In this article, we tell you everything you need to know about copper pet water and food bowls for your beloved family pet. Let's get started!
While copper water bottles and pitchers are increasingly popular choices for humans with wellness on the mind, did you know that choosing copper water and food bowls for your pet can also be a great and healthy choice?
Copper, a soft metal known for its shiny reddish color, has been used for centuries to hold and transport water and other liquids. This is because it was observed that the water and liquids inside the copper vessels were of a higher quality. From the old days of the Roman Empire to now, we still use copper pipe systems to transport water in our homes, buildings and cities. This is because the combination of copper and water has fantastic health benefits for not only us, but our pets, too!
Nowadays, petcare companies and artisans have started to design and manufacture pure copper and copper-plated pet bowls. There are several reasons to switch to a copper pet bowl--read on to find out why!
In this guide, you will learn the following:
- What are copper pet bowls?
- Different types of copper pet bowls
- Are copper pet bowls safe?
- How do copper pet bowls work and how does copper affect water?
- Biofilm and the oligodynamic effect
- How to care for copper pet bowls
- What are the benefits of copper pet bowls for pet owners?
- How do pets typically react to copper pet bowls?
- What are the benefits of copper pet bowls for pets?
What are Copper Pet Bowls?
When purchasing new pet bowls, you have many options. Stainless steel, glass and ceramic bowls are popular options for their high quality and aesthetic, while plastic bowls are cheaper and more durable. Rising in popularity these days, however, are copper food and water bowls for your pets. There are several different kinds of copper pet bowls based on construction and amount of copper used, which we will discuss a little further on. The most effective copper pet bowls are pure copper pet bowls. This is because pure copper will remain cleaner and healthier for your pet than lacquered copper bowls.
Copper pet bowls are becoming more popular for several reasons: their beautiful appearance as well as the fantastic benefits for both pet owners and their pets. As discussed in the introduction, copper has many health benefits. This is because copper is a powerful natural antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial material. The scientific concept behind this phenomenon is called the oligodynamic effect, which we will explain later on.
Different Types of Copper Pet Bowls
There are a few different kinds of copper pet bowls. These differences are not in the price or appearance but in the composition of the bowl. These distinctions are very important to note because they relate to how you can use the bowls and how effective the bowls are.
For example, some pet bowls are 100% pure solid copper. Pure copper, of course, is the most effective at attacking and destroying the bacteria, viruses and fungi found in pet bowls. However, pure copper bowls lack a resin or lacquer top coat. Without this protective top later, pure copper bowls can only be used as water bowls for your pets. This is because copper can react with acidic substances, like those found in dry or canned pet food. Chemical reactions between pure copper and acidic substances can be dangerous, making the pet food unsafe for animals. Thus, bowls with a pure copper surface must only be used for drinking water.
Other copper bowl types are stainless steel but coated with 100% pure copper. Again, because the surface of the bowl is copper, the bowl can only be used with water. On the other hand, other types of bowls have a food-safe coat made from resin or lacquer on top of the copper surface. Bowls that feature these protective layers can be used as food bowls. However, because the copper surface is now covered, the bowl will not have the same bacteria, virus and fungi fighting properties as the other bowls. If you are looking for a matching food bowl to accompany your water bowl, a lacquered copper bowl, silver or stainless steel bowl would work just fine.
Are Copper Pet Bowls Safe?
While copper pet bowls are generally the safest, best option for your pet, there are a few safety concerns for cats and dogs that may apply to your pets and that you should be aware of. Despite copper being an essential part of a pet’s diet, there are some situations where ingesting copper or copper-charged water can affect your pet negatively. For example, if your pet has been diagnosed with Copper Storage Disease, your pet should not drink or eat from copper pet bowls. In fact, pets with this disease should not even be given water from copper pipes.
Copper Storage Disease (also called Copper Storage Hepatopathy) is a hereditary disorder where copper accumulates in the liver, causing inflammation of the liver, which leads to the animal developing hepatitis. After copper is consumed, it is absorbed in the stomach and small intestine but is stored in the liver, kidneys and brain. Sometimes, especially for some breeds, it is the copper storage in the liver that leads to excess copper in the body. As mentioned, there are some specific breeds that are biologically inclined to have issues with copper storage. These breeds include: Bedlington Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Skye Terriers and Labrador Retrievers. Copper toxicity is more common in females than in males. In addition, while it is possible for cats to develop Copper Storage Disease, these cases are considered to be rare and isolated.
