What happens when a dog eats too much salt? Essential Tips

Clubs Offering:

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.”

Salt and sodium

It’s no secret that salt is in almost everything we eat, and it’s generally understood that some sodium is vital to our dogs’ diets. However, salt and sodium technically reference different things.

Salt is sodium chloride, a crystal-like compound found in nature, whereas sodium is a dietary mineral found in salt. Salt and sodium make up two of the electrolytes our tail-waggers require in their daily diets.

When dogs ingest sodium, it turns into ions inside their bodies. Ions help regulate fluid levels, blood pressure, blood volume, as well as nerve and digestive impulse transitions.

Salt toxicity treatment

If salt toxicity is suspected, your vet will likely analyze blood count, blood gases, and blood chemistry as well as urine to determine the salt levels in your dog’s blood.

Your vet may also perform an EKG to measure electrical impulses in the heart as well as a CT Scan, MRI, or Ultrasound to assess potential damage to the brain, heart, and lungs.

When your dog’s results are in, they may need to be held for further monitoring and care. Care might include IV fluids, electrolyte monitoring, and any supportive medications the veterinarian deems necessary. Treatment and prognosis are determined by the health condition of the dog, sodium blood amounts, and the time since ingestion

If your dog needs to stay at the vet for further care, don’t panic: It can take time to heal from salt poisoning. When too much salt enters a body, getting rid of it is a slow process. If sodium levels drop too quickly, heart attacks or brain swelling can occur, so it’s best to let your vet observe your canine companion until they’re feeling better.

Why Salt is Bad for Your Dog

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.