Small dogs are full of life and curious about lots of things. Unfortunately, your kitty's litter box may seem like a fun playground and your pint-sized pooch can wind up ingesting some litter. Small amounts of litter are probably harmless, but too much may be a cause for concern.
Reasons for Consuming Litter
Your furry best friend may dig into the litter box for several reasons. Cats sometimes pass food particles that go undigested. This makes for enticing "kitty candies" in the litter box that encourage your K-9 friend to feast from your feline's potty area. This condition, known as coprophagia, is not only gross, it may leave your barking buddy with a mouthful of litter. Some dogs chomp on litter out of curiosity, while others get litter stuck to their fur and swallow it while grooming.
Many varieties of kitty litter, especially clumping litters, are made from bentonite clay, a naturally occurring type of clay mineral, and may also contain silica, a highly absorbent compound of sand, according to the ASPCA. These particles are nontoxic and generally pass through your furry family member's digestive tract with no problems. If Fido ingests a large amount, he may experience gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea or constipation. In severe cases, ingesting kitty litter may cause an obstruction in your pooch's gut, which may require immediate medical attention. Watch for visual clues of your small dog's distress. He may have a hard time relieving himself, might lose his appetite or seem completely lethargic. In these cases, take your fuzzy buddy to the vet and let the doctor know that he may have ingested cat litter.
Small dogs are sneaky. Even if you do your best to keep the litter box in a separate room with a gate, he'll find his way in if he really wants to. For optimal safety and the health of your miniature K-9 pal, opt for alternative litters. Biodegradable pellet litters are made from ground newspaper, pine or other pet-friendly material. While your furry friend may still get a bellyache if he swallows a mouthful of these pellets, they are often easier for his system to digest.
Deterring Your Pooch
You can keep your pooch away from the litter box in several ways. Always clean out any waste as often as possible, but if you have time, you can train Fido to dislike the kitty's toilet. Sprinkle a dab of hot sauce on your cat's droppings. When your furry pal pokes his head in the litter box to look for goodies, he'll get a spicy surprise that won't hurt him, but he'll be hesitant about sticking his nose in the box again. You might have to repeat this training process several times, but eventually your little dog's behavior will change. Opting for an enclosed litter box may also deter your fuzzy little barker; however, your feline may not be a fan of a box with a lid.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.