Can Dogs Eat Salt Without Getting Sick? Facts You Must Know

There comes a point when dog owners who often give themselves scraps like french fries or potato chips wonder: Can dogs eat salt? I know that I didn’t think much about the possible effects of salt on my dog’s health until I started learning about proper nutrition for pets and just how vital vitamin balance is for dogs.

Dogs can eat salt; in fact, they need some salt! But it must be eaten in moderation. If you don’t take care to ensure that your dog doesn’t eat too much salt, you might accidentally cause salt poisoning in your dog.

Good and bad when it comes to salt are relative to how much your dog eats in proportion to their diets, water intake, and more. Let’s explore what that means for your dog.

Is Salt Bad For Dogs?

can dogs eat salt

Salt for dogs is not necessarily bad. Your dog, like most living things, actually need some level of salt to be healthy. Salt helps to keep the balance of fluids in your bodies, specifically in your cells, in order, and it does the same thing for your dog. Salt also helps your nerves to function and transmit their signals properly.

All dog food you’d buy in the store has some level of sodium in it, either through added salt or through other ingredients that have sodium in them naturally. This is because, as I mentioned, dogs naturally need some sodium! Don’t worry about seeing salt or sodium in your dog’s food as long as the percentages aren’t excessive.

Salt, in moderation, is not bad for your dog. In excess, however, it can lead to serious health complications and even death.

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So, Can Dogs Eat Salt?

Can dogs have salt? I didn’t make that clear yet, did I?

Yes, dogs can have salt! It’s totally fine for dogs to have a limited amount of salt in their diets.

What dogs should not have is too much salt as it can cause a number of problems that I’ll go into more detail about below. Salt should also not be used to induce vomiting when dogs eat something bad. This used to be recommended but is no longer. Learn more about how and when to properly induce vomiting and when to do it: 

How Much Salt Is Okay?

Generally, a dog cannot survive more than 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. This would be a lethal dosage for most dogs. Any more than this could kill them. That’s a ton of salt, but it could happen if your dog gets into a bag of salty treats or even into a salt shaker.

Every dog is different, and you shouldn’t try to reach this limit. In fact, dogs need much less than this on the daily, but this is the absolute maximum. Keep this in mind! With salt, you’re not trying to make sure you feed the maximum, but making sure you don’t.

Actual requirements for salt are broken down into sodium and chloride (the elements that make up salt) components. Adult dogs need about 0.06% sodium and 0.09% chloride in their food. Puppies need about 4x that amount. Don’t over do it!

What Does Salt Poisoning In Dogs Cause?

We consider salt bad for dogs not for the same reasons as humans. Salt has a much stronger effect on dogs, and if you are worried that the amount of salt your dog ingested is too great, you need to keep an eye on them.

What Should I Watch For If I’m Worried About Salt Intake?

If your dog ate too much salt, you might notice them drinking a lot of water. They make seem tired and be walking with a wobbly step. They might have a swollen stomach and, if severe, they might even have a seizure or other scary reaction.

You need to know the symptoms of salt poisoning so that you can treat your dog in time. Symptoms include:

    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Lethargy
    • Walking drunk
    • Abnormal fluid accumulation within the body
    • Excessive thirst or urination
    • Tremors
    • Seizures

When your dog ingests too much salt, muscles lose moisture and become stiff. This leads to shaking and jerking and can also lead to neurological damage. If left untreated, salt poisoning can lead to death.

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How Is Salt Poisoning Treated?

When you think that your dog might have salt poisoning, you should call a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately. Tell them your dog’s size, usual diet, and how much salt they ingested. For small doses, lots of water and electrolyte heavy fluids might be enough.

If the salt poisoning is severe, your dog will need to be admitted. IV fluids will be administered, electrolytes will be monitored, and treatments for both dehydration and brain swelling will be considered.

Treating severe salt poisoning is not a quick process. Salt levels must be gradually lowered to prevent brain swelling, and it can take up to three days to fully complete the process. On top of that, this treatment is not cheap, but it is a must if you want your dog to recover well.

What Can I Do To Prevent Salt Poisoning From Happening?

The best way to avoid needing treatment for salt poisoning is preventing it from happening!

  • Read product labels: Understand how much sodium and chloride are being fed to your dog daily so that you don’t accidentally give them too much.
  • Always have clean water available for your dog: Dogs will often eat a little too much salt in their daily feeding, but this isn’t enough to cause any problems if they have water. The salt will cause thirst, and they will naturally fix themselves by drinking water. If no water is available, even the small amount of salt in their dog food can become a problem.
  • Don’t feed them salty human foods: You might think it’s harmless, but avoid giving your dog burgers, pretzels, sausages, chips, or other salty human foods. Their bodies can’t handle it, even if they like the taste!

Should I Avoid Salt In My Dog’s Food Altogether?

“When his body doesn't have enough of these minerals, his organs and systems can stop functioning. The veterinarian will replenish your dog's fluids and electrolytes gradually to give his body time to readjust”

No! As I mentioned, dogs do need some salt. His organs and system keep in balance because of the cells they’re made up of, and salt is kept in balance by the proper level of salt in the system. This is why when dogs are too low in salt they get sick just as they do when they have too much salt in their system.

Is Salt In Anything Else Around My House?

There are actually a few things around the home that have salt in them that you should keep away from your dog so that they don’t eat them:

    • Rock salt (in de-icers)
    • Paintballs
    • Sea water
    • Enemas
    • Homemade play dough
    • Anything else with salt in it!

If your dog gets into and eats any of these things, they could get sick from the salt or the other ingredients in them, so you should keep them from your dog.

Stay Away From Too Much Salt

Remember: too much salt and your dog will get sick! Keep you and your dog happy by ensuring that they don’t get too much salt. Otherwise, you might be paying huge vet bills while your pup has to recover from salt poisoning, which won’t be fun for either of you.

Don’t take salt away from them altogether. The best brands of dog foods will have the proper level of sodium and chloride. Leave it at this. Don’t feed them salty treats or salty human snacks as they might cause your dog to get ill.

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