How much salt is toxic to dogs? Here’s the Answer

How is diagnosis of salt toxicity made in dogs?

The best test is to measure the levels of sodium in the blood. This test can rapidly tell the vet the level of sodium and what type of treatment regimen will be given.

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You’re likely aware that certain foods, like chocolate or grapes, are toxic to dogs. But can dogs eat salt? As an electrolyte, salt is an essential part of your dog’s health. It helps keep body fluids in balance and plays a role in muscle and nerve function.

But too much salt is dangerous for dogs and can lead to salt toxicosis. How do you know if your dog has had consumed excessive amounts of salt? And are there certain foods you should prevent your dog from eating? Read on to learn more about salt poisoning and how to keep your dog safe.

Salt toxicosis is also known as hypernatremia. It’s the presence of high levels of sodium (salt) in the bloodstream. The levels of sodium, an electrolyte, are renormally in balance in the body. But when the sodium amount in the blood becomes too high, it draws water out of the cells and into the bloodstream to restore the balance. That harms the cells and can affect the brain and nervous tissue.

Dr. Jerry Klein, DVM, Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club, warns that although salt toxicosis is rare, it’s dangerous and potentially deadly. However, excess sodium isn’t something that builds up over time. Rather, it happens over minutes or hours. Dr. Klein explains, “Salt toxicity typically occurs after a single significant dose of salt is ingested over a short period of time.”

How is salt toxicity in dogs treated?

Once the diagnosis of salt toxicity is made, the treatment is to first remove the offending agent and hydrate the animal. Fresh water is provided initially in small amounts but at frequent intervals to avoid exacerbation of symptoms. In some cases the dog may be lethargic and weak, in such cases, the dog may require intravenous hydration with a sugar solution for a few days. Sometimes the vet may place a tube down the stomach and administer fluids slowly. However, this method also risks aspiration into the lungs if the dog is unconscious.

Furthermore, the animal needs to be monitored for clinical signs of improvement. Generally, the use of drugs to induce vomiting is not recommended.

If treatment is prompt, most dogs will start to show signs of improvement within 2-4 days. However, the sodium concentration should be lowered gradually— too rapid dilution of sodium can lead to swelling of the brain tissues. The VET will monitor the levels of sodium with repeated blood tests. If the dog has swelling in the brain, the vet may administer a corticosteroid.

How much salt water is too much for dogs?

Salt, while commonly used for cooking in the kitchen, is potentially poisonous to dogs and cats. The use of salt to induce vomiting in dogs and cats is no longer the standard of care and is not recommended for use by pet owners or veterinarians! Other sources of salt include homemade play dough or salt dough, rock salt (for de-icers), paint balls, table salt, sea water, and enema solutions (containing sodium phosphate).

Salt poisoning in dogs and cats results in signs of vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst or urination. In severe cases, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death are possible.

If you think your dog or cat has been poisoned by salt, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately for life-saving treatment advice.