The sodium content in dog food varies based on flavor, type and product formulation. It's present not only as added salt but also in many of the different ingredients. In general, dogs can tolerate the amount of salt in dog food, but it's important to pay attention to this particular additive. If your dog eats too much of it, it can cause health problems or make existing ones worse.
In moderation, sodium is beneficial to every system in a dog's body. It helps maintain the optimal balance of fluid in cells to help keep them functioning smoothly. It helps conduct nerve impulses and muscular contraction. It's also added to fulfill the nutritional requirements of dog food, since sodium is an essential mineral in a dog's diet. As a preservative, salt keeps microorganisms from growing and causing contamination.
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Sodium is found in many ingredients in dog food. Meats, poultry and fish all contain considerable amounts of it. Even vegetables like carrots and potatoes are high in sodium. The gravies and broths in canned foods have a significant amount of salt in them. In addition to the added liquids in wet foods, sodium levels are generally higher in these products because it helps control moisture levels in the food.
According to the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, the daily recommended allowance of sodium for a healthy dog weighing 33 pounds and eating 1,000 calories per day is 100 mg. The amount can be adjusted for smaller or larger dogs. Be sure to allow for the weight of your dog as well as his caloric intake. If you feed your pet a homemade diet, it's not necessary to add salt to his food.
When looking for salt on a dog food label, note that ingredients are listed by weight. There may be more salt per pound in a dry product, but because it's lower in moisture, it may appear to have less sodium than a wet product. If the product contains salt, it should not appear in the first five ingredients. Dogs with pulmonary edema or issues with fluid retention should be on a low-salt diet.
Too much sodium in a dog's diet can lead to increased thirst. It can also cause swelling throughout the body. This puts a strain on the circulatory system and the kidneys as the body tries to rid itself of the excess fluid. Too little salt can cause dehydration, which can be life-threatening. Vomiting, diarrhea and seizures may indicate sodium ion poisoning, which occurs when a dog eats too much salt.