Salt can kill your dog?

Hard to believe, but yes, too much of this common mineral can have deadly consequences… especially this time of the year with ice melts being spread around and your dog licking them.

Fortunately this is fairly uncommon, but in today’s newsletter I’ll show you how to protect your pet.

What is Salt Poisoning?

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) receives the most calls around this time of year for this…

Pets licking their feet after walking through an area treated with ice melt

Ice melts are often made of sodium chloride (SALT), but some other common ingredients are potassium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride. Ingestion of these minerals can cause a varying degree of symptoms and health issues.

The good news is that a couple of licks of a paw or treated ground will not cause serious problems. The primary concern will be possible self-limiting drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The more concerning situation is when the ice melt bag is left in a spot where a pet has easy access and can eat a larger amount. Larger ingestions of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and/or magnesium chloride can lead to more significant vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, and electrolyte abnormalities.

This can lead to SALT TOXICOSIS

Salt toxicosis is also known as hypernatremia. It’s the presence of high levels of sodium (salt) in the bloodstream. The levels of sodium, an electrolyte, are normally in balance in the body. But when the sodium amount in the blood becomes too high, it draws water out of the cells and into the bloodstream to restore the balance. That harms the cells and can affect the brain and nervous tissue.

Although salt toxicosis is rare, it’s dangerous and potentially deadly. However, excess sodium isn’t something that builds up over time. Rather, it happens over minutes or hours. Salt toxicity typically occurs after a single significant dose of salt is ingested over a short period of time.

How Do Dogs Consume Too Much Salt?

But how does a dog consume a significant dose of salt? The most common causes of hypernatremia in dogs taken to veterinary hospitals include:

  • Drinking large amounts of salt water without access to enough fresh water
  • Consuming homemade play dough or salt dough
  • Ingesting paintballs
  • Eating rock salt (de-icing salt)
  • Inducing vomiting with SALT

Dogs can also suffer from salt poisoning if they get into enema solutions, which contain sodium, or eat excess quantities of table salt or soy sauce. And although feeding your dog salt to induce vomiting was once a suggested practice, it’s no longer recommended, as it can lead to salt toxicosis as well.

Hypernatremia is also tied with access to water. Dogs can tolerate fairly high salt levels if they are able to drink a lot and therefore flush the salt from their system. But if there is no fresh water available or dogs can’t access their fresh water supply, then the pet will be at higher risk.

Should Your Dog Avoid Salty Foods?

The most common way dogs get hypernatremia involves them getting into things they shouldn’t. Puppy-proofing your home to prevent your dog from accessing dangerous substances will go a long way toward protection. And if you take your dog to the ocean, stop them from drinking excess amounts of salt water and instead provide lots of opportunities to drink fresh water.

What Are the Symptoms of Salt Poisoning in Dogs?

The size of your dog can affect the danger of salt poisoning, with smaller breeds having a higher risk. A toy breed like a Chihuahua could become ill after eating less than a teaspoon, whereas a giant breed like a Great Dane would have to consume over four tablespoons.

Be aware of the following signs your dog may have consumed too much salt:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination or being wobbly on their feet
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Tremors or seizures

What to Do If You Suspect Canine Salt Poisoning

Mild signs such as intermittent vomiting mean your dog will recover fine. The main thing is washing their pads (if from ice melt), and offering LOTS of fresh water.

If you are seeing lethargy, extreme vomiting/diarrhea, ataxia, tremors then get to your vet ASAP. They will do blood tests to confirm, and start on low sodium IV fluids, plus warm water enemas to draw the sodium out of the blood


* Never use SALT to induce vomiting for poisoning, use Hydrogen Peroxide

* Wipe your dog’s paws well after walking in the ice/snow (Keep a damp cloth by the door)

* Get your dog some Dog Booties for the Snow… Tula has some!

* Always have LOTS of fresh water available

Best Wishes,

Dr Andrew

P.S. I have seen Salt Toxicity in Veterinary Practice, and this was an extremely sick dog in need of serious emergency care. So it is serious, and NEVER give salt to get your dog to vomit.

3 thoughts on “Salt can kill your dog?”

  1. My dog eats his poop- we have to watch over him constantly when he’s outdoors. He’s also 73 lb mixed breed rescue. Tons of people suggest MSG over his food will make poop taste bad and he’ll stop eating it. Will this harm him?
    We’ve tried everything on the market and other advices of cures… hot sauce, siracha, lemon, vinegar, onion, …. He loves all!

  2. I am curios as we have finally got a water softener. Will the water from that harm a 10 lb. dachshund? It never occurred to me salt is toxic. Should she be drinking bottled now instead of tap?

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