Is Salt Bad For Dogs?

Key takeaway

Eating too much salt can be dangerous to your dog’s health and wellness. While dogs need some levels of salt in their diet, you should never feed them more salt than what they’re already getting through their regular dog food. Eating too much salt can lead to fatal toxicity with symptoms like dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea, tremors, and seizures.

As a pet parent, it’s only natural to wonder about the different human foods you can share with your pet. But, of course, while you’d love to be able to share every snack with your dog, there are some foods dogs should never eat. For example, salt and salted foods are not recommended for dogs because dogs don’t need extra sodium in their diets.

Dogs need some amount of sodium in their diet because it can help maintain nerve and muscle function while stabilizing blood pressure. However, dogs do not need any foods that add salt to their diets. Your dog’s regular kibble or canned food will have all the sodium they need to stay healthy, so there’s no reason for you to give them any foods with extra salt because it can be dangerous.

Salt poisoning can happen to dogs that consume too much salt on top of their daily nutritional sodium needs, leading to thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and even seizures and death. This article will discuss why you shouldn’t feed your dog salt apart from their regular diet and what to do if they consume too much.

Why Is Salt Bad For Dogs?

Since dogs need some salt in their diet, you might wonder, “Why is salt bad for dogs?” Salt isn’t necessarily bad for dogs because your dog needs it to live a healthy life. What makes salt bad is when dogs consume salt outside of their regular diet. For example, when you share chips or salted pretzels and nuts with your dog. Your dog doesn’t need this additional salt in their diet, which could contribute to severe dehydration and even salt poisoning.

Dogs that eat too much salt will make more trips to their water bowls and need to go outside more due to their increased water intake. Of course, if your dog accidentally eats a small piece of salted food, they should be okay. However, if your dog consumes a lot of salt and they don’t have access to water, they could be at risk of poisoning.

Salt toxicosis is easily avoidable when your dog has enough water to replenish their bodies after the salt dehydrates it.1 However, salt poisoning is life-threatening, so if your dog eats salt off the table or consumes salted food, they should be monitored and provided with clean drinking water.

Some dogs shouldn’t have salt because it may cause complications with their existing health conditions. For example, dogs with heart conditions, such as hypertension and kidney disease, should avoid high dietary salt intake.2

Dogs should not consume more than 0.35 teaspoons of salt for every 2 pounds of weight

How Much Salt Is Safe For Dogs?

The lethal dose of salt in dogs is around 4g/kg.1 However, toxicosis may occur in lower doses, around 2-3g/kg. Small dogs are at an increased risk of salt poisoning because they only need around 0.45-4.6g of salt for it to become fatal.3 4 grams of salt is less than one teaspoon, but since salt can become toxic as much less than that, dogs should not consume more than 0.35 teaspoons of salt for every 2 pounds of weight.

When you think of the numbers in these terms, you can understand how easy it is for dogs to consume too much salt, especially since they get all the salt they need from their regular diet. Anything more than that could be fatal, especially to small dogs.

What Happens If A Dog Eats Salt?

If your dog eats salt outside of their regular diet, they may quickly become dehydrated. As a result, you may notice them drinking from their bowl more often. Thirst is the most common sign of dehydration, so your pet may drink more than usual and have to go outside shortly after that.

Salt toxicity can occur in dogs that consume more than they should. However, if your dog ate a salted peanut and drank water afterward, they should be okay if they can flush out the salt from their bodies. That being said, too much salt could lead to salt toxicity and death if not treated immediately.

What To Do If Your Dog Ingests Salt

If your dog eats a small amount of salt, they should be monitored for signs of toxicity. When your dog consumes anything salty, ensure they have access to fresh drinking water. Most dogs like to drink water after eating their food because their dog food is typically salty enough to make them thirsty.

However, if your dog eats too much salt, they may become severely dehydrated, so they’ll have more frequent trips to their water bowl. Therefore, even if your dog consumed a small amount of salt, it’s advised to contact your vet as soon as possible for the next steps. Depending on what your dog ate and how much, your vet may ask that you monitor your dog and provide them with water for the next few hours to see if they start to have any signs of toxicity.

