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

An ongoing discussion from 2004 through 2015 . . .


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 biocumulative toxin.

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

October 21, 2008

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 29, 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 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 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, so we have to be careful about extrapolating our experience and believing that what is safe for people is safe for dogs.


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

November 1, 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

March 16, 2010

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 17, 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 could be the problem. Scrubbing it with diluted vinegar 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 trained puppy and you're speaking of a litter box, galvanizing will prove entirely unsuitable for urine. Good luck.


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

March 19, 2010

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

June 28, 2013

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

A Single Penny Can Cost You And Your Dog Everything
June 30, 2013

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

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


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

June 30, 2013

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
July 1, 2013

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

March 17, 2015

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 2015

thumbs up signThanks Dr. Gagnon. You're right, of course, that information from professionals beats internet blather! And I completely believe you that too much zinc ingestion is dangerous to a dog; as we remind readers constantly, dogs are not people.

We certainly don't go around challenging veterinarians on such subjects. But people -- whether speaking of a dog dish or a fence -- often seek free advice even if a paid consultation would be safer ... sometimes simply "unloading" is a large component of why they write :-)

Dog fatally poisoned by one penny

In this case a writer specifically claimed that a manufacturer referred them to this metal finishing site for comment.

Once again, thanks for the reminder to ask a vet, not a metal finisher, what's good or bad for your dog!


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

April 22, 2015

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

July 12, 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 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
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 1, 2016

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

April 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 know that, despite your misfortune, a dog dying from unknown causes isn't 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
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 2, 2016

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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