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Are galvanized steel tub and dish okay for my dogs to drink from?

Intro / synopsis: Humans need some zinc as an essential micronutrient, and zinc is the principal ingredient in cold-easing medications; but a gross excess is bad, which is why zinc is not considered a food-safe surface (can dissolve to a certain extent in acidic foods).
Dogs and other animals are not people, and might be significantly more sensitive than humans to too much zinc.

! I bought a galvanized steel water trough to use as a pond and my dog started drinking from it. He got nasty diarrhea so I covered it with chicken wire so he couldn't drink out of it. I noticed that all my polliwogs would die in the pond, whereas in a plastic water trough pond that I made, the polliwogs turned into frogs. I don't know what is in this tub but it is clearly unsafe for critters. On the bright side, the mosquito larvae don't survive in it either. BTW, a friend of mine bought one at the same time and while he doesn't have a dog, he also doesn't have any frogs that have survived whatever nastiness comes out of this material when it is full of water.

Kati Fa
- Reno Nevada
December 17, 2023

⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩

Q. A discussion came during a conversation with some friends on whether or not our new dog should be drinking out of a galvanized water dish my husband brought home from work. He works with galvanized steel products. Can this harm our dog?

Billi Acrie
animals - Las Vegas , Nevada, USA

A. Hi Bill. Are you sure that what you are calling a "galvanized water dish" actually even is one? If so, I would think it's probably okay since galvanized feed troughs & watering troughs have been used on farms on decades; and in third world countries, sometimes all the water for the family and the pets is rainwater collected from the galvanized roof. But if you're not sure exactly what something is, it's a bad idea to use it for food or water service that it wasn't designed for. Some galvanized metal gets a post treatment with toxic hexavalent chromium, which would be bad to ingest, and it is easy to confuse cadmium plating with galvanizing, and cadmium is a very bad biocumulative toxin.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I have three dogs and I use a galvanized steel wash tub as their water bowl. I purchased it from the Home Depot. I have noticed changes in my dogs and this is the only thing in their environment that has changed. Any information would be great. Thank you in advance for your time.

Chablis Cummings
house wife - Boise, Idaho, USA
October 21, 2008

A. Hi, Chablis. Although it may be the only thing in their environment that you can think of that has changed, that doesn't necessarily mean it actually is :-) Although galvanized is not considered a food-safe surface because of potential overdose from acidic foods dissolving it, galvanized watering troughs and feeders have been very widely used by farm animals around the world for many decades. Some areas of the country may even still have galvanized water pipes.

So it doesn't sound especially likely to me that the galvanizing is the issue, but again: don't use things for purposes they weren't intended for because the designer was balancing the pluses and minuses of one material against another for use in a washtub, not a water bowl ... and dogs aren't people ... we have to be careful about extrapolating our experience and believing that what is safe for people is safe for dogs.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
October 29, 2008

A. For many decades many countries have used galvanized steel roofing material to catch rain water for drinking, and in many places storing that water in galvanized steel water tanks.
No adverse effects have been reported nor have restrictions on these materials been introduced.

Geoff Crowley
Crithwood Ltd.
Westfield, Scotland, UK
crithwood logo

Q. I purchased a dog pan that was galvanized steel. After two days the pan turned black, so now I have black puppy pawprints all over my carpet! Why did this happen? The company I purchased it from referred me to you.

Julie Mercer
Buyer - Waverly, Ohio, USA
March 16, 2010

A. They referred you to us? What do we have to do with their unsatisfactory product? :-)

I don't know exactly what a "dog pan" is. A drinking pan? Galvanizing can turn black from alkaline materials like dishwasher detergent. If you washed it in a dishwasher, that would almost surely be the problem. Scrubbing it with cream of tartar [on eBay or Amazon affil links] and rubbing off any smut with a cloth or paper towel ought to help a lot. But it is the seller's responsibility to determine if a product is safe for its intended use ... not yours & mine to guess what it's made of and whether it's safe. If you have a house-trained puppy and you're speaking of a litter box, galvanizing will prove entirely unsuitable for urine. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

thumbs up signNormally I would say you have the heat set too high and you are burning the pan but if the dog is still walking around you must not be cooking dogs. I have no idea what a "dog pan" is! I guess logically something must be reacting to the zinc that the pan is coated with. Food, water, dog or otherwise. Short of stopping contact with the above or contact with any other things that may be turning it black, I think the simple answer is to purchase a stainless steel or plastic dog pan! I suppose a pet shop, kennel supply or farm supply would be good places to start. Depending on the size, some sort of stainless kitchen pan would probably be cheaper. By sending you to us the people that sold it to you are obviously just trying to get rid of you. Personally I don't think I would give them any more of your money. I think if I had sold you said Dog pan, I would be replacing it for you with something different that actually did what it was supposed to do. As long as you are using your Dog pan, as a dog pan and not for a purpose other than what it was designed for.

rod henrickson
Rod Henrickson
gunsmith - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Dog is eating galvanized fence

Q. I have a question about "galvanized fencing" for a dog: is the fencing harmful to a dog that chews through the fence not once but 3 times -- and can that galvanization on the fencing cause cancer to a dog if ingested? Thank you.

