Dog food myth busters – is salt bad for dogs?

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Salt, or sodium chloride, is a core ingredient in nutrition: essentially it keeps cells working properly (electrolyte balance). It’s a natural preservative and has been for thousands of years – thanks to being very good at drying food out and preventing spoilage. Salt is also super tasty, as any one who loves a crisp knows, and we add it to our food as a natural flavour enhancer. All this means it goes in our dog’s food, too. But what does salt mean for dog health? Is salt bad for dogs?

Our Head Vet Sean often gets asked if it’s something we need to be wary of in dogs’ diets, so we decided to take a look.

Salt: the good news

Dogs need salt for their cells to function and a healthy amount of it is between 0.25g – 1.5g per 100g of food. At these levels, salt isn’t bad for dogs and helps maintain cellular functions like fluid balance, acid-base balance and nerve signal transmission. 

Your dog also needs the ‘chloride’ in sodium chloride to produce the stomach’s hydrochloric acid, which helps with their digestion. So far, all good.

Can dogs eat too much salt?

Salt is going to be bad for dogs if they eat too much of it by accident (rock salt left on a table for example) or if there’s too much salt in their dog food. If this happens they’ll combat it by drinking more water. 

Too much salt causes problems including:

  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea. 

Salt poisoning (hypernatremia) is life threatening and needs emergency veterinary assistance. As cells start to release water to even out the levels of salt in your dog’s blood, your dog may become stiff and lethargic, and may start convulsing. 

Which foods are too salty for dogs?

Unfortunately, salt is just as delicious to dogs, as it is to us. That pretzel? Amazing. Chips? Yes please.

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, and the ones that make our ‘too high in salt for dogs list’ include:

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

Related blog: can my dog eat human snacks?

Should I give my dog a low salt diet?

Dogs with certain health conditions – including kidney, liver and heart diseases – require a low sodium diet. 

But salt isn’t bad for all dogs, it’s about moderation – just like us humans. The magic number for dogs (we popped it in above, too) is between 0.25g/100g and 1.5g/100g. 

Manage this essential part of a healthy diet by always reading the label – and avoid giving your dog salty foods like crisps and savoury biscuits. 

Always make sure there’s plenty of fresh drinking water available, and if your dog is part of a family home, they have been known to eat Play-Doh, too (as well as blocks of salt off the table!). 

How tailored food helps

Tailored dog food targets the benefits you want to see in your dog. With specific ingredients that support your dog’s health, it’s easier to look after their diets.

When you sign up, you tell us about their health conditions and can request a low-salt diet – we’ll do the rest. Their kibble recipe will be uniquely tailored to support all their nutritional needs. 

Plus, with a total feeding plan, you’ll get a total nutritional picture on what to feed your dog. Including kibble, wet food, how many treats a day – it even includes human food, too. 

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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