Like us, dogs need a healthy, well-balanced diet to give them the best shot at a long and active life. Most owners likely haven’t ever considered the sodium levels in their dog’s food but it is worth knowing more about this nutrient and the potentially harmful consequences too much or too little sodium can have.
What is Sodium?
Sodium is an essential mineral. It is often confused with salt. Whilst it does make up 40% of salt’s composition, it is found in other foods as well.
Sodium is a micronutrient. This means that the body needs small quantities of it to provide optimal health and body function.
Even though only small quantities are needed, a deficiency in sodium can cause ill health and too much sodium can be toxic.
Why is Sodium Important
Sodium is an electrolyte. Electrolytes are involved in the essential metabolic processes of the body.
These include conducting nerve signals (the messages that are transmitted around the body to make an animal think, feel and react) and keeping the body hydrated, as well as maintaining a balance of bodily fluids and muscle function.
Sodium can be found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beetroot, carrots and many more foods. These are all good, natural sources that can provide the necessary intake of sodium.
Many commercial dog foods will also contain sodium either from the raw ingredients or from added salt. Typically dogs will not lack the recommended amount of sodium but a deficiency can result in Hyponatremia.
The Effect of Sodium Deficiency
Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the body’s sodium levels drop below the normal level. Due to the lack of sodium, excess water builds in the body’s cells, causing them to swell and eventually burst, including brain cells.
Low levels of sodium are typically caused by vomiting or diarrhoea where the body is losing liquid that contains sodium. Certain organ dysfunctions can also cause sodium levels to drop.
It would be hard to diagnose hyponatremia without a visit to the vet to take urine and blood samples to measure the levels, but symptoms commonly include:
- Visible confusion
- Lack of muscle strength
- Less alert
If your dog starts to show any of the above symptoms, it should be cause for concern and I recommend taking them to the vet. In most cases, restricting water consumption (so as not to further dilute body fluid) and providing sodium-rich foods can allow the body to raise the sodium levels by itself.
The Effects of Too Much Sodium
It is much easier for a dog to ingest more sodium than they should if owners are not entirely aware of the fatal consequences. A seasoned chip or slice of packet ham may seem harmless but these both contain more than the recommended amount of sodium when combined with the daily doses a dog is getting from their standard meals.
The effects of ingesting too much sodium are far-reaching. They range from increased thirst to diarrhoea to heart disease and even death.
If a dog has a medical dysfunction connected to the kidneys or the heart, too much sodium will cause some extremely worrisome and unpleasant symptoms. Most dogs that are diagnosed with these types of organ problems are often placed on low sodium diets to minimise any harmful consequences.
Too much sodium causes a condition called Hypernatremia. Symptoms that are associated with excessive sodium intake are:
- Increased thirst
- Shaking or tremors
- High temperatures
- Seizures / Coma
If your dog starts to show any of the above symptoms, it should be cause for concern and I recommend taking them to the vet. Urine and blood analysis will be able to determine the levels of sodium and whether they are too high.
Recommended Low Sodium Foods
The foods and companies provided below are a guideline based on the sodium content. It is always best to discuss with your veterinarian food sources and sodium levels best suited to your dog and maintain their health.
The team behind Butternut Box are dedicated to producing good quality dog food. With pouches that include “60% meat, 40% vegetables and absolutely none of the nasties”. They boast meals which are “complete and gently cooked to pawfection”.
Butternut Box recognises that no two dogs are the same and offer customisable meals based on your dog’s health, age, weight and dietary requirements. Perfect if you need to request a low sodium dog food.
The Honest Kitchen
From eggs to salmon to pumpkin and parsley, The Honest Kitchen only uses wholesome foods in all their dog foods. Promising only 100% Human Grade, you can be sure that your dog is getting the best quality food.
Their site has the added benefit of having a full ingredient and nutrient profile available on each product page which allows you to see exactly how much sodium is contained in each bag. There are a few options available to anyone looking for low sodium options:
Dehydrated Grain Free – Turkey Recipe
Organic Whole Grain – Beef Recipe
Grain Free Fruit and Veggie Mix
Natural Balance is the leader in LID – Limited Ingredients Diets. They understand that dogs have health issues just like humans and need foods that meet both their health needs and their taste needs too.
You have access to their expert team of veterinary technicians to talk through their different formulas and find the very best option for your low sodium needs. Any dog food company that gives you the ability to talk directly to them are committed to providing the very best food for your pet.
Most dogs can manage their sodium levels. Their bodies are able to identify when there is too much sodium in their blood and can signal the body to release higher quantities of it when they urinate. This will often be accompanied by increased water consumption to dilute it down.
A healthy dog that is eating a well-balanced diet will never experience the negative effects of too much sodium. However, knowing about the effect sodium has and what to look out for could prove crucial if your dog were to consume too much or too little.