Pets and Porcelain: Is Toilet Water Safe?

Year after year, we are asked the question. Is it safe for my dog or cat to drink out of the toilet?

Of course, those asking aren’t thinking of replacing their pet’s water dish with a toilet bowl – we hope. More often than not, the situation occurs when their toilet seat is left up, and they catch their dog in the act. Dogs and other pets are naturally attracted to toilet water because, to them: Bowl + Water = Drink.

But besides it being gross, is there reason for concern? The facts show that toilet bowls on average aren’t nearly as filthy as we assume. Most modern toilets in today’s homes are cleaned on a regular basis, flushed right after use, and filled with fresh water (free of most contaminants).

So besides making us cringe, there’s nothing to worry about, right? Not exactly. The water in your toilet bowl may not have as much harmful bacteria as you thought it did, but water isn’t all that’s in the bowl.

Dangers of Leaving the Seat Up

By far the biggest safety concern for household pets is a lingering chemical presence from cleaning products and disinfectants. The chemicals used to clean toilets are not meant to be ingested. Whether you use cleaning sprays, gels, discs or tablets that clip onto the bowl, there could be reason for concern.

Sprays and Gels

These cleaners contain caustic (ability to burn or corrode) chemicals that could cause symptoms of illness or discomfort for your pet.

If ingested, the chemicals used in spray/gel cleaners can lead to burning and sensitivity of the mouth or throat. You may notice your dog or cat favoring their mouths/gums by chewing more carefully or selectively. These symptoms can occur almost instantly or at any point within an 18-hour period.

If you notice anything right away, you may try to dilute the effects with clean water or milk. If symptoms persist, contact your veterinarian.

Discs or Tablets

The chemicals in these cleaners are spread into the water each time the water runs. With every flush, the chemicals are released into the bowl and become less potent. However, they can still cause problems for your pet.

Common reactions include mild vomiting or diarrhea. You may also try diluting effects with clean water or milk, but as in other cases, but be sure to contact your vet if the symptoms don’t improve.


The best, most effective way to prevent your pet from drinking harmful water from the toilet is to consistently keep the toilet seat down. If your dog or cat can’t access the bowl, it’s far more difficult to drink from it and become ill.

It’s also important to keep in mind, especially around the holidays, that guests in your home may not be in the habit of putting the seat down.

In cases when you have company over, try to keep the bathroom door closed or use a pet-friendly toilet bowl cleaner. This will free you from being on pet patrol and allow you to enjoy a worry-free evening with friends and family.