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Dog drinking water from toilet

The essentials

  • Dogs can get sick from drinking toilet water — Bacteria, medications, and household products in toilet water can make your dog sick.
  • Close the lid to prevent them from drinking it — This is one of the best ways to prevent your dog from drinking toilet water.
  • Toilet bowls harbor bacteria — Toilet water harbors bacteria, including E. coli, staph, Salmonella, and Giardia.

Like cats, dogs also enjoy the occasional drink from toilet bowls. However, this behavior poses more risks than many pet owners may realize. Dogs can get sick from things lurking in toilet bowls. Here’s what pet owners need to know.

Dogs can get sick from drinking toilet water

Many pet owners may not think about the cleanliness of toilet water, but danger lurks beneath the lid, especially for pets. Between bacteria growth and household cleaners, dogs can get sick from drinking toilet water. Although usually not life-threatening, dogs can experience vomiting, diarrhea, and poisoning from several things.


Toilet bowl water is notorious for harboring bacteria. Even after multiple flushes, toilet bowl water stays contaminated with bacteria, making it potentially hazardous to your dog. When your dog drinks water from the toilet, they ingest harmful bacteria and viruses, leading to gastrointestinal issues, infections, or other health issues.

  • Campylobacter coli. This bacteria leads to campylobacteriosis, a bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping, lethargy, fever, bloody stools, lack of appetite, vomiting, dehydration, and weight loss.
  • E. coli. E. coli is a bacteria that lurks in toilet bowl water. It’s essential not to let dogs drink the water, especially puppies. The underdeveloped immune systems of puppies put them at high risk of getting sick from water contaminated with E. coli.
  • Giardia. Giardia is another harmful pathogen found in toilet water. This parasite may cause diarrhea, weight loss, stool with blood or mucus, and vomiting. While not life-threatening in healthy dogs, it can be fatal in puppies or immunocompromised dogs.
  • Klebsiella. This opportunistic bacteria can cause severe infections in cats, dogs, and humans. It is associated with cystitis, hepatitis, pyometra, and diarrhea and causes infections in the upper respiratory, urinary tract, and bloodstream. Symptoms include poor body condition, abscesses, and a ruffled fur coat.
  • P. aeruginosa. While common in the outer ear canal, this bacteria can cause infections on the skin, in the nasal cavity, and in the mouth of healthy dogs. This pathogen can hang out in the toilet bowl water and transfer to humans and other animals.
  • Salmonella. Dogs can contract salmonella from typical sources, like contaminated or raw food. However, they can also get drinking water from the toilet. Salmonella can lead to sepsis, shock, organ infections, and pneumonia. Symptoms include severe diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, fever, and decreased appetite.
  • Staphylococcus. Commonly seen as bacterial skin infections, staph is the most dangerous in sick or injured dogs or immunocompromised dogs. Staph infections can occur on the skin, in the ears, in the urinary or respiratory tract, or even in the reproductive system. Left untreated, it can spread to other dogs and become fatal.

Medications and supplements

Medications, vitamins, or supplements easily pass through human urine and end up in the toilet bowl. While typically in low and diluted concentrations, traces of these substances can be found in the water. Additionally, people taking antibiotics or prescriptions or undergoing treatments like chemotherapy can pass chemicals that hang around in toilet bowl water.

Even in low concentrations, the cumulative effects of ingesting toxic medications over time can still pose health risks and make your dog sick. Certain dog-toxic medications can result in vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and organ damage. In excessive or prolonged amounts, even common human vitamins can cause harm .

Household cleaners

While they may be diluted in the bowl, cleaning products, automatic cleaners, or deodorizers are still harmful if your dog drinks toilet water. They may experience mouth irritation and gastrointestinal upset. In higher concentrations, toilet cleaning products can cause severe poisoning.

Symptoms include loss of appetite, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, pale gums, lethargy, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, and abnormally dark stool.

🚨 If you suspect your dog has ingested toxins or household cleaning products, immediately call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661.

Why dogs drink from the toilet

Dogs drink out of the toilet bowl for many reasons. For some, it’s just their personality — even when they have clean water available. Here are some common reasons why dogs drink from the toilet.

  • Cooler and fresher. If your dog’s water bowl is empty, warm, dirty, or stagnant, they’ll likely find the toilet bowl water cooler and fresher. Some dogs may also find the toilet bowl water appealing because it’s new and different every time it’s flushed. Always make sure your dog has clean, fresh water.
  • Quiet and safe. We often see or hear of cats as the usual culprits trying to drink toilet water. But dogs can also find solitude and safety in the bathroom. Some may feel more at ease drinking in a quiet and secure environment.
  • The water’s moving. Pets are drawn to moving water. The movement of the water stimulates their senses, and many associate it with freshness. This is the nearest alternative to fresh moving water, especially if they don’t have clean, fresh water at home.
  • Not feeling well. Excessive thirst may cause your dog to seek unusual water sources, including the toilet bowl. Kidney disease, diabetes, and poisoning can cause excessive thirst even when your pet is resting. Watch for changes in behaviors or bathroom habits.

👉 Check out our article on how to tell if your puppy is drinking enough water and how to encourage them to drink more.

How to discourage the behavior

Prevention is key to discouraging your dog from drinking toilet water. While this might be easier to train from a young age, that’s not always an option for older or newly adopted adult dogs. Pet parents also need to understand the reason behind this behavior. Most of the time, your dog drinking out of the toilet is not serious. Knowing and addressing the reason makes it easier to stop the behavior. Identifying whether they seek cool, fresh water or need alone time can help address and prevent the habit.

Keep the toilet seat down

Keeping the toilet seat down is one of the easiest ways to stop your dog from drinking toilet water. Make sure everyone in the house puts the toilet seat down every time they leave the bathroom. If it’s hard for everyone to get on board, keep the bathroom door closed or use baby gates. Another option is to use toilet lid locks. Some more clever dogs may figure out how to lift the toilet seat, so these other options may be more effective.

Give them access to more water sources

Always make sure your dog has access to fresh and cool water. Try placing more water dishes in multiple areas of your home or use bowls made of different materials. Change the water at least once a day, and clean water bowls frequently.

Provide more stimulation

More exercise for your dog can help keep them physically and mentally stimulated. Walk or play with them daily, try new toys, or chew bones. Keeping them stimulated and tired can help reduce the likelihood they keep up with undesirable habits like drinking toilet water.

Change up their water bowl

Some pets love moving water. While cats typically prefer water in motion, some dogs do, too. Consider replacing one of their regular water bowls with a water fountain. By continuously circulating water, they provide your dog with clean water that’s always moving.

It can be frustrating when your dog starts drinking out of the toilet. But remember, dogs will be dogs, and accidents will happen. Understanding the reasons behind their behavior and preventing it in the first place can provide peace of mind and reduce the risk of them seeking alternatives and possibly hazardous water sources.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if my dog drinks toilet water?

If your dog drinks toilet water with any cleaners or products, they may have diarrhea, stomach upset, or mouth irritation.

Can toilet bowl cleaner kill a dog?

Yes. Toilet bowl cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can be fatal if consumed. Call the Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661 if you suspect your dog drank toilet bowl cleaner, and watch for symptoms of poisoning like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and seizures.

Why is my dog suddenly drinking out of the toilet?

Your dog may suddenly start drinking out of the toilet for many reasons, but often, the water in their bowl may be too warm, dirty, or empty. Some dogs are naturally finicky and may seek other sources for this reason.