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Dogs and Kitty Litter, What is the Risk?


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Updated: 9/17/2021

If you’re the proud parent of both a dog and a cat, you may have been horrified to catch your pooch liberating some of your kitty’s poop from the cat litter box! Besides being extremely disgusting and unsanitary, does cat litter pose a health concern for your dog? What about cat feces? And what can you do to stop this nasty habit and prevent problems? Read on to find out more about your dog's unfortunate fascination with your cat's litter box.

Why do dogs eat cat feces?

First of all, why do dogs root around in the cat litter box? The simple answer is because cat feces tastes good to them, as disgusting as that may sound.

Eating poop, a gross habit known as coprophagia, could be from a lack of nutrients in their diet that they are trying to obtain from feces, but this is rare. Usually, it is just because they want to!

Cats are carnivores who eat high-protein diets, and the material they pass contains partially digested meat substances that taste good to your dog. Also, if you have a puppy, they will basically try to sample everything, including your cat's poop and other dogs’ too, while they are learning what is, and what's not, good to eat.

Is kitty litter harmful to dogs?

Not only is the ingestion of cat poop not good for your dog, neither is the ingestion of the cat litter that frequently goes along with it.

There are a variety of different cat litters: clumping, non-clumping, organic-based litters, newspaper-based, and silica or crystal litters. All are non-toxic and will not poison your dog; however, there are a number of ways that ingestion of cat poop and litter can harm your dog.

■ Cat litter is often scented to mask odors. Perfumes and dyes can cause allergic reactions in dogs, and if ingested, the resulting allergic reactions can make your dog quite ill.
■ Because cat litter is absorbent, especially the clumping kind, it can absorb fluids in the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in constipation. This will usually resolve on its own, but if severe, an enema or laxative may be required.
■ If large amounts of cat litter are ingested and fluid absorption occurs, it can cause a gastrointestinal blockage and become caught in the dog's intestine or anywhere along the GI tract. The blockage can cause gastrointestinal distress, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, abdominal distention, and even more serious problems. If blockages do not dislodge on their own or with medication, surgical intervention may be required to remove the obstruction.
■ If a blockage of cat litter occurs in the small intestine, blood flow and circulation can be impaired and cut off, which results in venous strangulation. Once circulation is impaired, tissue death from lack of oxygenation can follow and shock and death can result.
■ Cat litter is not so great for your dog's teeth. It can cause mechanical damage, and bacteria present in cat urine and feces contribute to infections in the mouth.
Intestinal parasites common to both cats and dogs can be spread by your dog eating cat feces and litter.
■ Bacterial infections from cat litter and feces can be passed to your dog, and infection in their GI tract can be very serious or fatal.
■ Some dogs may also have kitty litter allergies, which can cause symptoms such as skin irritation, watery nose and eyes, and respiratory issues.

Some of the health problems caused by ingesting kitty litter can be expensive to treat. If your dog is at risk, start searching for pet insurance today. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like PetPlan and Trupanion. Find the “pawfect” plan for your pet in just a few clicks!

How to stop your dog eating kitty litter

Because several health problems can be caused by the ingestion of cat feces and litter — and because it is just plain gross — taking steps to ensure your dog does not entertain themselves with your cat's litter box is advised.

If possible, put the litter box in an area that is not accessible to your dog, or elevated where the dog cannot reach it. Some pet owners put cat litter boxes in the basement if their dog does not like using the staircase, or in a room with a cat door or a baby gate which only the cat can access by jumping over.

Also, covered cat litter boxes with small entrances may discourage your dog from accessing the litter box. Some pet owners opt to crate their dogs when they are not home to avoid such mishaps.

Training your pooch not to eat poop can also help put a stop to this unpleasant behavior.

If your dog shows signs of gastrointestinal distress that may indicate bacterial or parasitic infection after ingesting cat litter, you should obtain veterinary care. For a suspected blockage, care is required as soon as possible as rupture, circulatory problems, shock, and death are possible in severe cases.

Preventing problems

Cat litter boxes and your dog are two things that do not go together. The unsanitary mess that your dog creates by harvesting cat feces is not something any pet owner wants to deal with, and more seriously, several health conditions can result from the ingestion of litter and feces. Bacterial and parasitic infections can easily be passed on from your cat. The litter itself can create intestinal blockages, which can in turn result in life-threatening conditions if not addressed with emergency medical care by your veterinarian. Ensuring that your dog does not have access to your cat's litter box is well worth the trouble!

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