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Clumping Cat Litter Can Kill a Dog

2010 September 15
brown and tan chihuahua with outie helicopter ears

Fact: Dogs Love to Eat Cat Feces

Dogs love eating cat feces like beer and pizza go together on football Sundays.  There is nothing wrong with your dog is he or she imbibes in the feces snack.  Feces-eating is a culturally normal canine activity.

VirtuaVet does not condone dogs’ feces eating past time.  It is disgusting, bad-smelling, possibly full of parasites, and generally makes dog kisses smell awful.  Plus, if your cat likes the clay or clumping litter, your dog’s nostril linings can become clogged with a light crusted coating of kitty litter:  Looks kind of like peanut bits on top of a chocolate coated ice cream bar.  Only not.

Chihuahua welcomes Doc Truli home,”Hi mommy!  Kiss me! Guess what I did today?”

“Why, my darling pookums Chihuahua, you ate cat crap today.”

“However did you know?”

“You have kitty litter jammed up inside your nostrils, that’s how.  Plus, anyway, I know you, you’re smaller than the cat, so I can’t keep you out of the litter pan.”

“Oh, mommy, you’re so smart!  But somehow you still have a smelly, disgusting cat-poop-eater sleeping next to your pillow every night.”

“*Sigh*,” says Doc Truli.  Chihuahua – 1.  Human – 0.

Bassett Hound Takes the Cat Poop Eating Too Far

An ultrasonographer and a veterinarian with 45 years experience bet Doc Truli that it is not possible for a dog to die from clumping cat litter.

While Doc did not see the dog die, the surgery to save the greedy Bassett Hound’s life was invasive and extensive.

If you’ve lived with a dog and a cat for more than one week, you probably figured out by now that dogs love to eat cat crap.  I mean dookie.  I mean feces.  Bowel movements, turds, sh*t, you-know-what-I-mean.  Dogs believe cat feces snacks will make everything better.  It seems like a religious, cultural endeavor for the dog to seek out the cat crap and eat it lustily.  Kitty logs from the garden under the shrubs, from the cat litter pan, and sometimes, unfortunately, the dog gets carried away!

In the pet emergency room one fateful Friday evening:

“Doc, Fred ate clumping cat litter about 3 days ago, and we have not seen him eat or poop since,” said the Bassett Hound’s parents.

A 4-year-old male neutered 65 pound red and white Bassett Hound stood quietly and moped behind the chair leg in the emergency examination room.

Thinking someone could not possibly eat enough cat litter to create a blockage, Doc Truli asked for more information.

“Any vomiting, strange food, food changes, history of problems, travel outside the area, new treats, missing toys or toy parts,” asked the Doc.  You know, typical questions to narrow down the search for the problem.

“Just the litter.  He ate a lot of it,” said dad.

“Let’s see what x-rays show, and we’ll go from there,” said Doc Truli. (I wish I had this x-ray to show you, but this happened years ago, before I carried a camera everywhere with me.)

Imagine this: dog x-ray.  Head facing left, tail facing right.  Big, tubular white thing through the center of the abdomen.  Sort of facing from mouth to anus.  Big white thing = clumping cat litter hardened to the consistency of cement.  Lots and lots of it.  How shocking!  How disgusting!  Doc Truli could not imagine the motivation it took for this dog to eat that much dry, disgusting cat litter.  Must’ve been some amazing cat poo in there!

Massive Surgery Needed to Remove the Cat Litter Blockage

The only surgery Doc Truli has performed in which more sand-filled impacted intestine was removed was a horse at New Bolton Center that needed surgery to remove a sand impaction. (Horses grazing on inadequate or low-quality forage often ingest too much sand, which accumulates in their system and impacts them horribly.)  This Bassett Hound’s intestine was second fiddle only to a horse’s intestine in size and hardness!

The kitty litter travelled to Fred’s mid-range area, in the extensive curls and folds of the jejunum.  Normally, the jejunum is about 17 feet long and absorbs nutrients as part of the digestive process.  Instead, Fred has 2 solid feet and about 5-6 inches across of tubes of hard sand.  The clumping quality made the litter dry out the walls of the intestine and they stuck firmly to the litter.  There was no way to remove the sand from the intestines.

Instead, the intestines had to be removed from Fred.  Several feet of intestines.  Luckily, a dog, or a person, can survive without many feet of the jejunum.  Once resected, the healthy ends of the intestine were matched together and Fred needed to spend about 2 weeks healing from his misadventure.

So, an ultrasound technician and a veterinarian owe Doc Truli a bet!

Bottom Line: do not allow your dog access to kitty litter!

Next Time on VirtuaVet: Tips to Keep the Dog Out of the Cat Litter!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010

    Amazing post! When I have kittens, I always use one of the corn or wheat based litters, for just that fear, knowing that the clumping clay litter can turn into cement and kittens tend to lick litter when they are investigating it for the first few weeks. In fact, one of my cats vomited next to the litterbox one time and the litter scatter that had worked it’s way to the base of the carpeting turned into what I can only compare to Play-Doh and it took me repeated attempts to get it all out of the carpet fibers…

    • October 3, 2010

      Good tip, Teri. The kittens certainly like to put everything in their mouths — just like human babies do too!

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