You might find your cat's litter tray pretty gross, but to your canine friend, kitty's toilet can represent a delicious deli tray -- an all-you-can-eat buffet. It's important you don't allow your dog to eat cat litter -- this habit is dangerous as well as disgusting.
If your dog eats a significant quantity of clumping cat litter, he is at risk for dangerous intestinal blockage. Clumping litter swells up to 15 times its original volume when it comes into contact with liquids -- this is how it clumps together cat poop and urine in the litter tray. In your dog's intestinal tract, clumping litter can swell and cause a complete blockage. Surgery might be needed to remove the litter from your dog.
If your cat has internal parasites, these can be passed to your dog through the cat's feces. Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan present in a cat's feces for a few weeks after the cat becomes infected. If your dog eats cat feces that are infectious, he can develop a toxoplasmosis infection himself. Symptoms include loss of appetite, fever and depression. Untreated, toxoplasmosis can give a dog seizures, paralysis, stiff muscles, pneumonia, heart arrythmia and digestive problems.
Dogs have an instinct to eat other animals' feces, as the poop provides calories, protein, and sometimes vitamins or minerals that the dog might be lacking. However, it is unlikely you factor calories from cat poop into your dog's daily diet plan. If your dog is eating an appropriate amount of dog food plus a significant quantity of cat poop, he is likely to be consuming more calories each day than his body needs. A calorie excess leads to obesity, which harms your dog's health, lifespan and quality of life. An overweight dog is at a greater risk for skeletal or spinal problems or cardiovascular disease.
If your dog makes a habit of snacking from the litter tray, this can cause wider problems in your home. Cats are naturally clean and territorial. They might be annoyed and strike out at your dog if he's always hovering around their private toilet. A cat scratch to the eye can be dangerous or even life-threatening for your dog.
- The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Housetraining Your Dog; Liz Palika
- ASPCA: Toxoplasmosis
- ASPCA: Obesity Dangerous for Pets
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Toxoplasmosis: Introduction
Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.