger over it and you’ll probably feel a slippery surface – that’s called biofilm)

I personally like stainless steel bowls because they can be washed in very hot water in the dishwasher and because they are durable and recyclable.

Dog water bowl


The number of pet dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) in the common household is continually rising. The increasingly close contact between humans and cohabitant pets is leading to concerns regarding bacterial transmission of zoonoses. The dog water bowl has been identified as the third most contaminated item within the household, suggesting that it is able to act as a fomite for bacterial transmission, particularly where young or immunocompromised individuals are present.

Studies in livestock have identified that water trough construction material influences bacterial count; however no similar research has been conducted for dog water bowls.

The objectives of the current study were to identify which dog bowl material, plastic, ceramic or stainless steel, harbours the most bacteria over a 14 day period and whether the species identified varies between bowl materials. The study took place over 6 weeks. A sample of 6, medium sized (10-25kg) dogs, aged 2-7 (mean= 3.8 ± 1.95), was used. All dogs were clinically healthy, housed individually and located within a rural environment. All bowls were purchased brand new and sterilised prior to a two week sampling period.

On day 0, day 7 and day 14 swabs were taken from each bowl and 10-fold serial dilutions were conducted on blood agar. The cultured bacteria were subjected to biochemical testing and the most prominent bacteria from day 14 were further identified using PCR. A significant difference was identified for all bowl materials when comparing total CFU/ml between day 0 and day 7 and day 0 and day 14 (p<0.05). No significant difference was identified between total CFU/ml and bowl material (P>0.05), however descriptive statistics suggest that the plastic bowl material maintains the highest bacterial count after 14 days.

Several medically important bacteria were identified from the bowls, including MRSA and Salmonella, with the majority of species being identified from the ceramic bowl. This could suggest that harmful bacteria may be able to develop biofilms more successfully on ceramic materials. Further research is required to identify the most suitable or alternative materials for dog water bowls.

Source: Microbiological Assessment of Canine Drinking Water and the Impact of Bowl Construction Material

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Can you give your dog the flu?

The answer is ‘yes’ but the risk and mode of transmission is poorly understood.

Researchers at Oregon State University and Iowa State University are studying reverse zoonosis.  This is where disease goes from human to animal (rather than animal to human).  There are documented cases of H1N1 being transmitted to 13 cats and 1 dog in the 2011-2012 period.

The research team is looking for more cases of human to animal transmission so they can better understand the risks to public health.  “It’s reasonable to assume there are many more cases of this than we know about, and we want to learn more,” researcher Christiane Loehr said.   “Any time you have infection of a virus into a new species, it’s a concern, a black box of uncertainty. We don’t know for sure what the implications might be, but we do think this deserves more attention.”

Any new movement of a virus from one species to another is a concern because viruses mutate and they can mutate into more virulent or easily transmittable forms.

If you think you have the flu, it’s probably a good idea to respect good hygiene practices with everyone in the household and that means keeping your distance from your dog as well.  And if someone in your household has been unwell with influenza and your dog is experiencing respiratory symptoms, a visit to your vet is recommended.

Source:  Oregon State University press release