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How to Choose a Low-Sodium Dog Food for Your Pet

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We all know that too much salt isn’t good for us. Excessive sodium holds fluid in the body, putting more pressure on the heart and causing high blood pressure.

But what about our canine friends? Salt is natural for dogs to eat, and it plays an important role in their diet and development, just like it does for us. However, the same rule holds for dogs as it does for humans: Too much salt in the diet isn’t a good thing.

While dogs are a little better than we are at dealing with a diet rich in sodium, it’s possible to overdo it. Since high amounts of salt don’t give your pooch any health benefits, it’s not worth risking. And as we’ll see in a moment, certain dogs are at a greater risk for problems associated with high sodium levels in their diet.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: Low-sodium dog food. This type of food is formulated with lower sodium content. Read on to discover the health risks of too much salt, how low-sodium food might benefit your dog, and how to choose low-salt food that suits your pup’s nutritional needs.

The Risks of Too Much Sodium

Have you ever eaten some salty french fries or potato chips and felt thirsty afterward? The same thing will happen to your dog when he or she consumes a lot of salt. Excessive thirst is one of the first indicators that your pet has eaten something excessively salty.

When your dog drinks a lot of water because of intense thirst, they go to the bathroom more often. If this situation persists, it can lead to dehydration. What’s more, too much salt at once can lead to a case of sodium ion poisoning, which can result in serious health problems such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Seizures

If your dog eats a diet high in sodium over a long period, they’re at greater risk for elevated blood pressure. If left unchecked, too much salt can lead to severe conditions such as strokes, heart attack, and even congestive heart failure.

It’s also crucial to be aware that dogs with pre-existing conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, or heart disease are at a higher risk of worsened symptoms if they eat high amounts of sodium.

While a healthy dog can usually eat wet dog food or dry kibble with standard levels of sodium, a dog with pre-existing conditions like these would likely do better with a high-quality, low-sodium dog diet.

Benefits of a Low-Sodium Diet

Low-sodium dog food

If you think your dog might benefit from lowering their salt intake, the first step is to ask your veterinarian if a low-sodium diet is a good idea for your pet.

Low-sodium food can offer many benefits. It’s good for a dog’s overall health, and it can also help to regulate or prevent a number of health issues like those described above. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of a low-sodium diet.

Proper Hydration

Excessive salt is the enemy of hydration. Eating a lot of salt makes your dog thirsty, which makes them drink more. They then urinate more, which can leave them dehydrated.

When you lower your dog’s sodium intake, they will drink a normal amount of water to stay properly hydrated. And they’ll retain the water that they do drink, rather than urinating it out of their body.

The rule of thumb is that dogs should drink between 20-40 milliliters of water per pound of body weight per day. So, for a 20-pound dog, that equals out to about 3 -4 cups of water in a day. In a nutshell: Larger dogs need more water, and small dogs require less.

Safe Blood Pressure Levels

Since excess sodium in the diet leads to high blood pressure over time, feeding Fido low-sodium dog food is a good way to help regulate blood pressure levels. And that’s good for almost every part of the body, especially the heart. Since hypertension is a significant risk factor for stroke and heart disease, low-salt food might be a critical factor in lengthening your beloved pet’s lifespan.

Good Health in Old Age

Senior dogs are already at a greater risk for high blood pressure, so reducing the amount of sodium your older dog consumes is generally a good idea. Plus, senior pooches can suffer from muscle and joint aches, osteoporosis, and other maladies. A diet that’s low in sodium can alleviate the symptoms associated with these problems.

Choosing the Best Low-Sodium Dog Food

Beautiful black dog on a woman's lap

Now that you understand the benefits of low-sodium dog food, it’s time to choose one that suits your dog’s needs. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when shopping for low-sodium dog food.

Dry Dog Food vs. Wet Food

You can find low-sodium options in the form of wet canned food or dry dog food. Naturally, wet food offers much more moisture than kibble does, so it could provide Bella some extra hydration.

That said, canned food tends to have more fat, which might be a concern if your dog needs to shed pounds or has other health considerations. As such, be sure to talk with your veterinarian to find out what type of food will best suit your dog.

Weight Management Formulas

Many weight management dog foods are formulated with low sodium content. If your pup needs to lose a little weight and you’re interested in lowering their sodium intake at the same time, this kind of food might work well.

Just make sure that the weight-loss food you choose doesn’t compensate for lower fat content with higher amounts of sugar or artificial ingredients that aren’t good for your dog. Feel free to run the ingredient list by your veterinarian to be sure that it’s a healthy choice.

Pay Attention to Nutrition

At the end of the day, you don’t want to compromise your dog’s overall nutrition when switching to low-salt food. Make sure your pet’s diet contains an excellent protein source like chicken, beef, lamb, or fish, as well as good carbohydrates from foods like sweet potatoes or flaxseed.

Of course, your dog’s food should contain the proper vitamins and minerals, including omega-3 fatty acids that can help reduce inflammation and keep your pet’s heart healthy.

While we don’t endorse any particular low-sodium food brand, some choices, here are a few of the more popular low-sodium food brands out there:

  • The Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Chicken Recipe: This dry dog food comes in beef, chicken, or turkey varieties and can work for puppies or adult dogs. It contains no preservatives, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), or harmful by-products.
  • Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets: Dogs who require reduced sodium intake often have sensitive stomachs. Because this limited-ingredient formula is made with only one protein source, it might be easier on Fido’s tummy.
  • Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin: Another dry dog food catering to sensitive stomachs, this version from Hill’s Science has 0.29% sodium per cup, with chicken, brewer’s rice, chicken meal, yellow peas, and barley as some of its main ingredients.
  • Royal Canin Early Cardiac: This dry food has sodium content of about 0.33%, and contains no chemical preservatives. It uses chicken meal and fish meal as the primary protein sources rather than pure chicken or fish, so keep that in mind if you want to give your dog only whole-food ingredients.
  • Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula: Made with salmon and brown rice as the first ingredients, this formula is low in sodium (about 0.38% per serving) and free from corn, wheat, or soy.

These dog food brands and many more low-sodium options are widely available in your local pet store, or through online retailers like Amazon. Don’t forget that you can purchase low-sodium dog treats as well, not to mention plenty of other treats that offer health benefits for dogs.

What’s the best dog food choice for your pup’s low-sodium needs? The answer is different for every dog. But working with your veterinarian will help you find a high-quality dog food with natural ingredients that promotes your dog’s health.

Should I Give My Pet Low-Sodium Dog Food?

A healthy adult dog probably won’t need low-sodium food unless it’s recommended by your vet. But if your pooch is getting up there in age, or if they’re already dealing with a condition like heart disease, high blood pressure, or liver disease, a diet low in salt is probably a good idea.

Consult your veterinarian to determine if your pet could benefit from a low-sodium diet, and ask for their recommendation on a high-quality food that fits the bill. That way, you’ll be able to feel good about what you’re giving your beloved pet.