Signs of salt poisoning in dogs

Signs of salt poisoning in dogs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination: Dogs that eat too much salt will drink water to wash it down and get it out of their systems. If your dog has only had a small amount of salt, they may drink enough water and urinate enough to remove it. However, that’s not always the case, and thirst and urination will continue alongside other symptoms in dogs with salt toxicity.
  • Vomiting: If your dog is vomiting after eating, it could be a sign that something didn’t agree with their stomach. However, vomiting is also an indication that your dog may have consumed something toxic, like too much salt.
  • Diarrhea: If your dog has diarrhea within a few hours after ingesting salt, it may indicate poisoning. However, diarrhea may also occur if your dog has had a lot of water in a short amount of time.
  • Lethargy: A lack of energy and enthusiasm in an otherwise high-energy dog can indicate your dog is unwell.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing is a veterinary emergency. If your dog has shortness of breath, they need medical attention immediately.
  • Seizures and disorientation: Seizures and lack of coordination are other veterinary emergencies that require immediate attention.

If you notice any of these signs of salt toxicity, call your veterinarian immediately to discuss the next steps or take your dog to the nearest emergency vet. You should provide the vet with as much information as you can, including your dog’s age, weight, activity level, when they ate the salt, and how much they ate.

Since removing the salt from your dog’s body is the most important step in the treatment of toxicity, they must have access to clean drinking water. Once you get your dog to the vet, the vet will test your dog for salt toxicity, which may include blood and urine tests to determine the level of salt in their system. They may also perform other testing like EKG or CT scans to determine whether there has been any damage to the internal organs.

Depending on your dog’s test results, they may need IV fluids, monitoring, and supportive medications. Treating salt toxicity quickly can improve your dog’s chances of coming out of it healthy, so take your dog to the vet any time they consume an excessive amount of salt to ensure your dog isn’t faced with a life-threatening situation.

What Foods Are Toxic To Dogs?

Salty foods are only one type of food that can be toxic to dogs when consumed in large quantities based on your dog’s health, age, and weight. Any foods with added salt should be avoided, including:

  • Peanuts
  • Pretzels
  • Chips
  • Pizza
  • Table salt
  • Crackers

Salt poisoning is just one type of toxicity that can occur in dogs. Other human foods can be potentially dangerous to your pet, so it’s best to avoid them.

Other foods toxic to dogs include:

  • Chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to dogs because it contains theobromine that’s hard for dogs to process. Even small doses of chocolate can be fatal to dogs.
  • Grapes: Grapes are toxic to dogs for unknown reasons, but it’s also linked to kidney damage. Never feed your dog grapes or raisins.
  • Onions, garlic & chives: Onions, garlic, and chives belong to the same family of foods that contains thiosulfate, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Xylitol: Your dog’s body overreacts to xylitol intake and releases too much insulin, which can be fatal to dogs. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener, so always check the ingredients list on peanut butter before feeding it to your dog.

Unsure what to feed your dog? Check out these 23 Toxic Foods to Avoid.

Is Salt Bad for Dogs: FAQ

Is salt and pepper bad for dogs?’

Salt can be toxic to dogs, so it’s never a good idea to share any salted foods with your dog. Pepper can also cause stomach upset in dogs because it irritates their digestive system. Ultimately, there’s no good reason to share salt and pepper with your dog.

Is salt water bad for dogs?

Salt water is bad for dogs because it contains salt and can lead to salt toxicity. However, if your dog is swimming in the ocean, they likely won’t consume enough salt, especially if you watch them closely and ensure they’re not drinking the water.

Is Epsom salt bad for dogs?

Epsom salt use externally is not bad for dogs and may be beneficial for use during bathtime to relieve minor muscle aches. However, your dog should not drink any bath water that contains Epsom salt because it can lead to salt toxicity.

Hand of black woman feeding her Beagle dog a bowl of food

Final Notes

Pet parents have an understandable desire to share their foods with their pets. However, not all foods are safe for dogs, and many can cause digestive system upset or lead to toxicity. When sharing food with your pet, it’s best to be mindful of the different types of foods dogs can and can’t eat. Of course, there’s ultimately no reason to share any human food with your dog because they should be getting all the nutritional support they need from their regular dog food.

Still, you might be tempted to share healthy human snacks with your dog from time to time, so it’s best to double-check that what you feed your dog won’t hurt them. If you’re ever unsure what to feed your dog and wondering questions like, “can dogs eat mushrooms?” ask a Dutch vet. Dutch vets are available to provide you with the best diet and nutrition advice to ensure your dog lives a happy, healthy life.

References

  1. Thompson, Larry J. “Salt Toxicosis in Animals - Toxicology.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 7 July 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/salt-toxicosis/salt-toxicosis-in-animals.

  2. ML;, Chandler. “Pet Food Safety: Sodium in Pet Foods.” Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18656843/.

  3. “Salt.” American College of Veterinary Pharmacists, 6 Mar. 2020, https://vetmeds.org/pet-poison-control-list/salt/.