Can dogs have a salt deficiency? A Complete Guide

Salty foods and products to be aware of

Manufacturers formulate most commercial dog food to meet the daily salt requirement needed for a dog’s health. When a dog exceeds that limit, by sharing your pretzels or salty chips for example, health problems can occur.

These problems can be anything from dehydration to salt poisoning (a.k.a. sodium ion poisoning), or salt toxicity, which can lead to death if left untreated for too long.

Here are some of the most common foods and products that are salt poisoning culprits:

  • Ocean water
  • Paintballs
  • Bath salts
  • Sea salt-coated snacks
  • Table salt
  • Rock salt used on icy roads and sidewalks (this is a hazard when dogs walk on it and lick their paws.)
  • Human foods such as:
  • Fast food meals
  • Snacks such as potato chips, fries, pretzels, and crackers
  • Highly processed meat such as sausages, lunch meats, and hot dogs
  • Some cheeses
  • Canned vegetables, soups, or prepared canned meals
  • Pizza (Not only does it contain large amounts of salt, it can also contain onions and garlic, which can cause severe anemia and deadly health issues.)
  • Some dog treats – be sure to read nutrition labels!
  • How to spot signs of salt poisoning

    When your sneaky snacker consumes an excessive amount of salt, the symptoms and damage can develop quickly. For this reason, you should act fast.

    Signs of salt poisoning are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Swollen abdomen or fluid accumulation
  • Excessive urination
  • Tremors
  • Stiffness or incoordination – this happens when the muscles release fluids in an attempt to balance sodium levels in the blood
  • Seizures
  • Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms and suspect they’ve ingested a large amount of salt. Be prepared to give information about your dog’s weight, age, and the quantity of salt ingested.

    Flushing the excess sodium from the system is important. Be sure to offer your dog a lot of fresh drinking water to help restore fluid loss and prevent dehydration, to help minimize cell damage when salt poisoning occurs.

    You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline or Animal Poison Control and they’ll be able to help you determine next steps if you aren’t sure about the amount of salt your dog consumed. If it’s a large amount, veterinary care may be needed.

    Salt: the good news

    Dogs need salt for their cells to function and a healthy amount of it is between 0.25g – 1.5g per 100g of food. At these levels, salt isn’t bad for dogs and helps maintain cellular functions like fluid balance, acid-base balance and nerve signal transmission.

    Your dog also needs the ‘chloride’ in sodium chloride to produce the stomach’s hydrochloric acid, which helps with their digestion. So far, all good.

    Why Salt is Bad for Your Dog

    There are so many human foods that are not recommended for dogs, and processed foods that were tempted to share with our pets are often high in salt. But is salt bad for dogs and can it harm them? The simple answer is NO – salt is not bad to dogs; its an essential mineral in their diet (just like it is for us and most mammals). However, like with most things, it has to be given in moderation.

    Salt is crucial in a dogs diet for proper cell function, organ function, signal transmission through the nerves, and fluid balance when ingested in healthy amounts.

    Most dog foods will contain salt (sodium chloride). According to AAFCO (PDF source), all dry dog food brands should contain at least 0.3% sodium for growth and reproduction, and at least 0.08% sodium for adult maintenance. Most healthy dogs will actually consume regular pet foods that will be higher in salt content. However, dogs with blood pressure issues or heart disease might need a diet thats lower in salt.

    Too much or too little salt could cause a dog’s body harm in more ways than one, so lets take a look at everything owners should know about feeding salt for dogs.