Is It Safe for Dogs To Drink Out of Shared Water Bowls?

<p>nycshooter / Getty Images</p>

nycshooter / Getty Images

Reviewed by Nancy Turner

When you're out and about with your pup and you spot a public dog water bowl, you may be inclined to let them have a drink. But is it safe to let your dog drink from shared water bowls? While it may seem harmless and even convenient, shared dog water bowls may contain pathogens that can make your dog sick, even for dogs living in the same home. By understanding the potential health hazards, you can make informed decisions when it comes to your beloved canines' hydration needs. Here's what you need to know about dogs and shared water bowls.

Can Dogs Share Water Bowls?

When it comes to dogs using shared water bowls, the answer isn't black and white. Dogs get thirsty and water is essential, but there are several factors to consider before allowing them to drink from shared water bowls. Consider the environment around the shared water bowl and the condition of the bowl itself.

Risks of Public Water Bowls

Drinking from shared water bowls carries a certain level of risk for dogs, especially public communal water bowls. You might find these bowls at dog parks, outdoor events, and outside of restaurants and shops. And if you've got a thirsty pup, you'll need to make a quick decision.

There's no way to be sure that a communal water bowl is clean, especially around playful puppies and high-energy dog breeds at dog parks. "Dogs tend to put both paws in the water bowl and even pee and turn around and poop in the water bowls, for reasons we pet owners will never understand," says Lindsay Butzer, DVM, and PetMeds partner.

While some dogs may use shared water bowls in public without any issues, there's always a potential for the transmission of diseases and infections.


When multiple dogs drink from the same water bowl, there is a higher chance of contamination from saliva, bacteria, viruses, or parasites that can be present in the soil or the mouths of infected dogs. This can lead to the spread of diseases such as canine influenza and various bacterial infections.

"Dirt at dog parks or communal parks can be full of parasites that live in the soil such as hookworms, roundworms, and giardia," Butzer says. She adds that the same goes for dog feces. "Dogs with runny noses or a cough can also transmit the Bordetella virus through their saliva into communal water bowls, spreading kennel cough to your pet," she continues. Plus, dog urine may contain leptospirosis in it if the dog is infected," she continues.

Dogs with compromised immune systems or those prone to allergies and sensitivities may be more susceptible to contracting illnesses or experiencing adverse reactions from shared water sources.


Communal water bowls may not always be cleaned and sanitized frequently or adequately, which can lead to the buildup of bacteria and other pathogens. Stagnant water can become a breeding ground for harmful microorganisms. And it's possible for our dogs to pass these germs to people and other animals. Drinking from a dirty water bowl is especially a concern in dogs with illnesses or weakened immune systems.

Behavioral Concerns

Dogs who tend to be shy or fearful may become stressed or anxious when sharing a water bowl with other dogs. Additionally, some dogs may exhibit territorial behavior (resource guarding) around water bowls, potentially leading to conflict with other dogs. This can create an unsafe environment for both pets and their owners.

"If your dog is already a resource guarder, they may want to guard the water bowl at the dog park as other dogs gather around to lap up water. This is something you need to be aware of as a pet owner to keep a safe environment for all of the dogs enjoying the park," Butzer says. "Your dog may trigger a fight due to wanting to guard the water bowl and this can lead to pets getting hurt." If this sounds like your dog, Butzer says to pack a separate bowl and bring your own water for your dog and, if possible, don’t let them go near the communal water bowl.

Can Dogs in the Same Home Share Water Bowls?

According to Butzer, dogs in the same household can safely share water bowls, but with a few caveats. "If one dog is sick with kennel cough or a runny nose, you will want to give them separate water bowls so the [healthy] dog doesn’t get sick," Butzer says.

And be sure to keep the bowls clean. Water can quickly get contaminated with saliva and bacteria, so keep the water clean and fresh each day, Butzer says.

How To Safely Provide Water for Your Dog

To ensure the safety of your dog's drinking water, it's best to provide fresh, clean water in their own dedicated water bowl. Simply bring a portable water bowl and a supply of fresh water whenever venturing out. This way, you can control the hygiene and reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Shared dog bowls should be cleaned at least once a day; clean them more often if there are many dogs sharing the same bowl. It's also important to regularly clean the water bowl in a single-pet household. Research shows that there are many germs living in pet bowls that can be easily mitigated through regular washing.

If you're in a situation where communal water bowls are the only option, monitor your dog closely and consider the potential risks involved. "It's always a good idea to make sure you dump out the water and refill it with clean water from a spout or hose for your pet to drink when they're thirsty, or better yet bring your own water for them," Butzer advises. She recommends using stainless-steel water bowls for dogs because they're easy to clean and won't break. However, if fragility is not a concern, then a ceramic bowl is the best bet to keep microorganisms at a minimum.

Ultimately, assessing the conditions of the space you're in is crucial. If all dogs are healthy and the water bowls are regularly cleaned, monitored, and there is no evidence of contamination, it might be deemed acceptable to use them. However, as a responsible pet owner, it's always better to err on the side of caution and prioritize your dog's health and safety by providing them with their own clean water source.