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The Benefits of Low Sodium Dog Food

 A healthy German Shepherd sitting on the grass

Dogs need sodium, but do they need all the sodium that is in their current food? Many manufacturers add sodium to enhance the smell and preserve the food, and often dogs get more sodium in their diet than they need.

While high-sodium is bad, too little sodium can also be a problem. How much sodium is necessary? What are the problems that a high-sodium diet causes? What are the benefits of a low-sodium diet? Read on to find out.

Sizing up the situation: Low sodium dog food for small dogs, medium dogs, and large dogs

The amount of sodium a dog needs is based on body weight. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has a minimum requirement of 0.3% for growth and reproduction, while for adult maintenance, the amount is 0.08% on a dry matter basis [1].

The main thing is to keep the percentage in the right range–larger dogs need more sodium, but they eat more food. The same is true for medium and small dogs–if the food’s percentage is correct, their sodium intake will be as well.

Your dog’s health condition and activity level will also affect the need for sodium–just check with your vet for advice.

What does sodium do?

Eliminating sodium completely isn’t a good idea. While sodium gets a bad reputation, it also serves a very vital role in your dog’s diet. In fact, sodium in your dog’s diet is necessary. 

Sodium helps:

      • Control blood pressure and blood volume
      • Maintain the normal osmotic balance between intracellular and extracellular fluids as well as water levels in body fluids balance to avoid swelling or cell crenation
      • Maintain electrolyte balance and aid in nerve impulse transfer as well as heart, brain, and muscle function
      • Balance pH level [2]

Healthy dogs really don’t have a preference for food that is higher in sodium, so all you need is food that provides enough sodium to keep your doggo’s body functioning properly.

Signs that your dog is getting too much sodium

If you think that your dog is getting too much sodium, here are some signs to look for:

      • Diarrhea
      • Drinking more water
      • Excessive urination
      • Falling into a coma
      • Increased heart rate
      • Lack of appetite
      • Lethargy
      • Looking disoriented
      • Seizures
      • Stomach pain
      • Stopped drinking or greatly reduced water intake
      • Vomiting

These symptoms can be the signs of other problems, too. I you suspect that your dog is having health problems caused by a high sodium level, take them to your vet as soon as possible so they can run tests to see what is causing the symptoms. If the issues is too much sodium, they can help you alter your dog’s diet to lower the intake to safe levels.

What problems do large amounts of sodium cause

A little too much salt here or there isn’t a big deal, but if your dog takes in too much sodium over a long period of time, it can cause major health problems, such as:

      • Heart disease
      • High blood pressure
      • Kidney failure
      • Osteoporosis
      • Stroke

None of these is good for your doggo’s quality of life, and this is where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sure you can treat all of these problems, but you and your best friend are much better off preventing them in the first place.

Low sodium for overweight and older dogs

If your furry friend is getting older or is packing a few too many pounds, a low sodium diet can be helpful. It will lower the stress on organs like the kidneys which will improve your doggo’s quality of life.

What health conditions require a low sodium diet?

There are some health conditions that require a low sodium diet. If your dog is suffering from heart or kidney disease, is taking prednisone or other corticosteroids, is getting older or is overweight, they will generally benefit from a low-sodium diet. 

How can I lower my dog's sodium?

A lab eating a low sodium meal

Be careful when you feed them human food–look for things that are low in sodium. Many human snacks like chips and pretzels are high in sodium. You also should avoid giving them anything that contains MSG or nitrates. 

Look for dog food that is low in sodium. Compare the sodium content on the label of the package as you shop. Opt for the lowest sodium content, but make sure that your dog will like the food. Try to find one with a protein source (beef, lamb, salmon, etc.) that you know your doggo likes.

Don’t forget the salt content of your dog’s snacks and treats. Many have extra salt added to enhance the flavour and to extend the shelf life. So check sodium content when you are picking tasty treats for your forever friend.

And make sure that they have plenty of water to drink, especially in hot weather. Water helps to flush sodium out of the body, and if it is hot, your dog will need a regular amount of water to maintain normal functions, plus additional water to help them deal with the heat.

How to make low sodium food for your dog?

Finding what dog food has the lowest sodium can be tricky. So, if you are having trouble finding low sodium food that your doggo likes. Here are two, easy to make, recipes that you can try.

If you don’t want to purchase dog food from the pet store, you can make your low-sodium dog food right at home! It’s all-natural, and you know exactly what your furry friend is eating.

So if you want to use your ingredients, here are the low-sodium dog food recipes you can follow:

Beef and Potatoes

      • Eight ounces of cooked lean ground beef (the weight should be according to the RAW beef measurements)
      • Three cups of boiled potato (with the skin)
      • Five bone meal tablets or powder (Or 1.25 teaspoon of bone meal powder)
      • One vitamin-mineral tablet

Chicken and Potatoes

      • A cup of chicken breast (cooked)
      • Three cups of boiled potato (with the skin)
      • Four bone meal tablets (Or a teaspoon of bone meal powder)
      • A vitamin-mineral tablet

All you need to do is to mix all these ingredients together and serve it in your dog’s food bowl for him to devour. They all have an adequate amount of protein and fat, without the excess sodium.

These recipes contain about 600 to 800 calories on average, which is enough for a medium-sized dog. Feed your pet once or twice a day and pair it with exercise, and he’ll stay a healthy and happy pet!

Take note that the ones with potatoes are higher in potassium as compared to using rice. If you want your dog to have a diet lower in potassium, then you can exchange the potatoes with two cups of cooked, long-grain rice.

As for the vitamins, make sure that it was prescribed or recommended by your dog’s veterinarian.

Low sodium dog food in Australia

When it comes to finding a low-sodium dog food in Australia, you will want to review the product’s nutritional label to determine if it’s right for your dog. Switching to higher-quality dog food can be your ticket to less salt intake for your puppa. 

Transitioning to a low-sodium food–Take your time

It can be hard on your dog’s digestive system to go straight from one food to another. Ease into it over 2 to 3 weeks slowly increasing the percentage of the new food until you are only feeding them the low-sodium brand.

If they aren’t happy with the flavour, you can add some of your dog’s favourite toppers or some low-sodium broth or gravy to encourage them a little.

Low sodium for your dog can lead to a long and happy life

A happy dog with the sun shining

Sodium is necessary for your dog’s good health, but unless your forever friend has health issues, it isn’t something that you need to worry about. Just ensure that your doggo’s food is within the AAFCO guidelines and don’t give them too many high sodium snacks and treats. If you notice any of the symptoms associated with excess sodium, consult your vet, and they can run tests to see if your dog needs a diet that minimizes their sodium intake.


[1] AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles

[2] Sodium in Dogs - Level, Deficiency and Sodium Poisoning | Pet Care Advisors

[3] Everything You Need to Know About Low Sodium Dog Food - iHomePet