Just like us humans, dogs need salt in their diet. Too little, and they could become deficient. And too much can lead to salt toxicity, which can be fatal. So, it’s super important for you to get it right. And just like most things in life, it’s not as simple as that. Every dog is different, and some dogs need different levels of sodium in their diet.
Finding the top low-sodium food can be an overwhelming task. Especially if you have been told you need to reduce your dog’s salt intake because of a health issue. Fear not, we have researched everything you need to know about salt. From how much all dogs need to what happens if your dog consumes too much. We’ll answer all of your questions and more.
We have created a buying guide on how to pick a healthy, low sodium dog foods. Because, in addition to showing you which dog foods are low in sodium, you need to feel confident in how to find the right one for your pooch. So, let’s get stuck in.
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to Chewy.com or Amazon.com, where you can get additional product information and customer reviews. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Do Dogs Need Salt?
All dogs need salt in their diet, and it plays an essential part in their electrolyte balance, nerve transmission, and muscle cell function. It also regulates blood pressure and pressure, assists with regular and healthy digestion, and aids in fluid retention.
Thankfully, domesticated dogs consume enough sodium to survive. The majority of their salt intake comes from meat and dairy. And commercial foods contain an acceptable level in the form of added table salt.
For most dogs, if they overeat, their bodies can excrete it. Either through drinking lots of water to peeing it out to get rid of the high salt levels in their blood. Thankfully, most dog owners do not need to worry about salt intake. But not all dogs have this ability, and too much or too little salt can be dangerous for them.
Recommended Sodium Intake For Dogs
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) states that dogs need a minimum of 0.3% or 100mg per 100kcal of sodium in their diet. AAFCO does not, however, say what the maximum salt intake should be. Information on a food’s sodium content can also be challenging to find because food manufacturers are not required to disclose the sodium content on their packaging. However, you can contact them for details should you need the precise amount.
According to the Vermont Veterinary Cardiology Services, the following guidelines are commonly accepted when it comes to dogs and their recommended sodium intake:
- No sodium restrictions – at least 0.5% sodium content (>100mg sodium/100kCal)
- Mild sodium restriction – between 0.3% and 0.4% sodium content (80 to 100mg/100kCal)
- Moderate sodium restriction – between 0.2% and 0.3% sodium content (50 to 80mg/100kCal)
- Marked sodium diet – between 0.15% and 0.2% (40 to 50mg/100kCal)
- Severe sodium restriction – between 0.075% and 0.15% sodium content (<50mg/100kCal)
A severe sodium restriction or marked sodium diet usually requires veterinary prescribed foods. If they haven’t informed you or are still confused, you need to contact your vet and establish his sodium diet requirements.
Reasons For a Low Sodium Diet
Those dogs who need to go on a low sodium diet are the ones who are unable to process sodium or excrete it effectively. Most dog owners do not have to worry about salt intake. If your pooch eats a good quality kibble, he will be just fine.
There are many reasons why a vet would recommend putting your dog on a low sodium diet. The most common reasons are:
Increased sodium can lead to increased blood pressure, possibly leading to a variety of heart diseases and conditions as well as heart attacks and strokes. Limiting salt intake can help dogs regulate their blood pressure better and, in turn, prevent heart issues.
His liver is responsible for filtering out toxins in the blood and promoting other normal bodily functions. Reducing his salt intake can help him to manage the effects of certain liver disorders. The first sign of liver disease is urinating more and drinking more. Primarily because of their high sodium intake and abnormal levels of other minerals.
The function of a kidney is to filter out toxins, including excess sodium and other unwanted minerals. Once they have done this, they excrete them by urine for the body to dispose of. Renal, or kidney disease, prevents this process from happening, building sodium to unsafe levels. It also increases water retention, which can cause a variety of other health conditions.
Vets often advise dogs who are managing weight to switch to a weight management dog food. Typically, a weight management kibble has reduced sodium content because chunky canines already have a heightened risk of cardiovascular problems.
If you have a senior pooch, your vet might prescribe a low sodium diet despite no health concerns. In the older years, dogs can struggle to regulate blood pressure and aren’t as effective at excreting it. Additionally, seniors are more at risk of the above health conditions. They are also more likely to suffer from poor nerve function and muscle issues.
Lowering salt intake minimizes the risk of potential problems related to senior health and prevents current symptoms from worsening, allowing the body to manage them better. But again, unless your vet has advised your aging pup to go on a low sodium diet, feeding him food designed for senior dogs is the best way to go.
Salt toxicity is also known as hypernatremia, and it is a dangerously high sodium concentration in the blood. It occurs when a dog eats too much salt and doesn’t drink enough water to dilute it. High levels of sodium can be fatal, particularly for dogs suffering from the above conditions.
The symptoms of hypernatremia are:
- Increased thirst
- Confusion and disorientation
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- High water loss through urination
- Seizures and coma
It usually occurs after a dog has gobbled up a whole bag of salted popcorn or destroyed a salt shaker. If you notice any of the above symptoms or are concerned that your dog has eaten too much salt, you need to contact your vet for advice.
