Sodium and Pet Food:How Much Is Too Much?

Food For Thought™ Technical Bulletin No. 93R

Innovative Research in Dog and Cat Nutrition™

What Is Sodium and Why Is It Important?

Sodium is an essential mineral for life.
Found in the blood and in the fluid that surrounds cells, sodium maintains the cellular environment and prevents cells from swelling or dehydrating. Sodium is also important for maintaining proper nerve and muscle cell function.

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What Are the Sources of Sodium in Pet Foods?

Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are good sources of sodium.

Sodium also may 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.

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How Much Sodium Do Pets Need?

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.

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When Might Sodium Restriction Be Recommended?

A veterinarian may recommend decreasing a dog 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.

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Nutritional Application

The sodium level in our dog and cat foods is appropriate for healthy dogs and cats. The sodium content in these foods is balanced in proper proportions with energy, other minerals, vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

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