If you notice a change in your pet after using a copper water bowl for some time and suspect copper toxicity, there are several typical symptoms to look out for. Please note that the symptoms are the same for both dogs and cats. The symptoms are:
- Weight Loss and Anorexia
- Dark urine caused by the presence of bilirubin
- Hemoglobin in the urine
If you are unsure whether a copper pet bowl is right for your pet, contact your veterinarian for advice. If your pet is not a cat or dog, also consult your veterinarian about whether a copper bowl is safe for your pet.
How Do Copper Pet Bowls Work and How Does Copper Affect Water?
So, how are copper pet bowls better than stainless steel, glass, ceramic and plastic bowls? It comes down to how copper pet bowls work. Copper contains metal ions that are able to kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. These microorganisms are bacteria, viruses and fungi swimming around in your pet’s water bowl. Copper is also able to destroy mold and algae. This is known as the oligodynamic effect. The oligodynamic effect, first recognized by the scientific community over 150 years ago, is what allows copper pet bowls to be super clean and healthy for the furry members of your family. It is important to provide your pets with a clean water bowl for several reasons.
Biofilm and the Oligodynamic Effect
One reason to switch to copper bowls is due to the biofilm that forms in other types of pet bowls. Biofilm is the scientific term for the clear slime you might find inside your pet’s water bowl. Biofilm is a by-product of your pet’s saliva mixing with the water in the bowl. Biofilm can contain disease causing viruses, fungi and bacteria, from E.coli to lyme disease to salmonella.
If the biofilm is ingested, it can cause life-threatening conditions or diseases. Other diseases that can result from ingesting biofilm include systemic inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, urinary tract infections (UTIs), chronic kidney diseases (more prevalent in cats), bladder infections and middle-ear infections. Biofilm can also lead to serious dental problems for your pets. The bacteria that combines to create biofilm can lead to dental plaque formation, which in turn leads to dental calculus formation, periodontal disease and more.
Luckily, copper-plated pet bowls can prevent biofilm from forming due to copper’s natural antibacterial properties and the oligodynamic effect. Scientists believe that the oligodynamic effect happens when copper ions attack the cell walls of bacteria. The membrane damage that results leads to the inactivation of the bacteria. In 2007, a group of student researchers in Kathmandu conducted a study on copper pots holding water. These researchers wanted to observe the oligodynamic action that some heavy metals, like copper, possess. The researchers found that copper did indeed exert “a lethal effect on bacterial cells.” Furthermore, they found that copper was even better at killing bacteria than silver or brass. Based on their findings, they suggest that copper be used in water filters as well as be used to store water.
Other studies have focused on copper’s effect on specific bacteria. For example, recent studies have found that copper surfaces can kill over 99.9% of E.coli microbes after just 1-2 hours. These studies also examined copper alloys and found that the higher the copper content, the higher the bacterial kill rate. This means that 100% pure copper surfaces, like those used to make many copper pet bowls, are the most effective at eliminating bacteria in your pet’s water bowl. Other studies have compared copper with brass, aluminum and stainless steel. These studies found that while brass is comparable to copper, aluminum and stainless steel act as breeding grounds for gross and dangerous bacteria. The inherent antimicrobial properties of copper make it an excellent choice for pet bowls!
Bacteria-fighting copper in its native form. Source: Wikipedia
How to Care for Copper Pet Bowls
Copper pet bowls can last a long while with the right care! Because copper can tarnish, there are a few extra precautions you can take to prevent the development of verdigris. Verdigris is the bright bluish-green patina that is formed on copper overtime due to atmospheric oxidation (think of the Statue of Liberty, which is made from copper). If your copper pet bowl tarnishes to this point, you must cease using the bowl, as verdigris is toxic. However, verdigris can be prevented and light tarnishing can be removed.
An example of a copper statue that has developed verdigris.
One way to prevent copper tarnishing is to only use cold, non-acidic water in your pet bowl. If you use municipal water, acidic water should not be a concern as anything acidic would ruin the city’s water pipes. However, if you are concerned about the acidity of your water source, there are easy at-home pH tests you can conduct. UC Santa Barbara suggests using litmus paper or a pH test strip to determine the level of acidity of a specific water source.