The lethal dose of sodium in dogs is approximately 4 grams per kilogram of his body weight. To put that into perspective, a teaspoon of salt weighs around 5 grams, so the average dog would need to eat a lot of salt. Of course, the smaller the dog, the more dangerous it can be.
As you can see, if your vet has advised a low salt diet, it is something that you need to take seriously. Aside from the salt levels, you need to be able to identify the right kibbles and know what makes a good low salt dog food. Follow our guidelines in this buyer’s guide, and you will find the tastiest low sodium dog food for your pooch.
A well-balanced diet is an optimum goal for Fido’s nutrition. Quality protein sources are the second biggest food component to consider. Ideally, the first ingredient on the ingredients list should be protein. Real meat as the first ingredient indicates that the food you are feeding Fido is good quality. However, some diet-specific kibbles may not list meat as the first ingredient.
Most salt intake comes from meat, so he needs protein to maintain a healthy salt intake. Real meats, meat meals, and eggs are the optimal source of meat protein. Other ingredients such as organs and cartilage are another nutritionally beneficial source of protein too. You can find the protein content in the guaranteed analysis section on the packaging. AAFCO recommends that adult dogs should eat a minimum protein content of 18%.
Omega fats are another key consideration in his diet. Many people associate fats with bad health, but without them, dogs would be very ill. Healthy omega fatty acids are essential for healthy organ function, skin and coat health, vitamin and mineral absorption, and overall wellness. All of which can help him to manage his sodium levels efficiently. Look for ingredients such as fish, fish oil, flaxseeds, and plant oils.
Vitamins and Minerals
Just like sodium, Fido needs a variety of essential vitamins and minerals for his body to function as it should. High-quality food ensures that he has the right balance of everything that he needs. Ingredients to look for are vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as fruits and veggies.
Our Best Low Sodium Dog Food Picks
Here we showcase the top over-the-counter low sodium dog foods available on the market. If your vet has recommended that your pooch consumes a veterinary prescribed diet, you should follow this guidance. If, however, your vet has suggested a generic lower sodium dog food, the below recommendations are great for him.
Remember that it is always important to read the labels yourself, and manufacturers can change their recipes at any time. We have found six of the best kibbles with a low sodium count, ordered from the least to the highest sodium. We have also found two wet food options listed at the end for those fussier pooches.
Earthborn Holistic Weight Control Grain-Free
- Grain-free formula.
- Gluten-free formula.
- Low-fat content.
- L-Carnitine for muscle retention.
- Made with healthy vegetables and fruits.
- 325 Calories per cup.
- 25% Protein, 7% Fat, 9% Fiber.
Earthborn Holistic is a reputable brand that sells high-quality kibbles. This kibble has the lowest sodium content on our list. At 50mg/100Kcal, it falls between the marked sodium diet and the moderate sodium restriction. Designed for adult dogs who need to lose weight, this formula has a low sodium content. It also lists l-carnitine, which helps to boost his metabolism.
The protein content is 25%, and the first ingredient is chicken meal. This is a concentrated form of protein and a natural source of glucosamine for joint health. Full of healthy omega fats, this product will build a shiny and healthy coat and look after organ function and nutrient absorption. All of this helps the body optimally regulate sodium.
Blueberries, apples, cranberries, carrots, and spinach provide him with fiber and antioxidants to keep his immunity strong and healthy. This is also a high fiber diet, which helps him feel fuller for longer. As well as assist with any digestive issues.
We love that this is a grain-free healthy-weight kibble with the lowest sodium content.
Iams Adult MiniChunks Small Kibble High Protein
- Smaller kibble size for easier eating.
- Made with real farm-raised chicken as the first ingredient.
- Premium-sourced protein helps encourage strong muscles.
- Blend of fibers and prebiotics promotes a healthy digestive system.
- Contains antioxidants for immune system support.
Here we have our top choices for those on a tighter budget. Iams is also a well-known brand known for supplying dogs with quality dog food at affordable prices. This sodium content is 55mg/100Kcal, which brings it into the moderate sodium restriction bracket.
The protein content is 25%, and real chicken is listed first in the ingredients. Egg product is also in the ingredients list. This is full of protein and DHA, which is excellent for cognitive function. A grain-inclusive option, this recipe includes both corn and sorghum.
This kibble has a long list of vitamin and mineral supplements, which keeps him feeling strong and healthy. And again, help with his nutrient absorption and blood management. The kibble pieces are extra-small so that small breeds can also eat this kibble.
We love that this kibble has the second-lowest sodium level on this list. And the kibbles are extra tiny, making this the best option for small breeds.
Wellness Complete Health Adult
- Specially formulated to provide whole-body nutritional support.
- Developed without any GMOs, meat by-products, fillers or artificial preservatives.
- Supported by omega fatty acids, antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics and taurine.
- Premium proteins and wholesome grains.
- Made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients.
Wellness Complete is designed for your dog’s full health but also has lower sodium. At 63mg/100Kcal, it falls into the moderate sodium restriction bracket. This is a well-balanced kibble that provides dogs with everything that they need.
