Sodium and Your Dog

By Timothy Brill

Sodium and Your Dog

As we all know, sodium is an essential mineral for life. It is found in the blood and in the fluid that surrounds the cells in our body.  Sodium maintains the cellular environment and prevents cells from swelling or dehydrating. It is also important for maintaining proper nerve and muscle cell function.

In pet foods, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are good sources of sodium.  Sodium may also be included in commercial pet foods in the form of table salt (sometimes listed on the ingredient panel as salt). Salt is an important palatant for animals, as well as people.

Sodium Needs for Pets
The Association of American Feed Control Officials recommend that dry dog foods contain at least 0.3% (and dry cat foods contain at least 0.2% sodium) for both maintenance and to support normal growth and development. These are minimum recommended levels.

While high sodium intake may cause increased thirst and water consumption, the extra sodium is excreted in the urine of dogs (and cats).  Healthy dogs are able to consume diets with higher sodium levels than found in most commercial pet foods without increased blood pressure or gain in body water. Therefore, the sodium level in commercial pet foods is not a cause for concern in healthy animals.

Possible Sodium Restrictions
A veterinarian may recommend decreasing a dog's (or cat's) sodium intake if the animal has some types of kidney, liver, or heart disease, in order to help decrease high blood pressure or the accumulation of excessive body fluid. Although older dogs (and cats) may be more likely to develop these diseases, healthy older dogs (and cats) do not require a low or reduced-sodium diet.

Timothy Brill is a freelance writer and animal advocate.


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