Can My Dog Get Sick From the Cat’s Litter Box?

Every week, we get a vet to answer your pressing pet questions.
Can My Dog Get Sick From the Cat’s Litter Box?
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Have a question you’d like to ask a vet? Send your query to pets@washingtonian.com with the subject line “Vet Q.”

Q: The dog sometimes gets into the cat box and eats some of it. Can he get sick?

Dr. Brittany Cartlidge, AtlasVet DC: Let’s face it: Some dogs will eat anything—including and not limited to cat poop. Which is one of the main reasons I don’t like when dogs lick me on the face. Who knows where their mouth has been?

Cat litter boxes are like boxes of buried treasure to dogs. Cat food is very high in protein and therefore, so is their fecal material. This makes it attractive to dogs. Some dogs also like the taste of the cat litter itself.

Your dog could get intestinal parasites from eating fecal material. Hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and Giardia could be transmitted from coprophagy (the medical term for eating fecal material). These parasites can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, weight loss and anemia. Be sure to keep your dog on monthly heartworm prevention, as that also prevents most intestinal parasites, and if the cat goes outside, be sure to have him on preventatives, as well. Theoretically, a dog could also get sick if they ate a large amount of cat litter, since it absorbs moisture and could cause constipation or an obstruction.

You can try to use a baby gate or cat door to allow the cat access to the litter box while keeping the dog out. Training dogs to obey the command “leave it” is also helpful if you can catch them in the act. Lastly, try to clean the litter box after your cat uses it to remove the source of temptation to your dog. Most dogs don’t get sick after eating litter box treasures, but trying to prevent it is a good idea. Especially if you let your dog lick your face.

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