Another way to prevent tarnishing is to wipe the bowl with a clean cloth between fills. If you fill with fresh water each evening, you can wipe the bowl down and refill once during the day and wipe the bowl down again that night before filling the bowl back up. To prevent tarnishing you must also hand wash the bowl about once a week. While some bowls do say they are dishwasher safe, the safest way is to hand wash. When you hand wash your copper pet bowl, you have more control over the elements the bowl is exposed to and for how long.
To hand wash your bowl, use hot water, a gentle soap and soft sponge. Do not use harsh detergents, rough sponges or scrub the bowl too hard as doing so may damage the bowl. You should also polish your copper bowl once a month or when you find that it has tarnished. To do this, create a mixture of 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of baking soda or salt. With the mixture, rub the bowl and then remove with a clean cloth. If you do not have lemon juice, apple cider or white vinegar may be used.
If the bowl tarnishes to the point of verdigris, it should be replaced. If the bowl is significantly scratched, dented, deformed or otherwise damaged, the bowl should be repaired or replaced. You can always contact the manufacturer of your copper pet bowl for more information in this regard.
What are the Benefits of Copper Pet Bowls for Pet Owners?
Switching to copper pet bowls is a benefit for both you and your pet! For starters, one of the nicest benefits of using a copper pet bowl is peace of mind given how they naturally disinfect your pet’s water. Due to copper’s great antimicrobial properties, you can rest assured that your pet is drinking the cleanest water possible, free from bacteria, disease and fungi. With copper pet bowls, you have one less health and hygiene concern for your pets. Providing your pet with the freshest, cleanest water possible will ensure that they avoid potentially life-threatening diseases and bacteria.
Another added benefit of using copper pet bowls is that your pet will be drinking copper-charged water. Although we have discussed the potential risks involved when your pet consumes copper, copper toxicity is generally rare and not an issue. After all, copper is an essential mineral for humans, cats and dogs. Animals use copper to develop red blood cells as well as form collagen, bone and connective tissue. Copper also helps with the absorption of iron, works as an antioxidant and helps develop pigment in hair.
Because copper is necessary for many of these bodily processes, in 2015 the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) stated that in order for dog food to be considered “complete and balanced,” it must contain no less than 7.3 mg of copper per each kilogram of food. The official maximum copper intake for dogs is 250 mg. For cats, the recommended daily requirement varies. For kittens, pregnant or nursing cats the requirement is 2.3 mg of copper per pound of canned cat food and 7 mg per pound of dry cat food. For adult cats, the recommended daily requirement is 2.3 mg per pound of any (dry or canned) cat food. Lastly, some human foods high in copper can also be fed to pets. These include: liver, fish, whole grains and legumes. However, we recommend consulting your veterinarian before giving your pet any unconventional foods.
As you can see, copper is a vital mineral for your dogs and cats to consume. So not only will your pets have access to bacteria-free, sparkling clean water, they will also be able to consume trace amounts of copper through the water. Switching to copper pet bowls is such a simple way to support your pet’s health!
Another benefit of using copper pet bowls is that they are cleaner for you! Instead of scrubbing biofilm the long and hard way, washing your copper pet bowl can be as simple as running your bowl under hot water with gentle soap and then wiping the bowl completely clean! Not only do copper pet bowls have these benefits, they also just look nicer! Copper pet bowls are trendy, beautiful to look at and will look great in your home.
How do Pets Typically React to Copper Pet Bowls?
If you are worried about how your pet will react to a new copper pet bowl, you should not be worried at all! In fact, most pets seem to prefer drinking out of copper bowls. Most pets are drawn in by the luster of the bright copper and begin to drink heartily and regularly from their new copper bowl as they enjoy crystal clear, cleaner water. Their old plastic or stainless steel bowls are forgotten and ignored as they enjoy their shiny new water bowl.
In fact, one blogger found that copper bowls even worked for their pickiest, oldest cat, which suffered from various illnesses that made drinking water more difficult. Copper pet bowls can change your pet’s life for the better!
As the Copper Development Association has reported, copper has been used to sterilize drinking water since 2000 BC. For thousands of years, copper has been used consistently for water sterilization purposes due to its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. The fact that copper can inactivate bacteria and viruses in your pet’s water bowls makes copper bowls an obvious choice if you want your pet to drink the healthiest and cleanest water. Anytime is a great time to replace those old, slimy pet bowls with sleek-looking and beneficial copper bowls.
About the Authors: This article was collaboratively written by our team of researchers and writers with the benefit of all available scientific studies and other relevant literature. Our team of researchers and writers include experienced health researchers including a qualified medical professional. Please note that information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.