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Dogs Health

BioFilm on Pet Bowls – What it is and How to Clean

biofilm in pet's bowls

Have you ever wondered about that “slimy coating” in your pet’s water bowl? Here in Arizona, it’s especially important to keep these bowls clean or you could wind up with a lot of hard water toxins and a nasty thing called biofilm.

biofilm in pet's bowls

What is Biofilm?

Biofilm is a collection of good and bad bacteria along with lots of inorganic microorganisms. This combination of living organisms settles on the bottom and sides of your pet’s water bowl, creating a sticky, slimy film.

Biofilm can appear in a wide variety of colors and designs, and it’s not something you want to see in your pet’s bowl.

In Arizona, biofilm often includes a special addition of hard water minerals and salts that can add to the problem. This accumulation of salts and minerals from our water looks like a white line along the side of your pet’s water bowl.

When combined with biofilm, it can create health problems for your pets.

Is Biofilm Really Bad?

Nothing is 100% good or bad, but in the case of biofilm, there is more bad than good. Not only does it create the perfect environment for dangerous bacteria like Listeria, E. coli, Legionella, and even Leptospirosis – it also makes your pet not want to drink their water.

In Arizona, a pet that refuses to drink is already in a very dangerous situation. Water is life in the desert and it’s important to do all you can to encourage your pet to drink as much as they can.

How to Remove Biofilm

Biofilm is not something that can be rinsed out.


In order to effectively remove the slick mess, you’ll need to do a scrub with warm, soapy water.

It’s suggested that you do a thorough cleaning each week, but if you’re seeing this film develop quickly, you may need to wash bowls daily.

How to Avoid Biofilm

There is no real way to avoid this accumulation. Unfortunately, our pet’s mouths just naturally excrete chemicals that create a perfect recipe for biofilm. However, using the proper dishes and/or a pet fountain can help you avoid the worst of it.

When selecting a pet bowl, it’s best to avoid plastic. Plastic can create acne on your dogs and cats chins, which can become also become a health problem. Stainless steel or ceramic bowls are a much better option (and can help your pet avoid plastic-related chin acne). For water bowls, it helps dramatically to use a pet fountain.

Fountain-type bowls keep the water moving and filtered. For our pets, this is especially important. Not only do they improve water intake (pets love drinking out of moving water), they also help keep biofilm at bay.

When choosing a fountain, read the reviews. The fountain should be easy to clean and simple to change out filters. One of the better known fountains is from Drinkwells pet fountains (Drinkwells is now a subsidiary of PetSafe).

There are also water bubblers if your pet tends to avoid streams of water. We love the newest stainless steel bubbler from CatIt!

But, there are many different types of fountains and it’s best to choose one that your pets love even if it doesn’t meet every protocol for cleaning.

Whether you choose bowls or fountains for your pets, it’s critical that they have 24-hour access to clean water. The Sonoran desert is unforgiving and if your pets decrease their water consumption, it can quickly lead to expensive and often tragic issues with their kidneys and liver.

Water helps keep your pets cool and gives them the resources they need to survive in our desert environment.


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