My Dog Drank Toilet Water With Cleaner – Should I Be Worried?

As most dog owners know, the sight of a dog with their head in a toilet bowl is not unusual. However, that doesn’t mean the sight won’t turn our stomachs or cause concern, especially if there’s toilet cleaner in the water. Understanding why your dog is so attracted to drinking toilet water, what the impacts of that indulgence can be, and how to curb such compulsions can help put your mind at ease.

Why Dogs Like Toilet Water

Though the idea of drinking from a toilet might be confusing if not revolting to us humans, our dogs have a very different opinion. They don’t see the toilet as a waste receptacle but as a source of refreshment. 

labradoodle vs wall
Labradoodle Max looks at a toilet paper wall obstacle

Dogs – like humans – prefer chilled water. So even if you make sure to keep their water bowls full, the odds of your pup drinking all of it at once are low. That means that the water will likely be closer to room temperature by the time they get back to it. The water in the toilet, on the other hand, is almost always cold, making it preferable to what they find in their bowls.

It can be a matter of taste, too. While metal bowls are often seen as more durable, they can transfer an unappealing taste to their contents. That metallic flavor can prompt dogs to seek out better tasting alternatives. A porcelain toilet can offer just that.

This preference may also be primal. Most animals in the wild, including canines, instinctively seek out running water. It is not only often cleaner than stagnant water but tastier, too. 

Though our lovable pets may not be quite ready to run with the wolves, some of those natural instincts remain. The running water in your toilet might be triggering their attraction to the bowl.

The Risks of Dogs Drinking from Toilets

Given how appealing toilet bowl water can be for dogs, it might be tempting to shrug off their antics. After all, most of us strive to keep our bathrooms, and especially our toilets, as clean as possible. In theory, that could bring at least some comfort. At least you know your dog is drinking clean water, right?

Unfortunately, that very thinking can put your dog at risk. Mass market toilet bowl cleaners often contain harsh chemicals. If you happen to let the cleaner soak while you go grab something in the other room, your pet might ingest those chemicals. Even if you’re not leaving cleaner in the standing water, residue from those cleaners can remain, regardless of how many flushes take place.

The impact of ingesting cleaners can vary. For example, the quantity of the cleaner your dog laps up from a liquid spray could be very different from what they’re drinking if you put continuous cleaning tablets in your water tank. If you allow tablets to sit in the bowl itself in order to dissolve, the risks can be even higher. Should your dog eat an entire tablet, they would receive a completely unsafe concentration of cleaning agents.

The risks involved can also be seasonal. Individuals with older homes sometimes add antifreeze to their toilets during the winter to help prevent pipes from freezing. While this can be a practical measure, antifreeze can make your dog incredibly ill.

The Impacts of Toilet Bowl Cleaners on Dogs

a Great Dane plays in the lake or river water
Great Danes love a good water frolic!

Before you start to panic about whether or not you’ve been accidentally poisoning your dog by allowing them an occasional sip out of the toilet, take a deep breath. 

Though opinions vary, there are some vets who believe that dogs drinking from the toilet is perfectly fine. The truth is that the amount of chemicals they take in from infrequent drinks will be minimal, and realistically, your toothbrush probably boasts more bacteria than the toilet. 

This being said, if you’re using large amounts of cleaner, tablets, or antifreeze, it’s important to keep an eye out for the symptoms of poisoning related to those agents. Just as you might see should your pet ingest any sort of household cleaning product, symptoms might include things like vomiting, trouble breathing, diarrhea, coughing, and irritated eyes. Though this list is not all-inclusive, it’s a starting point for noticing trouble.

How you should react to these symptoms depends on their severity. If, for instance, your dog has been sneezing a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have been poisoned. Just like humans, dogs can absolutely suffer from allergies. 

If there are multiple symptoms involved, though, it’s best to reach out to a professional for advice. If the symptoms are severe, it is advisable to take your dog to the nearest emergency veterinary center for treatment.

How to Deter Your Dog from Drinking Toilet Water

cavapoo puppy in the swimming pool
Don’t let the look fool you, many Cavapoo dogs LOVE the water (beach, pool, or lake)

While drinking from the toilet might be safe for dogs now and then, the risks involved can be substantial. But given how attracted our dogs are to that cool water, how do you keep your dog from drinking out of the toilet? There are several steps you can take.

  • Keep the lid closed at all times. 
  • If your dog is clever enough to use their nose to lift the lid to the toilet, keep the bathroom door closed to deny them access. 
  • Consider purchasing a self-serve water fountain to offer your dog the running water they crave and to keep their supply fresh. 
  • Occasionally add a few ice cubes to their water bowl to make sure it stays cool and appealing.
  • Place water bowls in several places around the house. Dogs can be just as lazy as humans, so having multiple drinking stations may limit their impulse to seek out the toilet.

While taking these steps doesn’t guarantee your dog will never drink from the toilet again, they can minimize the likelihood of the toilet impacting your pup. And after all, keeping man’s best friend safe is something we should all care about.

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