Is Cat Litter Toxic to Dogs?
If you have a blended household, then you may notice your dog catching a glimpse of his feline sibling’s litter box every now and again. Maybe you’ve even caught your dog in the act of digging its way through the litter or, worse, gulping down a mouthful or two. Of course, it’s understandable that, at times, their curiosity may get the best of them. However, as their owner, you may be concerned that their bad habits could land them a visit to the vet. Perhaps, you’ve even wondered, “Is cat litter toxic to dogs?” or “What happens to their body when they ingest cat litter or worse, cat poop?”
Good news for you: Most clumping and non-clumping cat litter isn’t toxic to animals or humans (kids included). So, if your dog mistakes the litter for kibble, then you can rest easy knowing that their sneaky snack will likely result in an upset stomach, but nothing more than that. There are instances when the litter may be too much for your pup’s body to handle, whether it’s due to an allergy-inducing artificial fragrance or an unfortunate combination of Escherichia coli and clostridium found in the cat’s feces.
Prepare yourself for the inevitable by reading this guide on what to do when your dog eats cat litter, including tips on how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Why Dogs Are Attracted to Cat Litter
It’s only natural for dogs to be curious about what’s tucked inside that magical little box their feline family member visits each and every day. As gross as it may be to us humans, dogs may see cat litter as food since it almost looks like kibble (keyword: almost). Dogs are also natural scavengers, so the scent in the litter box may attract them and then curiosity will meet opportunity. When you spot your dog scarfing down some cat litter, rest assured knowing that it doesn’t point to a larger health issue, but still try to keep them away from the litter box since it can be harmful in the long-run.
It’s a different story if you see your cat eating cat litter. Typically, this is a sign that your cat is anemic or lacking nutrition from its everyday diet, including deficiencies in Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), L-Carnitine, Magnesium, Pyruvate Kinase, Sodium, and/or Taurine.
Is Cat Litter Toxic to Dogs?
In general, most clumping and non-clumping cat litter is safe for dogs to eat (safe, but not recommended, of course). When ingested, cat litter will pass through like any other solid unless it’s consumed in large amounts (think: an entire litter box’s worth). Skoon, for example, is made from diatom pebbles, which is 100% all-natural, non-toxic, and doesn’t swell up in your dog or cat’s stomach if ingested. The same goes for most other non-clumping cat litters, but we’ve listed out everything you need to know about other common litter types.
- Paper and Other Newspaper-Based Cat Litter: Although non-toxic to humans and pets, you should closely monitor your dog if they eat this litter since it can cause blockage.
- Silica or Crystal Cat Litter: The ingredients in these cat litters are non-toxic to humans and pets. A few mouthfuls won’t harm your pup but watch out if they ingest a significant amount. Encourage your dog to drink plenty of water to help the crystals pass through their system.
- Clay Cat Litter: While it isn’t toxic, clumping cat litter can be harmful for dogs to eat since — you guessed it — the litter may form clumps in the dog’s body. The sodium bentonite in the clumping cat litter can create a solid mass in the body, leading to blockage. It’s best to get your dog checked out at the vet, especially if you notice that they are having trouble going to the bathroom.
What Happens When Your Dog When It Eats Cat Litter
Although cat litter isn’t toxic to dogs, it can be dangerous if consumed in large quantities. Both clumping and non-clumping cat litter have liquid-absorbing properties that can cause irritation and inflammation as it works its way through your dog’s body. Clumping cat litters are by far the most dangerous because clumps can form in your dog’s stomach and intestines, preventing your dog from being able to poop.
But really, the trouble starts when your dog eats the cat poop in the litter box. The mixture of litter and feces or urine makes it easier for the litter to clump in your pup’s body, accelerating blockage. It often swells inside the intestines, making it difficult to pass through or be vomited up. Because of this, all other food, gas and poop get stuck, causing them to have an upset stomach and constipation. At this point, dogs can also experience nausea, vomiting, drooling, the inability to eat, convulsions and abdominal swelling. If caught early, this can be treated quickly at the vet. If you wait too long, however, a fatal gastric rupture may occur.
It’s also possible for your dog to get bacterial poisoning from the toxins found in the cat’s urine or feces. If your dog happens to ingest some of the cat’s poop, they may get traces of Escherichia coli and clostridium, causing food poisoning-like symptoms. The natural and artificial fragrances found in some scented varieties to mask odors may also cause an allergic reaction in dogs.
Common Symptoms to Look for if Your Dog Eats Cat Litter
Luckily, your pup has to eat a significant amount of cat litter to feel the effects. If you’re worried that your dog ate a large quantity, keep an eye on them since blockage is possible. You’re probably in the clear if they seem to have normal bowel movements, but if anything seems irregular (say, they haven’t pooped for days or appear to be struggling to go #2), then your vet to ensure that there’s nothing seriously wrong.
As long as there isn’t any severe blockage, then your pup should be totally fine. Maybe, just maybe, try your best to keep them away from the cat litter to prevent it from happening again. Vets recommend keeping the litter box in a place that cats can easily access but dogs can’t. With a baby gate around the litter box, your dog won’t have access, but your cat can jump over the gate each and every time it needs to go to the bathroom. Or you switch up the litter box itself by going for an enclosed litter box with a small entrance or something with higher siders, similar to Skoon’s. That way, you can keep your cat’s litter box in a spot that’s ideal for your feline but make it “dog-proof.”
But when all else fails, find intelligent ways to keep your dog busy, whether it’s by playing a game of fetch or sending them outside to run around, so they aren’t searching for things to do (like digging through the cat’s litter box). Bad habits often stem from boredom — cure their boredom, and you might put an end to their litter box fascination, too.
If you want to give your kitty a cleaner, better cat litter option, get started with Skoon. We offer a variety of non-clumping scents, ideal for kittens and multi-cat households.