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My Dog Ate Cat Litter! Here’s What to Do (Vet Answer)

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By Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

Cat Litter

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Dr. Joanna Woodnutt

BVM BVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs can be pretty disgusting at times. Whether your dog went through the bag, the bin, or, more disgusting, into the litter tray, if you’ve spotted your dog scarfing back some cat litter, you’re probably pretty concerned. It’s a good idea to worry; whilst cat litter is usually inert and non-toxic, it’s not digestible, and it can make your dog ill.

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Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Litter?

Usually, dogs don’t mean to eat cat litter—it’s not very interesting and is unlikely to taste of much. But dogs do like eating cat poop, and if that means eating some litter along with it, they’re unlikely to worry too much. Some dogs will only opportunistically eat cat poop, whilst others will hunt it down and cause their owners many difficulties in the process. If you find your dog eating cat litter without poop, it’s possible they’re suffering from a mineral deficiency, and it’s worth talking to your vet about your concerns.

Is Cat Litter Dangerous to Dogs?

Unfortunately, yes. Although none of the ingredients in cat litter are toxic, cat litter can still be dangerous for dogs. Dogs that eat cat litter may have an upset stomach, but more seriously, eating cat litter can result in blockages that require emergency surgery to correct.

Which Types of Cat Litter Are Dangerous for Dogs?

Your dog eating cat litter can cause problems for them if they eat it, especially if you have a dog with a sensitive stomach. The liquid-absorbing properties of cat litter mean it can cause irritation and inflammation as it moves through your dog’s intestines. However, the clumping types of cat litter are the most dangerous. These clump together when they absorb liquid, which makes urine easier to clean from the tray. Unfortunately, when your dog eats these cat litters, the clumps form in the stomach and intestines, creating a blockage.

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The 3 Steps to Follow If Your Dog Ate Cat Litter:

1. Stop them from eating more!

Corgi messed cat litter
Image Credit: Stephanie Ho, Pexels

The first thing you should do is prevent your dog, and any other pets, from eating any more cat litter. This usually means shutting them in a separate room whilst you assess the damage and clear up any spillages.

2. Call your veterinarian

The next thing you’ll need to do is call the nearest open veterinarian—including an emergency clinic if it’s out-of-hours. They’ll need to know the size of your dog, the type of cat litter they’ve eaten, and a guess as to how much- was it just a couple of dropped grains on the floor, or did they go into the litter tray and scarf down a huge amount? They’ll also need to know whether your dog is showing any symptoms of an upset stomach.

3. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions

Image Credit: 4 PM production, Shutterstock

Your veterinarian is the best person to help you to decide on the best course of action if you caught your dog eating cat litter. If you have a large dog, it was just a few grains, and your dog seems well, they might recommend that you watch-and-wait to see whether your dog develops any problems. If your dog is smaller, a larger quantity was consumed, or you use clumping litter, they might recommend quick action. One possibility is that they recommend that you bring them in to make them vomit. In some cases, they might even recommend that you make them vomit at home. They may also recommend giving medications to help the litter pass through the gut.

4. Don’t try to treat your pet alone

A lot of people think they can bypass veterinary advice and treat their pets at home, on their own. This is especially true if they’ve owned dogs before and been in a similar situation. But it’s important to remember that every situation and dog is different, so it’s not a good idea to generalize from what your vet had you do last time, or what you read on the internet. There’s nothing more frustrating than being presented with an ill animal who has already had several well-intentioned interventions from the owner. Sometimes it even means that we can’t treat the way that we would like to.

Take peroxide, for example—some owners will administer peroxide to their pets to get them to vomit. But if it doesn’t work because the dose or concentration is wrong, it’s then dangerous for your vet to make your pet vomit, and may remove that as an option. It’s also important to remember that vomiting is not a risk-free option- the litter could get stuck on the way back up, your dog could inhale the vomit and get pneumonia, or your dog could react to the medication used. If your vet advises it, it’s because they’ve considered the options and making your dog vomit is the best one. An advice call to your vet usually costs nothing, so it’s worth doing.

5. Watch your pet for symptoms

Whatever you and your vet decide to do, remember to watch for symptoms. This is especially true if you watch and wait, but even if your dog vomits up most of the litter, there’s still a risk that enough remains to cause a blockage. Look out for vomiting, diarrhea, inappetence, lethargy, and abdominal pain for 24–48 hours. You should also be on the lookout for constipation, straining and bloody feces, in case the litter gets stuck in the final portion of the gut.

Featured Image: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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