Is it OK to put salt in dog food? A Complete Guide

Why Is Salt Controversial?

Salt (sodium chloride) is used in many perishable foods, including commercial kibble (source), as a natural preservative that prevents the proliferation of microbes (mold and bacteria). It does this by “sucking” the moisture from it, leaving it too dry to allow microbial growth.

For the same reason that salt preserves food, this mineral, when used in large doses, is dangerous to dogs and can lead to salt toxicity or hypernatremia, and hypertension (source, source, source). Too much salt for dogs can cause them to become very thirsty and urinate more frequently, which could lead to dehydration (source).

When large doses of sodium chloride have been ingested by the dog to the point of toxicity, your pet may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, depression, elevated temperature, seizures, and even death.

However, most animals can tolerate a higher concentration of salt as long as they have a continuous supply of freshwater to flush it from their system.

Can dogs eat too much salt?

Salt is going to be bad for dogs if they eat too much of it by accident (rock salt left on a table for example) or if there’s too much salt in their dog food. If this happens they’ll combat it by drinking more water.

Too much salt causes problems including:

Salt poisoning (hypernatremia) is life threatening and needs emergency veterinary assistance. As cells start to release water to even out the levels of salt in your dog’s blood, your dog may become stiff and lethargic, and may start convulsing.

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!
  • Why Salt is Bad for Your Dog