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Salt and the pet food controversy

Cjeck pet food labels to see how much salt the food contains.
Cjeck pet food labels to see how much salt the food contains.

Salt is a very controversial dietary item. The current health buzz says to eliminate extra salt from foods humans eat for better health. But what about pets? Do they need salt to maintain health? Susan Thixton ( ) researched salt in pet food to see if there was a consistency across the industry. Not surprisingly, there isn’t. Her results showcase a great need for animal advocates to become more educated and active in insisting the pet food industry step up the pet health standards in their food.

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, Susan 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 investigating 120 dry cat foods, here are Susan’s findings:

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. In most of the pet foods that did include salt, the ingredient was listed after ‘food’ ingredients, such as after meat and vegetable ingredients.

For additional information, read Susan’s entire article here. It includes brand examples and more information. Comments below the article also give sound information regarding types of salt and health benefits of them. Visit Susan’s page to subscribe to her newsletter, receive pet food recall notices, and read lots of information about pet food issues.

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