Cat litter is not toxic to dogs, however, there are many risks associated with pets ingesting cat litter. Many cat litters are made from clay, which is natural, but not intended to be ingested. Clumping clay litters are also very popular with cat owners, which can expand and clump in a dog’s digestive tract and cause a blockage.
There are several reasons cat poop can make your dog sick, which are covered in this article, as well as ways to stop them from eating it. However, let’s explore how cat litter alone can make your dog sick and ways to keep them out of it.
Can Cat Litter Make Dogs Sick?
Although it isn’t toxic, cat litter can make dogs sick with gastrointestinal upset or blockages in the digestive system, which can be life-threatening. Let’s take a look at what can happen if a dog eats cat litter.
If traditional clay litter, or large amounts of non-clay litter, is ingested, your dog’s digestive system can’t process it. This can lead to gastrointestinal disturbances, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain. These conditions may be mild or severe. At the minimum, it may be uncomfortable for your dog, and at the worst it will require a vet visit and treatment.
The most common litters on the market are clumping clay litters. These litters are made from sodium bentonite. A clay that naturally expands to about 15 times its volume when liquid is added to it. It forms hard clumps that make it easy for cat owners to scoop urine out of the litter box.
However, those hard clumps can also form in the body, when the litter mixes with saliva and digestive liquid.
Although clay isn’t toxic, it doesn’t mean it it’s not harmful. There are arguments that there’s no proof that sodium bentonite is harmful to our pets, but there also isn’t proof that it isn’t. There simply haven’t been enough studies conducted to prove one way or another.
The fact that brands selling clumping clay litter warn against putting the litter down your drains, due to the likelihood it will cause a clog, tells us that it isn’t safe to go inside our pets either.
Litter is not meant to be consumed; however, our cats ingest it when they clean their paws. And our dogs ingest it when they eat cat poop.
If enough litter is consumed, it can cause a blockage in the digestive tract. The dog may have a loss in appetite or experience vomiting, constipation, and pain. A blockage can be life-threatening and requires immediate veterinarian attention. When an object gets stuck and the body can’t break it down, surgery is often required.
Why Does My Dog Eat Cat Litter?
Your dog eats cat litter because they want to eat the cat poop. They’re attracted to it because of the strong smell and may eat the poop and litter due to a nutritional deficiency, boredom or stress, or perhaps even because it’s a learned behavior.
You can read more about the reasons a dog eats cat poop and how to stop them, in this article.
How To Stop a Dog From Eating Cat Litter
The best way to stop a dog from eating cat litter is to keep your dog out of the litter box. This may be done by placing the litter box in a room, space, or up on a level, your dog can’t get to.
Although an enclosed litter box isn’t typically recommended (it’s often too dusty, dark, and smelly for a cat), it may be an option if you’re able to keep it extremely clean and switch to a safe, dust-free kitty litter.
A top-entry litter box can stop small to medium-sized dogs from being able to reach the litter.
Self-cleaning litter boxes are also an option so the cat waste is scooped away immediately, into a receptacle, so your dog can’t access it.
If you prefer to stick to the litter box you currently have, consider changing the location. First and foremost, the location must be appealing to your cat, or you run the risk of them refusing to use the litter box.
A product such as this doorstop can help keep a dog out of a room the litter box is in, while allowing your cat to access it 100% of the time. Of course, this method only works if the dog is bigger than the cat.
Consider A Safer Litter
Litter isn’t toxic but your dog still shouldn’t consume it. And you can’t observe them 24 hours a day. If they’re persistent enough, they may find a way into the litter box, despite your best efforts to keep them out.
In this case, switching to a more natural cat litter can be beneficial. Although clay is technically natural and non-toxic, it can’t be digested, dissolved, or broken down by your dog’s digestive system.
On the other hand, litter made from a renewable and biodegradable resource is a safer option for a dog or cat’s digestive system.
Although no litter is designed to be consumed, if there’s a chance your dog may do so, it’s best to use a cat litter such as Sustainably Yours.
It’s made with two natural ingredients: corn and cassava, and doesn’t contain any chemicals or fragrances.
It does clump, however, those clumps will dissolve when they come in contact with liquid again, or a digestive system. So there’s less risk of it causing a blockage inside your dog.
What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Kitty Litter?
If your dog ate cat litter you should immediately contact your veterinarian to give them details about what was eaten, how much, and the symptoms they’re showing. They’ll be able to determine if you need to bring them in and/or advise you on what to watch for.
If your dog is already showing signs of a gastrointestinal disturbance or blockage, make sure you act swiftly. Don’t wait to contact your vet or bring them in as it can be an urgent and life-threatening matter.
I hope this article has helped explain if cat litter is toxic to dogs 🙂