Can Dogs Taste Salt?

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Introduction

Raise your hand if you love salty food! We are with you on this one, but what about salt and your dog? Unfortunately, if your dog consumes too much salt they could be at risk of salt toxicity. Just like humans, anything in excess can be bad for our four-legged friends. While commercial dog food does contain sodium, dogs are able to tolerate this amount of salt content in their food and treats. However, much more than this can lead to potential health problems. 

Wild dogs relied heavily on whatever meat they were able to find, which was naturally salty. Over time, their taste buds and dietary needs have changed. 

On average, dogs have around 1700 taste buds  - compared to 9000 for us humans. Not only do our taste buds differ from our furry friends, but we have different taste sensors, too. Dogs do not have salty taste sensors because of how high in salt wild dogs' diets were. 

Signs Your Dog Can Taste Salt

If your dog has had too much salt, the first thing you will notice is that they are drinking more water than normal. While your dog may beg you for foods that are high in salt (unbeknownst to them), allowing them to ingest too much salt could be detrimental to their health. 

Depending on the dog, signs of salt poisoning may be neurological, gastrointestinal, or cardiovascular. Perhaps the scariest part is that hydration - which can save your dog's life - and urination are the first signs they've had too much salt. Some other signs of salt poisoning include:

  • Confuson
  • High fever
  • Fluid buildup
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lack of energy 
  • Respiratory distress 
  • Stomach pains 
  • Vomiting
  • Tongue swelling 
  • Watery diarrhea 
  • Weakness 

If you notice any of the above, contact your vet right away. Some of the causes of too much salt intake include your dog having access to a frozen water source, ocean water, rock salt, soy sauce, and homemade play dough or ornaments. If you fear your dog has consumed any of these items, pay attention to how they are acting and call your vet if you believe there is any cause for concern. 

In order to diagnose salt poisoning, your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination that will include checking your pup's reflexes, temperature, pulse rate, weight, height, blood pressure, and respirations. 

Body Language

Here are signs your dog can taste salt:
  • Drooling
  • Licking
  • Tongue hanging

Other Signs

These are other signs your dog has had too much salt:
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive water consumption
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

History of Dogs Tasting Salt

Where humans have four taste sensors - sweet, salty, sour, and bitter - dogs only have three, skipping the salty sensor. When looking at how dogs taste and what foods (like salt) may cause them issues, it's important to take evolution and your dog's ancestors into consideration. 

Dogs do not have salty taste sensors because of how high in salt wild dogs' diets were. These dogs ate so much meat, which meant their diet was naturally high in salt. Because of this, their salt taste buds never evolved. 

Even though your dog may be missing the salt sensors, their taste buds are fine-tuned to meats and various fats. This is why your dog goes so crazy for anything meat-flavored! Numerous studies have been conducted that look at the effect of salt on your canine's system, and it's safe to say we know enough not to give them too much. Even though wild dogs may have been able to process salty foods, things change and today, this is not the case for Fido. 

Science Behind Dogs Consuming Salt

Moderation is key when it comes to feeding your dog, well, anything. This is especially the case when talking about salt. According to the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources,  healthy dogs weighing around 30 pounds should consume no more than 100 mg of sodium each day. 

It is important for you to discuss your dog's dietary needs with your veterinarian and adjust their intake depending on the size of your pup. 

Salt is known to absorb water in the body, which means that if your dog consumes too much, they will likely become extremely thirsty. 

Because of this, they will drink more water than normal, which could create problems as their body tries to adjust and process the salt. If too much pressure is placed on the circulatory system and kidneys, it could cause their body to swell and may even lead to vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures. 

This is why it is so important your dog has a balanced diet. Too much salt in the system can cause the muscles to shrivel and become stiff, leading to shaking, jerking, and possible seizures. In the most serious cases of salt poisoning, dogs may fall into a coma or even die. 

Training Your Dog to Taste Salt

Never intentionally train your dog to eat salt. This is extremely dangerous and could have a serious effect on your dog's health. If you aren't sure how much salt is too much, ask your vet. The amount of sodium a dog can safely ingest will depend on their weight, health, and any potential risks. The most dangerous part of a dog ingesting too much salt is that they lose water and the minerals found in water along with it. Your dog will need to have their fluids replenished, which may require an IV with electrolytes. 

Salt is found in many of our favorite foods, which is yet another reason why you should avoid giving your dog human scraps. Always check food labels on anything you give your dog and pay attention to the weight listed next to the ingredients. 

Most dry foods contain less sodium than wet food because they are lower in moisture. Regardless of the type of food you decide to feed your furry friend, make sure salt isn't one of the top five ingredients. Other items to avoid giving your dog include beef jerky, potato chips, and pretzels. If you aren't sure if something is appropriate or not, talk to your vet about it and work out a diet that is well-balanced and appropriate for Fido. 

How to React if Your Dog Tastes Salt:

  • Keep a close eye on them.
  • If they are drinking far more water than normal, call your vet.
  • Check their stool and watch for diarrhea.

Safety Tips for When Your Dog Has Too Much Salt:

  • Contact your vet.
  • Make sure they have access to water, but don't let them drink too much.
  • Watch for diarrhea, muscle spasms, and loss of appetite.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog's Experience with Salt!