Salt is a required nutrient in pet food, however there does not appear to be any consistency in its use. Some pet foods include a salt ingredient, others do not. Some pet foods include salt as a supplement ingredient (same as added vitamins and minerals) but others include more salt than a food ingredient (a protein or vegetable or fruit). In looking at the salt ingredient of 500 pet foods, I found an inconsistent mess.
The National Research Council feels excess salt in pet foods is a concern. They state excessive salt can cause in dogs “Restlessness; increased heart rate, water intake, and hemoglobin concentration, dry and tacky mucous membranes” and excessive salt can cause in cats “Anorexia; impaired growth; excessive thirst and drinking; excessive urination”.
More…“Too much sodium in a dog’s diet can lead to increased thirst. It can also cause swelling throughout the body. This puts a strain on the circulatory system and the kidneys as the body tries to rid itself of the excess fluid. Too little salt can cause dehydration, which can be life-threatening. Vomiting, diarrhea and seizures may indicate sodium ion poisoning, which occurs when a dog eats too much salt.”
Pet food regulations have an established minimum for salt – but regardless to the above health concerns there is NO established maximum of salt content in pet foods. And because there are no regulations holding manufacturers accountable, there is no consistency to the added salt in pet foods.
In 120 dry cat foods –
81 contained a salt ingredient, 39 did not contain a salt ingredient.
In 148 can cat foods –
76 contained a salt ingredient, 72 did not.
In 129 dry dog foods –
87 contained a salt ingredient, 42 did not.
In 115 can dog foods –
90 contained a salt ingredient, 25 did not.
It is assumed that those that did not include a salt ingredient in their pet food is either utilizing the natural salt content of the food ingredients (example: per the USDA nutrient database, one cup of roasted chicken breast contains 104 mg of sodium) or the company just didn’t include salt in the ingredient panel.
Before I go on, per pet food regulations – ingredients are required to be listed in order of weight (pre-cooking) – heaviest to lightest. Thus, any ingredient listed after the salt would weigh less (less of the ingredient than all ingredients listed prior).
In most of the pet foods that did include salt, the ingredient was listed after ‘food’ ingredients (such as after meat and vegetable ingredients). As example in this dog food…
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran, Whole Grain Oatmeal, Pea Protein, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Soybean Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Selenium Yeast, Biotin, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract, Decaffeinated Green Tea Extract, Spearmint Extract.
…the salt ingredient is (basically) included in with the other supplements (vitamins and minerals) and after the food ingredients.
In cat foods, the same was found; in most foods that included a salt ingredient, it was listed within the supplement section of the ingredient list. And the same for cat and dog canned foods.
But, in a surprising number of pet foods – the salt ingredient was listed before one or more food ingredients.
Examples from cat foods (dog food examples listed below)…
This pet food contains more salt than cranberries and blueberries.
Salmon Meal, Salmon, Ground Whole Brown Rice, Ground Whole White Rice, Egg Product, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potato Protein, Oatmeal, Tomato Pomace (Source of Lycopene), Pumpkin, Avocado, Natural Flavor, Chicory Root, Salt, Whey, Cranberries, Potassium Chloride, Blueberries,…
Though not found on the Eukanuba website, Pet Food Direct lists a Eukanuba Kitten Food that has more salt than egg…
Chicken Broth, Chicken, Meat By Products, Liver, Chicken By Products, Natural Flavor, Flax Meal, Brewers Rice, Broccoli, Carrots, Dried Beet Pulp, Sweet Potatoes, Titanium Dioxide, Potasium Chloride, Guar Gum, Salt, Suncured Alfalfa, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dried Egg Product,…
Here is a picture of GoodLife Recipe Chicken Cat Food that features images of apple, spinach, cranberries, and sweet potatoes on the label. However…
This pet food contains more salt than each of these ingredients.
Chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, brewers rice, chicken by-product meal, animal fat, natural flavor, brewers dried yeast, potassium chloride, dried peas, salt, taurine, DL-methionine, caramel color, dried spinach, dried tomato, dried blueberry, dried sweet potato, dried apple, dried cranberry,…
This pet food includes more salt than fish oil, sweet potatoes, carrots, blueberries, cranberries.
This pet food includes more salt than kelp, carrots, peas, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, cranberries.
This pet food includes more salt than cranberries, blueberries, dried apple pomace.
This pet food includes more salt than dried skim milk, dried kelp, dried cheese product, cranberries, blueberries, tomato, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, spinach.
This pet food includes more salt than cranberries, kelp.
This pet food includes more salt than spinach, flaxseed, suncured alfalfa meal, cranberries, sweet potato.
This pet food includes more salt than broccoli, organic cranberries, organic dried kelp, organic carrots, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds, tomato.
This pet food includes more salt than dried kelp, blueberries, cranberries, avocado meal, avocado oil.
The image of the Beneful Healthy Fiesta Dog Food Dry package includes a photo of carrots on the label. However…
This pet food includes more salt than carrots, dried tomatoes, avocado.
This pet food includes more salt than salmon oil (source of DHA), kelp, blueberries, cranberries, apples.
This pet food includes more salt than broccoli.
This pet food includes more salt than freeze dried peas, dried cranberries, and ground whole flaxseed.
This pet food includes more salt than cranberries, dried carrots (featured on the pet food label), raspberries, sweet potatoes, dried tomatoes.
This pet food includes more salt than dried kelp, carrots, peas, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, dried skim milk, cranberries.
This pet food includes more salt than cranberries, blueberries, tomatoes, spinach.
Because we (pet food consumers) are basically on our own with salt content in pet food – about the only thing we can do is carefully read the ingredient list. Think – ‘pinch of salt’ – that’s all that is needed.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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