“Did you know that dogs can’t eat chocolate?” Every dog owner has had this familiar fact explained to them at one point or another. However, a truth that isn’t often repeated is a dog’s body’s aversion to large amounts of salt. And unfortunately, salt is everywhere. From our vast oceans to our dinner places, it’s no wonder that the average American eats eighteen times more salt than required for their body to function.
Consequently, it may seem like an impossible feat to strike the perfect balance between feeding your pup enough salt to maintain their good health while also ensuring that they never put their health at risk by ingesting too much. Not to worry; we’ve included all the information you could possibly need below to guarantee your pup stays in optimal health. In this handy guide, we intend to firstly address how salt is detrimental towards your dog’s health. Then, we’ll discuss just how much salt is too much, and attempt to end on a high by providing you with solutions to reduce your furry friend’s salt intake.
What is Salt?
We can’t possibly explain if salt is even bad for our dogs’ health without exploring what it actually is first. In its natural form as a crystalline mineral, salt (sodium chloride) is a generic name employed for describing any substance formed by the reaction of an acid with a base, otherwise referred to as a neutralization reaction. It’s used a staple in cooking to bring out the flavors and spices of a good meal, a sterilizer, and even as an essential element in dishwater detergent.
Yet although it is often the subject of debate that salt is bad for us humans, what about our furry friends?
Is Salt Bad for My Pet?
On one hand, dogs do require a little amount of salt in their diet for the cells in their bodies to function effectively. The optimal amount of salt in a kibble, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, is 0.3% minimum for growing pups, and 0.08% for adult dogs. Playing an important role as a pet food palatant, sodium chloride is essential for the following reasons:
- Prevents the swelling or dehydrating of cells
- Maintains proper nerve and muscle cell function
- Regulates fluids in the body
- Balances blood pressure
- Chloride produces an optimal amount of hydrochloric acid to ease dogs’ digestion
However, in line with the somber tone of this article, we’re going to come right out and say it; salt is indeed bad for dogs in so many different ways:
Salt is dangerous for dogs who have cardiac issues: Excessive sodium intake is likely to worsen high blood pressure (commonly known as hypertension), thereby resulting in an increased risk that your dog develops heart failure. For dogs that are already susceptible to cardiac complications, this increased blood pressure may further exasperate the signs of heart disease.
Your dog must have a constant source of water nearby: If your dog ingests too much salt at a time when you aren’t home, they may run out of water available to them. Such an instance may lead to them suffering from severe dehydration. Check out our guide on dog water fountains for more info.
Playing in the salty sea is even dangerous: In relation to drinking salty water, several dogs have been reported to develop hypernatremia (having too much sodium in the blood) after playing in the ocean. This isn’t unfortunately much of a surprise, given that ocean water contains 3.5% sodium.
How Much Salt is Too Much?
Let’s talk numbers. According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, approximately four grams per kilogram of body weight constitutes acute excess salt consumption. In less severe cases of toxicity, ingestion of two to three grams per kilogram of body weight will engender an acute case of salt poisoning.
However, it must be taken into account that every dog is different. Larger dogs are able to handle more salt than smaller dogs by virtue of their size. However, this doesn’t mean that they should. Therefore, always err on the side of caution by only administering to your pet the salt that resides in their kibble. Otherwise, you could be faced with the possibility that your dog may develop salt poisoning – an incredibly serious threat to the health of your dog as a result of an excessive intake of sodium.
What are the Clinical Signs that My Dog Has Salt Poisoning?
A dog’s normal reaction to having excess sodium in their blood (known as hypernatremia) is exactly the same as our human reaction: to drink more water. Dogs will become thirsty due to salt’s water-drawing action from their body cells. If this water is available, great – the salt’s effects on your furry friend will be limited. However, if water isn’t available for your pet to lap up, that’s when cellular dehydration and vascular overload may occur.
Excess salt intake should see your dog vomiting within only several minutes to a few hours. Then, diarrhea should occur quickly afterwards, thereby resulting in severe dehydration. After around an hour, neurological signs will present themselves. Pay attention to these neurological signs, as these are the hints that your dog is suffering from something much more sinister than simply having something bad to eat. These signs include but are not limited to:
- Muscle rigidity
- Ataxia (when co-ordination, balance, and speech become affected)
- Increased heart and respiratory rate
After these clinical signs have presented themselves, you must find treatment for your dog immediately; otherwise, these neurological signs may progress to become fatal. In less severe cases, dogs can suffer from renal impairment or failure – otherwise known as when the kidneys are no longer able to filter waste products effectively.
At this point, your vet will carry out a number of steps that entirely depend on how severe a dog’s case of salt poisoning is. In the most serious of cases, your veterinarian will empty a dog’s stomach as well as monitoring their blood to see how severe the electrolyte imbalance in a dog’s body is and if it’s improving. If your dog is in the lucky position that their salt poisoning is only a mild case, a vet should administer a dog small amounts of fresh water in bouts in order to prevent overhydration from occurring.
What Steps Can I Take to Ensure My Dog Doesn’t Suffer From Excessive Salt Intake?
Let’s face it, this article has been filled with doom and gloom thus far. But there’s still time to lighten the mood by detailing below the steps you can take to minimize the chances that your dog never has to suffer from salt poisoning.
Keep all homemade playdough up high: At first glance, this may seem like a bizarre request. How are homemade playdough and doggy salt poisoning linked? But interestingly (or horrifyingly) enough, among the most reported reasons for salt poisoning in dogs is ingesting homemade play-dough. Containing a large amount of flour, oil, food coloring and – you guessed it – salt, dogs are drawn to this colorful dough and, after eating it, develop salt toxicity. This isn’t surprising, given that the average homemade playdough recipe contains a whopping 3/4 cup of salt, which acts as a preservative and ensures the dough has a strong texture and body. Therefore, it’s important to either a) keep your pets away from the designated play dough area b) make sure to pick up all pieces of playdough after playtime or c) explain to your children that playdough is bad for their beloved pup.
Don’t treat your dog to any salted foods: Although feeding your dog a few of your chips is always tempting (how could anyone say “no” to their adorable puppy eyes?), salty snacks aren’t designed to be tolerated by canines. It’s therefore advised to not feed your dog the following snacks:
- Salted popcorn
- Salted cashews
- Canned peas
- Savory biscuits
Take your pup’s water bottle with them to the beach: We mentioned above the ocean’s incredibly high sodium concentration. Although this figure is certainly scary, don’t let this put you off taking your dog to the seaside for a paddle! With a trust dog water bottle by your side, your dog will enjoy splashing around in the ocean while remaining hydrated. Why not peruse our fantastic selection of dog water bottles to make this dream a reality?
If your dog has a heart, liver, or kidney issue, change their kibble: Low-sodium dog foods have been invented for the purpose of protecting poorly pups with cardiac issues. Consult your veterinarian to determine what low-sodium pack will be best for your dog. Alternatively, feel free to browse our review of the top ten best low sodium dog food to see the first-rate kibble that has won over the hearts of owners and pets alike.