Myth Buster – Is salt bad for dogs?

We’re regularly told to watch the salt level in our diets. Our Head Vet Sean often gets asked if salt is something we need to be wary of in our dogs’ diets too. So, is salt bad for dogs? In general, salt isn’t bad for dogs – in fact, it’s an essential part of their diet. The trick is to manage the amount of salt your dog gets, as too much salt in dog food can be harmful (as can too little). Dogs with certain health conditions may need a low salt dog food, and we’d always recommend you avoid giving your dog overly salty foods like crisps and savoury biscuits.

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The benefits of salt in dog food

Salt, or sodium chloride, is a core ingredient in dog nutrition: our dogs need it to keep their cells working properly. A healthy amount of sodium in dog food is between 0.25g/100g and 1.5g/100g. At these healthy levels, salt helps maintain cellular functions like fluid balance, acid-base balance and nerve signal transmission. Your dog needs the ‘chloride’ in sodium chloride to produce the stomach’s hydrochloric acid, which helps with digestion.

Salt is also used as a natural preservative, and has been for thousands of years – it’s very good at drying food out and preventing spoilage.

So among all these good things about salt, what’s the fuss about?

Can dogs eat too much salt?

With salt, as with so much of dog nutrition, it’s a case of moderation. Too much salt in dog food can cause problems for your dog, including dehydration and more serious conditions if they consistently eat too much. Unfortunately, salt is delicious to dogs, so it’s best not to give them a taste for salty snacks – that way, you won’t have to deny it to them later.

Related blog: can my dog eat human snacks?

Which foods are too salty for dogs?

If you want to make sure your dog gets a healthy amount of salt in their diet, there are some foods which are definitely off-limits. Foods that are too high in salt for dogs include:

  • Crisps
  • Savoury biscuits
  • Processed meat, like sausages and burgers
  • Chips
  • Cheese

Should I give my dog a low salt diet?

As a general rule, you should aim for a healthy level of salt in your dog’s food – the magic numbers are between 0.25g/100g and 1.5g/100g. That is, of course, unless your dog has a specific health condition that requires a low salt diet. Health conditions that require low sodium dog food include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease

At tails.com, we always take your dog’s health conditions into account as part of our nutritional consultation – keep your dog’s profile up to date, or request a low salt diet, and we’ll do the rest. It’s important to look at all the food your dog gets, so check the salt content of any treats you use, and be really careful before sharing any human food with your dog.

If your dog needs low salt dog food, or if you have any more questions about how much salt is healthy for dogs, get in touch. Our veterinary and nutritionist team is here to help – send us an email at hello@tails.com.

16 comments

  1. Thank you for messaging but Pippa pastaway January she had lung cancer I have a cocker spaniel now 9mths old at the moment he is on grain free working dog wet noses 55% chicken sweet potato and herbs no artificial colour or preservatives hypoallergenic but he seemed to be getting a lot of wind can you provide something better for his digestion

  2. To w meat and vegetable diet I would recommend adding 1/3 of meal be dry kibbles. This provides many of the vitamins and minerals dogs require. And help keep s dog’s teeth and gums clean.

    one third quality kibbles to dogs

  3. I’m not sure why you included proper salt level expressed as a fraction and very unclear about the serving or daily intake. I need to know what is the healthy daily intake of salt for my Maltese. Thank you.

  4. my 16# one year old wire fox terrier loves to lick peoples legs. Does she need more salt in her diet?
    Is this related in any way to her itching herself?

  5. This says 100g of salt. I assume that it’s daily. It should be 100mg for a 33lb. dog daily. 100g of salt for anything is massive amount.

    1. Like protein and fat, salt is an essential nutrient for dogs as well as humans. I can only assume the article was meant to convey .5 grams to 1.5 grams of salt per 100 grams of food intake.

      Avoid giving dogs carbohydrates. At most 5% of dietary intake can be carbs. Dogs can get diabetes just like us. The only way to avoid diabetes is to avoid carbs. I mention this because a low carb diet also induces a loss of salt. This is due to the kidneys not retaining salt as they do in the presence of hyperinsulinemia. Which is the norml state for humans who eat a high carbs diet. High carb meaning greater than 30% of their diet.

      But dogs are dogs, not humans. The best thing to do is not to share our diets with them, and find out what they actually need. I’ve been considering getting a salt lick and putting it next to his water dish. Most animals control their salt intake on their own, and salt licks seem to do very well.

      Now the my dogs salt intake has been increased, he has had less issues with cramps. He often would complain about going up and down stairs, getting up out of bed, sometimes limping around all day. I haven’t done or seen any science on this for dogs, but they are mammals, and we mammals need salt to keep our bodies healthy.

      By the way, its very difficult to get too much salt. There is a feed back loop in our bodies that at first makes us crave it, then as sodium levels rise, the taste of salt per milligram increases rapidly. When we are getting enough, salt begins to taste ‘too salty’. So if you think you need more salt, you probably do.

      I personally eat/drink about two tablspoons of salt a day. And when I had my bloodwork done last, it was perfectly in the center of NORMAL. Salt is, the salt of life.

  6. Hi can you advise on how much salt intake is required by my fog. He is a mongrel on a vegetarian diet, 5 yrs old. We had kept him on a salt free diet and his food I’d prepared daily at home. We give him dog treats and dog biscuit as snacks and treat. We do add cheese in his diet. Should we add salt in the food we prepare for him daily

    1. Please do the consult. Also tell your vet you have put your dog on a vegetarian diet. I read an article a few years back written by a vet who stated that dogs are meat eaters and cannot survive on a vegetarian diet. Please do not try to be a dog nutritionist; people, dog, cats, and other animals have different needs from each other. I think you may be putting your lovely mutt at high risk for medical problems. Please, please consult a vet.

      1. All my dogs have been vegan for many years and are very fit and healthy. This includes an Irish Wolfhound who is way fitter than his meat eating counterparts.

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