Pet owners may not clean their pet's dishes often enough with a recent study of 417 US-based dog owners finding 18 per cent washed their dog's dish every three months or not at all.
The majority of respondents washed their dog's dish once per week, on average, but almost half stored pet food in close proximity to human food.
Around one-third prepared their dog's food on human food preparation surfaces, and only around one-third washed their hands afterwards.
Does it matter? The short answer is yes.
Pet food preparation involves the opportunity for the exchange of bacterial or other contaminants from food or water, dishes, and the food storage or preparation environment.
For example, drug-resistant bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and Clostridium difficile have been isolated from pet food dishes in numerous studies, particularly where animals are fed raw diets.
These bugs can cause serious disease in people as well as pets.
As a veterinarian one of the most common conditions I see in companion animals is gastrointestinal upsets. Contamination of food with bacteria is a potential cause.
Similarly pet bowls exposed to slugs may be a source of the parasite rat lungworm, while those exposed to rat urine can be a source of leptospirosis.
And it isn't just infectious disease to worry about. Almost one in ten owners reported adding medications or supplements to their pet's bowls.
This is a potential source of exposure to other animals or humans in the household (if you've ever seen a toddler crawl over to a pet's bowl and start putting the contents in their mouth, you'll understand how this can happen).
According to the Food and Drug Administration, which has published guidelines on the cleaning of pet bowls, we should all take a few steps to ensure the safe handling of pet food and treats:
Dr Anne Quain BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), Dip ECAWBM (AWSEL) is a lecturer at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and a practising veterinarian
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.