How Much Salt Is Unhealthy for Dogs?

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Sodium is an important nutrient that is important for maintaining good health in a dog. However, too much can lead to sodium toxicity and serious side effects for your pup. The amount of sodium in commercial dog food and treats is generally safe, but avoid adding extra salt to your dog's food and keep him away from salty snacks.

Sodium recommendations for dogs

Sodium plays an important role in keeping a balance of electrolytes. It helps to regulate and maintain blood pressure, is used to make stomach acid, and is critical for proper muscle and nerve function. The recommended minimum amount of sodium for a dog is about 100 milligrams for every 100 calories of food, or 0.3 percent. For many dogs, up to 0.5 percent is still in a healthy and acceptable range. Dogs with some medical conditions, such as heart or kidney disease, may require a low-sodium diet.

So, when does sodium become toxic? Toxicity can occur when a dog ingests 2 to 3 grams of sodium for every kilogram of body weight. This is equivalent to about 0.35 to 0.53 teaspoons of salt for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. At 4 grams, or 0.7 teaspoons, per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, salt consumption can be fatal.

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Salt toxicity symptoms

Keep your dog safe by avoiding feeding him any high-sodium human food, such as processed meats and chips, and if you make home-cooked meals for your pup, follow the recipe instructions exactly to avoid too much sodium. Table salt isn't the only source about which you need to be concerned. Other sources of salt include homemade play dough, baking soda, de-icing salt, enema solutions, and seawater. If your dog gets into another toxic plant or substance, do not attempt to induce vomiting by giving her salt water.

Dogs can excrete some excess salt in their urine, but when they consume too much, they can start to have severe symptoms of salt toxicity. Initial symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, excessive thirst, increased urination, decreased appetite, lethargy, and a lack of coordination. If toxicity is severe, dogs may experience tremors, seizures, and coma. Salt toxicity can be fatal.

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If you suspect your dog has consumed an excessive amount of salt or if she's showing symptoms of toxicity, contact your veterinarian, the pet poison helpline, or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals poison control number. This is a life-threatening condition, so act immediately and don't wait for symptoms to appear or worsen before calling.

Sodium toxicity treatment options

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Treatment can vary depending on your dog's symptoms and the amount of salt consumed. Your vet will aim to slowly lower sodium levels until the correct balance is restored. This can be done by offering the dog water, administering IV fluids, and giving warm-water enemas.

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Some complications may include brain edema, which is more likely if sodium levels are lowed too quickly, and seizures. Your vet will monitor your dog closely and offer supportive care for any complications as needed. It can take a couple of days to fully restore electrolyte balance.

Too little sodium

Not having enough sodium can also cause serious problems for your dog. This condition is called hyponatremia, or water intoxication. It is extremely rare for the condition to be caused by a lack of salt in the diet. Instead, it is the result of too much fresh, electrolyte-free water. This can occur if your dog drinks a lot of water while swimming or when drinking from sprinklers.

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Symptoms may include bloating, vomiting, loss of coordination, lethargy, glazed eyes, difficulty breathing, seizures, and coma. Contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet may offer IV electrolytes or diuretics to help slowly increase sodium to a correct level.

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