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Health & Wellness

Is salt bad for dogs?

Not necessarily, but they shouldn't have too much of the ingredient.

Moderation is the key to just about every type of food or ingredient. As any nutritionist and veterinarian would agree, it’s a sentiment that applies equally to people and their furry family members. 

Found in just about every food type, sweet and savory alike, salt is a prominent part of both human and animal diets, and although salty foods are often deemed unhealthy or a “guilty pleasure,” it’s actually a crucial foundational element for a healthy body, playing an important role in everything from digestion to heart health.

And yes, the same is true for dogs. But it's important to note that too much salt can also be toxic to dogs.

Your vet is the only one who can decide if your dog needs more or less salt in their diet. But doing some research to inform that conversation can't hurt.

Is salt bad for dogs?  

According to Dr. Liz Devitt, DVM, general practice veterinarian and veterinary consultant for Fetch, salt is a compound made of sodium and chloride; both are essential minerals for healthy body function.

“Sodium is critical for maintaining normal water balance in the body, nerve and muscle function,” Dr. Devitt says. “Chloride helps maintain the body’s pH balance for optimal metabolism and cell function.” 

If your vet approves of your dog's food and gave instructions on the best serving sizes, then that meal plan should have enough salt in it to sustain your pet's health.

What are the nutritional benefits of salt for dogs? 

In addition to providing essential minerals, like sodium and chloride, Dr. Devitt notes that salt also adds flavor to foods, which can be beneficial to get dogs to eat if advised by a vet.

It may also have other health benefits. “Sometimes pet foods developed for urinary tract health have higher salt levels to increase a pet’s thirst,” Dr. Devitt explains. “The more water pets drink, the more they urinate, and diluted urine can be helpful to prevent bladder stones or urinary crystals.”

Just make sure to ask your vet before going out of your way to add salt to your pet's diet. Yes, too little of sodium in the body can lead to heart problems and poor water balance inside the body — but too much sodium can be harmful, too.

RELATED: Can dogs eat cinnamon?

How much salt is too much salt for dogs?

First off, every dog is different, and what is safe for one dog may not be safe for another. Only your vet can decipher what's deemed "healthy" for your pet.

And although there are recommendations for minimum salt levels in dog foods, there aren’t firm rules for maximum levels, though it’s important to be mindful of the risks. 

“While there are guidelines for the minimum levels in dog foods, no studies show an exact amount of salt that’s too high,” Dr. Devitt says. “That said, your veterinarian might recommend lowering your dog's sodium intake if they have some types of kidney, liver or heart disease to help reduce the accumulation of excessive body fluid.”

Salt toxicosis, aka salt poisoning, is something to be extremely careful with and can occur if dogs have too much salt at one time.

“This can occur if your dog eats homemade Play Dough, rock salt, paintballs or drinks too much seawater. Signs of salt poisoning can be gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea, or can lead to lethargy, seizures and even death.” 

Salt toxicosis can also happen if dogs consume too many high-salt dog treats, or excessively salty human foods like cheese, pizza and potato chips, Dr. Devitt explains.

Another thing to be careful with, in terms of seasonings and flavorings, is to watch what foods we share with our pets. “Many seasonings that are OK for people — like garlic or onion — can be toxic for dogs.” 

If you think your dog has consumed something toxic — including too much salt, call your vet right away, as your pet will need medical attention immediately.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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