A lot of the savory food we love comes with plenty of salt to really enhance the flavor, to say nothing of how well salt also helps to preserve food.
Yet dogs have very different tolerances to certain foods than the rest of us, and a lot of experts – ourselves among them – consistently advise dog owners to monitor the salt levels of what their pooches eat very closely.
But by and large, can dogs eat salt? Let’s explore that in some more depth via this guide.
Is salt good for dogs?
Many of the warnings against giving dogs salt comes from the fact that it’s something that we as human beings use so heavily in what we eat.
So for example, giving dogs chips, crisps or other things of this nature very regularly is highly inadvisable, for many reasons – the salt levels present in those snacks among them.
However, some degree of salt is good for dogs, and it’s certainly an ingredient intelligently used by the professionals in formulating dog food and dog biscuits that your pet will enjoy.
And indeed, salt actually contains plenty of ingredients within it that help your dog to enjoy healthy cell functionality.
A healthy level of salt in dog foods, if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of it, is 1.5 grams per 100 grams of food overall.
At this level, you’re helping your dog to enjoy good nervous system health, but also cellular activities that help regulate the levels of acid and fluid in your dog’s body overall.
Salt also helps your dog with digestion, and more specifically in the good operation of the stomach acids that help break down what your dog eats so that they can give some much valued nutritional goodness to the places in your pet’s body that they need to go to.
Salt is really tasty for dogs though, and this is where some complications can sometimes come in.
As with anything delicious, your dog can become far too fond of salt and try to get at it, to say nothing of how your dog might start begging more often than you’re used to for savory snacks you’re enjoying that have a strong salt component.
However, salt needs to be enjoyed in moderation to have any positive effects on your dog’s health, so it’s best to stick to the foods your dog eats naturally to make up their salt levels – it’s very unlikely you ought to supplement the saline levels in your dog unless specifically instructed to by your vet.
After all, the side effects of too much salt in dogs can be pretty nasty.
Dangers of salt for dogs
There is very little reason to try and add salt to your dog’s diet, either as a supplement or as part of some cheeky snacks or treats that belong more on your dinner plate than your pet’s.
Salt is very easily something dogs can try to get more and more of, being a lip-smacking and satisfying taste that canines often enjoy.
But as much as your dog might try, you’re doing him or her more harm than good if you give in. Part of this is due to the dehydration that dogs eating salt can experience.
Just as a bag of salted peanuts you might eat at a bar might give you a craving for some drinks to ease your thirst, so too will dogs be emptying their water bowl more often than you’re used to if they overdo it on the salt.
In particularly bad cases, too much salt and the dehydration it causes can also affect how your dog goes to the toilet.
It can cause issues with urination – either not frequently enough, as your dog tries to balance its hydration levels within, or too much, as your dog’s internal systems get confused by the sudden spike in saline levels inside of them.
Salt poisoning is as real for dogs as it is for human beings, and in the worst cases, it can be fatal for your pet.
This is a horrible thing to consider, but your dog would need to eat a lot of salt overall to suffer these effects.
However, keep in mind that this is as much an immediate danger – if your dog consumes masses of salt all at once, such as fresh out of the bag – as a long term danger, such as letting saline levels in your dog continue to accrue over time.
Symptoms to watch out for in either case are a sore and swollen tongue, excessive dehydration that your dog never seems to solve, some disorientation on their part and evidence of disrupted urination and low mood or energy.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from salt poisoning, you’re recommended to get your animal to your vet as soon as possible.
How much salt can a dog eat daily?
By and large, dogs only need 0.25 grams of salt per gram of food to enjoy a healthy and happy life.
The dog food you choose for your pet has been specially formulated to, more than likely, have everything you need for your animal in terms of salt levels.
As such, you ought not to feel the need to add salt to your dog’s diet artificially, unless your vet has expressly recommended you do so.
Even if this is the case, that same professional will likely recommend a product to you for this purpose, if not prescribing one for your dog especially.
It’s instead more a case of making sure that your dog doesn’t eat too much salt, rather than trying to up his or her intake by worrying too much about what they are likely already getting.
As such, avoid giving your dog salty snacks like salted peanuts, potato chips and crisps, French fries and the like.
Remember, dogs are much more sensitive than us, so they need far less of certain nutrients to get by, no matter how big and tough the breed might be.
Similarly, it also means dogs can do a lot more than us with a lot less, so they have luck on their side, evolutionarily speaking, in some respects.
What to do if your dog eats salt
You would be perfectly understood in feeling panicked if you happened to walk into the kitchen and find that your beloved dog has knocked down the salt shaker and is lapping up the contents from where it broke open on the floor.
The most important thing to identify is how much salt you gauge your dog to have eaten.
If it’s a lot, you most certainly ought to get your dog to a vet with all immediacy – the risk of him or her suffering from salt poisoning, even to a lethal degree, is far too great to ignore.
Your vet will be able to comfort your dog, help him or her through a nasty experience and ultimately see you and your pooch healthy and happy heading home.
However, it’s just as likely that your dog has eaten not enough salt to be poisoned by it, but certainly enough to fall ill.
It’s best to be compassionate and stay by your dog’s side for as long as possible while they overcome this problem, and be ready for any unexpected sickness your dog could show.
Vomiting is quite likely if your dog has gobbled down far too much salt, in fact, so be ready to mop it up if that occurs – but again, watch your dog closely after it happens.
If your dog is consistently vomiting after everything he or she eats even after throwing up the salt that was eaten, it’s best to get them to the vet to see if there is a deeper issue in play.
Also keep in mind that eating so much salt is likely to make your dog very dehydrated, possibly to the point of disorientation when he or she is walking around.
Have lots of clean, fresh room temperature water ready for your pet to try and replenish themselves, as well as wash away any lasting effects from the salt.
Salt is often spoken about as dangerous for dogs, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that your pet needs to avoid it altogether for fear of salt poisoning.
However, that isn’t strictly the case – dogs require a certain level of salt for healthy cellular function, as well as good sharp nerves that keep their senses and reflexes sharp.
However, the levels of salt used in human snacks and foods can be far and away beyond what dogs are recommended, causing long term complications or even immediate risks of illness and death in especially bad instances.
It’s best to trust the judgment of the dog food you’re already feeding your pet to get this balance right, and certainly don’t feel any need to add anything more than this to what your pet eats.
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.