To a dog, a toilet bowl may look like an oversized water dish, but there are solid scientific reasons that pet owners should keep canine companions from quenching their thirst in the bathroom.

According to Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, microorganisms in the toilet can be harmful to furry friends.

“We don’t put bleach down there every time we go to the toilet,” said Rankin. “That means that dogs are occasionally coming into contact with organisms that can potentially make them sick.” Zoonotic diseases, those than can infect both humans and animals, can also make the leap in the other direction, from pet to person.

Coliform bacterial contamination, such as E. coli, for one, and Giardia is another. The consumption of toilet water can put your dog on the road to infection.

Chemical poisoning is another. Not just from cleaning projects, but people undergoing medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, can release those substances in their stool, creating a chance – though low, for pets to be exposed.

A simple way is to avoid the problem: Close the lid.

Sometimes we forget, or we have children who are forgetful to close the lid. So, work on ways to deter toilet drinking, such as providing several bowls of fresh, clean water around the house, or even a pet fountain.

Lastly, try to keep the toilet as clean as possible.

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