Is it safe for your dog to drink from the toilet?

Dogs who drink toilet water are a health risk to themselves and maybe to the entire family.

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Katherine Taylor pets her dog Lapis. (Julian Harris/For WHYY’s The Pulse)

Katherine Taylor pets her dog Lapis. (Julian Harris/For WHYY’s The Pulse)

My aunt, Katherine Taylor, has a beagle/hound/labrador mix. Lapis is 2 years old, and she likes to drink water from the toilet.

“I have heard her more than I’ve seen her,” Aunt Kat said. “I usually try to remember to close the toilet lid, but sometimes you just don’t do that. We’ll leave the door open and the next thing you know, you’ll hear her going to town.”

It’s not the most appetizing idea sharing a toilet with your dog. But is it safe? Are there potential health problems for the dog, or for the human using the same toilet?

“We don’t put bleach down there every time we go to the toilet,” says Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “That means that your dogs are occasionally coming into contact with organisms that can potentially make them sick.”

And she says it could also work the other way around.

“There are a whole bunch of diseases that we call zoonoses, that are technically present in animals and can be transmitted to humans,” Rankin said.

Her advice is to keep the lid closed.

“I certainly wouldn’t advocate for any reason that we let our dogs drink from the toilet.”

The Lapis Test

But back at Aunt Kat’s house, Lapis still loves to drink the toilet water.

“All she sees is big bowl,” Aunt Kat says.

Lapis also seems to be well aware that Aunt Kat frowns upon her water preference.

When I see Lapis in the bathroom — she stares longingly at the bowl — but refrains.

But as soon as I step away — she drinks.

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