Real lamb and lamb meal are the first two ingredients: high quality and a gentler protein source. Menhaden fish meal is also listed, providing extra taste and omega fatty acids for coat health. Additionally, if your dog has a sensitive stomach, this kibble is an excellent option.
Sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, peas, and carrots provide fruit and veggie goodness for immune health. Extra vitamins and minerals are added for an extra boost, and probiotic ingredients promote friendly bacteria in the gut.
We love that this is a grain-inclusive formula designed for dogs who need to manage their weight.
Hill's Science Diet Adult Large Breed
- Glucosamine and chondroitin work to support joint and cartilage health.
- Omega-6 fatty acids for a healthier and noticeably shiny coat.
- Antioxidant and vitamin E and C blend work together to help support a healthy immune system.
- Made from natural, high-quality ingredients without any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
- Made in the USA.
Hill’s Science Diet is a trusted brand who base their recipes on scientific research. This recipe is designed for large breed dogs who weigh over 55 pounds. The sodium level is lower compared to most other kibbles, which is 71mg/100Kcal. Again, this kibble falls into the moderate sodium restriction bracket.
The protein content is 19%. Although this is lower than the other kibbles on this list, it still exceeds AAFCO guidelines so that you know it is good quality. The first ingredient is lamb meal, which is gentle on his digestive system.
It is a grain-inclusive diet, and it uses brown rice and wheat to provide fiber and energy. Plant oils and flaxseed nourish his skin and coat from the inside out. Glucosamine is found in lamb meals and other ingredients, which help to support his large joints too.
We love that this kibble is a fantastic option for large breed dogs to manage their sodium intake.
American Journey Grain Free Senior Dog Food
American Journey is one of the newest brands on this list, but they are very popular. This senior kibble is a high-quality food at a reasonable price. It’s designed for the golden oldies who need to reduce salt in their systems.
The protein content is 30%, which is by far the highest on this list. Deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal are the first three ingredients. And they are lean, nutritious, and full of taste. This is a grain-free option and instead uses slow-release carbohydrates for his energy needs.
As a senior kibble, the fiber content is much higher than adult kibble. And this helps him to feel fuller for longer and hopefully cut down on his snacking. It is full of nutrient-dense ingredients, such as marine microalgae, dried kelp, and pumpkin, which keep his immune system strong.
We love that this option is ideal for seniors who need to lower their salt intake simply because of their age.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Classic Sensitive Skin & Stomach Canned
- Specifically formulated for dogs with skin-irritating food allergies or upset stomachs.
- Provides the ultimate texture, taste, and nutrition your dog craves.
- Premium salmon has omega DHA promoting cognitive development during the aging process.
- Omega-6 fatty acids to maintain healthy skin and a beautiful shiny coat.
- Made in Purina-owned U.S.A facilities.
- No added artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
This is our wet food option because not all dogs like, or can eat, dried kibble alone. This product has the joint-lowest sodium content. At 50mg/100Kcal, this falls between the marked sodium diet and the moderate sodium restriction.
Purina Pro Plan has designed this wet food for pups with sensitive stomachs and skin, so you can be sure that every ingredient soothes his gut and reduces irritation. Made with salmon and other fish sources, it is full of omega fatty acids to keep the skin and coat vibrant and beautiful.
This is a grain-inclusive diet that includes rice. This provides fiber and energy and adds to the texture, giving dogs some crunch. It is nutritionally complete and full of vitamins, minerals, and prebiotic fiber.
We love that this is our lowest sodium wet food option, ideal for those dogs who need to cut their sodium intake drastically.
Purina ONE SmartBlend Classic Adult Canned
- Comes in a variety of flavors and blends.
- Available for dogs in all stages of life.
- SmartBlend comes in True Instinct and regular.
- Made with real meat and natural ingredients.
- Contains antioxidants and vitamins.
Here we have another Purina product, but this is from their Purina ONE SmartBlend range. It is designed for all adults rather than for those with sensitive stomachs and skin. So it might be an all-around better option for your pooch. The sodium content is 55mg/100Kcal, which places this option into the moderate sodium restriction diet.
This canned food has a higher protein content than the above option, and chicken and turkey broth is the first ingredient. Real chicken, liver, and egg products add extra nutrients and taste to the mixture too.
Spinach provides antioxidants, and added vitamin and mineral supplements boost his immunity. As well as help him to absorb and process everything that he consumes, including sodium.
We love that this is another wet option, making it ideal for those pooches who cannot or won’t eat dried food independently.
So, there you have it, everything you need to know about a low sodium diet for canines. From how much Fido needs to why some dogs need lower sodium versus others. Hopefully, we have answered all of your questions and provided the information you need to decide about Fido’s low sodium nutrition.
Always refer to your vet’s advice; don’t attempt to change the diet without their say-so first. By sticking to our recommendations, you can feel confident that you are taking the best steps towards a happier and healthier life. Not only will your vet be pleased with his progress, but you should start to notice a positive difference in Fido too.