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Salty Dog and Salty Cat

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  1. Pacific Sun

    Beneful Original ingredients : Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, water, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, SALT, animal digest, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (a preservative), dried peas, dried carrots, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, Red 40, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Vitamin A supplement, Blue 2, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, brewers dried yeast, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.
    I am the last person on the planet to defend Purina’s Beneful. (Ugh!) But I’m wondering. Does the placement of the salt ingredient represent the accumulation of all sodium from the preceding ingredients? Not that they “add” a lump of salt greater than the ingredients that follow. But that the salt gets leached from processing of chicken (-ish elements), the animal fat, beef, meat and bone meal? However … it is certainly telling enough ….that the picturesque carrots and peas on the package, are not only “dried.” But they are of less volume than the carbohydrates corn, wheat, rice and soy flours. And why the need for propylene glycol and food (yikes) coloring? Only so that the consumer will “believe” there’s an assortment of “whole” foods in the product ….by sight?
    Companies must think the consumer is pretty stupid. If in fact, they are including such a volume of salt that actually IS greater than all of the other elements that follow! In whole food diets there should be enough naturally occurring salt from chicken and beef protein. Also from adding cottage cheese, yogurt or other such ingredients.
    All I can say is that when my older dog ate only kibble, he drank SO much water (as in quarts) that he’d put on weight rapidly! Which must have been from retaining water. It must have made him uncomfortable, his joints hurt, he was more irritable. And I know that others in his litter did have seizure problems. Fortunately I’d take him off the kibble right away. None of those problems happen with whole food cooking. He’s at a natural weight. Light water drinker. Playful, engaged and content.

  2. mikken

    “But I’m wondering. Does the placement of the salt ingredient represent the accumulation of all sodium from the preceding ingredients? Not that they “add” a lump of salt greater than the ingredients that follow. But that the salt gets leached from processing of chicken (-ish elements), the animal fat, beef, meat and bone meal?”

    Pacific Sun, no, that salt is not from the ingredients, it IS an added ingredient. What you’re asking about is sodium content, not ingredient. Remember, they only have to list what they add – and in all of these cases, salt is an added ingredient.

    That said, I’m wondering what the actual sodium content of the final products is? Because I don’t know that it’s so much “they’re adding a lot of salt” as “they AREN’T putting in nearly as much of the food ingredients as they would lead you to believe”.

    In fact, the only reason those token amounts of ingredients are there seems to be to put the pretty pictures on the label! There isn’t enough of them to have any sort of nutritional contribution to the overall product.

  3. Josh

    Salt is definitely a concern and something I talk to my clients about when using commercial foods. A few years ago I read a study that tested a bunch of dog foods off the shelf to see how much salt was really in them and the tests came back in the 3-6% range and I believe a few even tested higher. As a comparison, the ocean is around 3% . That usually puts it in perspective for people. People are always amazed at how much less their dog drinks after switching to a raw diet. It isn’t just the 60-75% water in the muscle meat they are now eating, it is all that salt they are not consuming anymore! I sometimes will suggest to clients to actually put down two water bowls when on raw depending on the circumstances. One is their regular water, and the other being a salt mixture. It acts like a salt lick and the dog gets to regulate whether or not their body needs anymore salt.

  4. Jean-Pierre Ruiz

    Hi Susan and fellow animal lovers.

    I would like to point out that there is also a significant difference in the type of salt that is used. Although the government has been advocating that salt is bad for us humans (and so presumably animals), the fact is that there is simply no scientific evidence to support this “warning.” Salt is essential for the body to function properly and is one of the five tastes we can…well, taste! Remember that an IV saline solution, which is given to people who are sick, is simply salt water. Namely, it is helps muscles and nerves function properly and is one of the factors involved in water regulation in the body. It helps regulate blood sugar and contributes to a healthy thyroid. Of course, it also has a long historical use in preserving foods.

    In fact, low sodium levels can lead to the exact diseases that the low sodium diet was supposed to prevent (see, the NY Times Article – health/panel-finds-no-benefit-in-sharply-restricting-sodium.html?_r=0. You can also google “salt and health” on, for those who like to read scientific papers.).

    However, there are vast differences in the health profiles of various salts – and concomitant price differences. The cheapest salt, which is used in human and pet food, is the type manufacture and marketed as iodized table salt which as been so processed as to virtually strip the salt of its minerals and hence health characteristics. In fact, those very same minerals are then sold to vitamin companies for a profit. This refining results in a bitter taste and is a reason why sweeteners are added along with anti-caking agent (that’s why your table salt remain grainy even when it’s humid outside), and then sprayed with iodine to make up for the minerals that were stripped.

    White sea salt is no healthier as it follows the same mineral-stripping process as the common table salt with the added “insult’ that no iodine is generally added though you’re likely to pay 2-3 times the price as a result of it being marketed as a “premium salt.”

    Unrefined sea salt (i.e., non-processed) has 84 minerals in it. This healthy salt usually comes in all kinds of colors with shades of pink, grey, or brown depending on the source. This salt provides our bodies, and that of our pets, the healthy balance of minerals intended by either God or evolution, as you prefer. Without endorsing any specific product (and I do not get any financial or other type of remuneration from any of these companies) unrefined sea salt is made available by companies like “Real Salt”, “Celtic Sea Salt” and “Himalayan Salt.”

    1. Pacific Sun

      Very informative Jean-Pierre Ruiz, …Josh and mikken too. Thank you for taking the time to explain. What we learn about our pet’s nutrition can certainly be helpful for human nutrition!

    2. Sasha

      I have an epileptic dog who is required to be on a low salt diet – I am working on switching food and I am wondering if a little bit of unrefined sea salt is okay for him.
      Also any ideas if any kibble foods would be good for him? I plan to do a half raw half kibble food.

  5. Jean Hofve DVM

    Love this post–really excellent work, Susan! This is extremely important for people to understand. Sodium and chloride (salt) are both required ingredients, but salt is also used as a flavoring because pets like the taste. A really salty food is likely to be masking inferior ingredients. So once again, Buyer Beware!

  6. Jim Esh

    I am a veterinarian and I would like to make a couple clarifications. The IV saline solution used in hospitals is not the same as sea water. Saline solution is 0.9% salt, about 1/4 the concentration of sea water (3.5%). If your pet is on Potassium Bromide for seizure control then high salt food can have a profound effect on efficacy, so stick to low salt (sea salt included). High salt foods do cause increased urination (water follows the salt that must be excreted), but the body reacts by decreasing blood flow to the kidney so actual kidney function (GFR) is reduced even though total urine is increased. The water lost in urination will require increased thirst/drinking to replace it. Dogs and cats have great cholesterol so the high blood pressure and artery problems of humans are not much concern, but there are bad effects to excessive salt used to make food tastier.

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