Is Toilet Water Safe for Pets to Drink?

Janelle Leeson
By Janelle Leeson. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Mar. 25, 2024
A dog sits next to a toilet.

K_Thalhofer/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

The sight of a pet lapping water from the toilet bowl isn’t uncommon, but it can be concerning. Toilet bowls harbor bacteria and can contain toxic chemicals left over from household cleaners.

Let’s investigate why pets drink from the toilet, when to seek professional help, and how to safeguard against this behavior.

What Is in Toilet Water?

The water in your toilet tank starts out as the same clean water coming out of your kitchen faucet. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink, including for your pets.

While water can’t back up from the toilet into the tank, we rarely clean toilet tanks, which is why there is still a potential for bacterial growth.

Toilet bowls harbor bacteria and can contain toxic chemicals left over from household cleaners.

Water travels from the tank through a pipe before reaching the bowl. Here, the water mixes with all sorts of bacteria, even if you regularly clean your toilet. If it’s been a few weeks or days, leftover chemicals from toilet cleaners and deodorizers can still mix with the water.

Is Toilet Water Clean?

Surprisingly, a study comparing the bacterial colonies of various household items found the toilet seat to be “cleaner” than a typical kitchen sponge—and 13 other spots around the bathroom and kitchen. However, the toilet seat isn’t the same as the toilet bowl, and overall, the toilet is a far cry from clean and therefore not a recommended drinking source for pets.

The following bacteria and viruses could be lurking in and around household toilet bowls:

Is Toilet Water Safe for Pets To Drink?

Dr. Renee Schmid is a senior veterinary toxicologist and director of veterinary medicine at the Pet Poison Helpline®, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and the American College of Veterinary Toxicology. She assures that if your pet drinks from the toilet, it’s usually not life-threatening, although certainly not an ideal behavior.

While most pets don’t experience issues drinking from the toilet, certain bacteria could cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. Additionally, any medications or vitamins could be passed from human urine and waste to the toilet bowl, albeit in low and diluted concentrations.

Are Toilet Cleaning Products Dangerous to Pets?

According to Dr. Schmid, if your pet drinks toilet water with diluted cleaning products, automatic cleaners, or deodorizers, they’ll typically only experience mild mouth irritation and potentially an upset stomach.

However, the risk of serious poisoning increases significantly if your pet ingests undiluted (when no water is added) toilet cleaning products, like an undissolved Clorox® tablet. Household cleaners not labeled as pet-safe cleaners have high pH levels, which means they are irritants to the skin, mouth, esophagus, and stomach. 

Signs of ulceration of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach include:

What Should I Do If My Pet Drank Toilet Water?

If your pet drank toilet water and you notice any of the signs above, take your pet to an emergency veterinary hospital immediately.

Why Is My Pet Attracted to Toilet Water?

While individual quirks can influence behavior, certified Fear Free™ animal trainer Brett Reynolds says several common reasons seem to draw both cats and dogs to the toilet bowl:

  • It’s colder and fresher than their water bowl. If your pet’s water bowl is lukewarm or stagnant, the toilet water may appear as an enticing option that’s cooler and fresher.

  • The bathroom is a safe place to hydrate. The bathroom can be an unexpectedly appealing place for a pet to enjoy a drink of water due to the solitude it offers, which may bring a greater feeling of safety and security.

  • Reinforcement. Seeing your pet drink from the toilet can be frustrating, but reprimanding them or physically removing them from the bathroom could backfire. Pets love getting their pet parents’ attention, and they’ll quickly learn that simply entering the bathroom, let alone taking a sip from the bowl, is bound to get a reaction.

  • They’re not feeling well. If you notice your pet seeking out unusual water sources like the toilet bowl, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Excessive thirst in cats and dogs or confusion can be associated with several medical conditions, such as diabetes, poisoning, and kidney disease.

How Can I Discourage My Pet From Drinking Toilet Water?

If your pet is more thirsty than usual, or if they are an older pet showing signs of confusion, see your vet to rule out any underlying medical conditions. With a clean bill of health from your vet, Reynolds recommends trying the following strategies to keep your pet’s nose (and mouth) out of the toilet bowl:

  • Keep the toilet lid and/or bathroom door closed

  • Add a child safety lock to the toilet lid

  • Spend quality time playing with and exercising your pet daily

  • Relocate your pet’s water bowl to a low-traffic spot (or even to the bathroom, if that is where your pup prefers to drink)

  • Place more than one easily accessible bowl around the house

  • Clean and freshen the water bowl often

  • Add a few ice cubes to your pet’s water

  • Get a larger water bowl

  • Swap the water bowl for one of a different material

  • Swap your pet’s water bowl for a water fountain

Is Toilet Water Safe for Pets To Drink? FAQs

My dog drank toilet water with a Clorox® tablet in it. What should I do?

Monitor your dog for changes in appetite, dropping food, vomiting, drooling, or pawing at the mouth, any of which could indicate irritation of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach.

If your dog has any of these signs, is lethargic, or has blood in their stool, they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Are there any automatic toilet bowl cleaners that are safe for pets?

Dr. Schmid assures that diluted automatic toilet bowl cleaners typically won’t cause life-threatening harm to pets, but any household cleaning product carries potential risks—and a pet who drinks from the toilet could get sick from other water contaminants.

You can look for non-toxic, green cleaning products specifically labeled as safe for pets.

However, Reynolds suggests that the simplest solution to keeping your pet safe is by keeping the toilet lid closed and the door to the bathroom shut.

When in doubt about whether your pet ingested something toxic or if they require immediate medical care, veterinary toxicologists can be reached 24/7 at the Pet Poison Helpline® at 855-764-7661.

Janelle Leeson


Janelle Leeson

Freelance Writer

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health