Charise Hyde
- Chatt, Tennessee, USA
June 28, 2013

A Single Penny Can Cost You And Your Dog Everything

A. Hi Charise. I don't know if you are viewing the situation quite correctly...

Please consider, for example, that while glass is probably the least toxic construction material in the history of the world, you certainly wouldn't consider it safe for your dog to swallow glass shards. What your dog is doing, chewing through a fence, and possibly ingesting sharp bits of metal, sounds like it could be life threatening to him, even without a zinc coating on it. Not to mention that if I had children playing on the other side of that fence, on that third occasion I might demand that the court order the dog put down :-)


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. Hose the fence with bitter apple or a good extreme hot-sauce. Worked great for getting my dogs to quit chewing on things.

Marc Banks
Blacksmith - Boone, North Carolina, USA

The Merck Veterinary Manual:

Overview of Zinc Toxicosis

A. Zinc is actually an essential trace mineral, BUT the amount of it in the body is in an extremely small range. Too much is as bad or worse than too little. Fortunately, the bodies uptake of it is quite poor or people taking an excess of the zinc tabs for cold mitigation would be dead.

Galvanizing can be very adherent, so I suspect that the dog is tearing the fence up rather than eating it.

The invisible fence that shocks the dog might be an option, especially if you do not want the dog to injure himself.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

A. Zinc absolutely IS a toxin to dogs. While there are inherent hazards in ingesting sharp bits of anything, the zinc present in galvanized steel can absolutely be toxic. Zinc toxicosis is characterized by a Heinz body anemia (i.e., red blood cell destruction due to oxidative damage), which can necessitate blood product transfusion. So, if a galvanized item, such as a screw or nut, is ingested by a dog, it must be retrieved either endoscopically or surgically to prevent complications that may include death.

I do not know if there are any data regarding drinking from galvanized containers, but I personally would not use them for the aforementioned reasons.

I and other veterinarians cannot stress enough that any questions regarding the health of your pets need to be referred to your veterinarian, not unregulated internet forums.

Jonathan Gagnon
- Saco, Maine, USA
March 17, 2015

thumbs up signThanks Dr. Gagnon. You're right, of course, that information from professionals trumps internet blather! We don't go around challenging veterinarians on such subjects, including your statement that too much zinc ingestion is dangerous to a dog. As we have reminded readers constantly: dogs aren't people.

But people -- whether speaking of a dish or a fence or the 250,000 other topics they have commented about on this site -- often simply want to "unload"; and they'll often seek free advice although a paid consultation is safer :-)

Dog fatally poisoned by one penny

In this particular case a writer specifically claimed that a manufacturer referred them to this metal finishing site for comment, whereas we don't even know for sure what the dish was made of.

Once again, thanks for the reminder to ask a vet, not a metal finisher, what's good or bad for your dog! If you know of a free non-commercial veterinarian forum we can direct these questions to, please post the URL -- because asking people to stop posting in public forums is simply unrealistic.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. Just as an addition to the toxicity of galvanized bowls and fencing. Animals that have these bowls or fencing where they may chew or lick are getting an excess in zinc as stated before. This is more a dietary issue than a toxicity issue. Zinc interferes with the absorption of copper if enough is ingested. Typical symptoms include loss of hair color , loss of hair, decreased vigor and activity, ataxia and sometimes death. Unfortunately the symptoms can be similar to other ailments.

brian pole
- wichita falls, texas, usa
April 22, 2015

Q. I recently purchased a large galvanized tub (meant for livestock watering) to be used as dog pond/pool. They will be drinking out of it as well. I am concerned about rust, should I seal it? How long does it take for galvanized tubs to rust? Do I need to use a special sealant as the dogs will be drinking from the pond/tub?

Jim McBrair
- fremont, California usa
July 12, 2015

A. Hi Jim. You've seen Dr. G's advice that he would not use a galvanized tub as a watering dish, and to ask your vet about this. A tub meant for livestock watering, and of proper quality, does not need further coatings to serve its purpose and probably should last at least several years. Good luck!


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. My 2 Alaskan Malamutes had been drinking from a galvanized watering dish for 6 months when suddenly the male became very lethargic, had black diarrhea, and became very weak. Within 2 days of the onset (which we assumed was a hookworm infestation) he was dead. The female continued drinking from the dish, and is still to this day. However, even after de-worming her, she has suddenly become lethargic, has black diarrhea, and is very weak. We are going to the vet this time, but are afraid it's too late since the male died so quickly. And now we have a St. Bernard puppy drinking from the same dish. My question is, in case they don't have time to do all the specific testing on our female Malamute, should we change the dish to some other material? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Michael Putnam
Farmer - Farmington, West Virginia, USA
May 1, 2016

A. Hi Michael. Dr. G, above, says that he would not use a galvanized watering dish; it surely can't be a big deal to get a plastic or stainless steel replacement, or use an old china serving bowl.

But I'm sure you realize that despite your misfortune, a dog dying from unknown causes isn't strong evidence of whether or not the coating on their watering dish was the culprit.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

thumbs up signThanks, Ted, for the response. I highly doubt that the galvanized dish has anything to do with my dogs' ailments, but it can't hurt to change, just to be safe. I am a farmer and many of my animals drink from galvanized troughs. Some even eat from galvanized feed dishes, and they're just fine. I think something else has happened with my dogs and I'll just have to wait to see what the vet says. Again, thank you for your help.

Michael Putnam [returning]
Farmer - Farmington, West Virginia, USA

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