Salt, commonly used for cooking in the kitchen, is quite poisonous to dogs and cats. Excessive salt (sodium chloride) intake can lead to the condition known as salt poisoning (hypernatremia). Salt poisoning is unlikely to occur as long as sodium regulating mechanisms are intact and fresh drinking water is available. Dogs are very much like humans, in that they need electrolytes to help their body function. When sodium levels are high, electrolyte levels fall, and it can have some significant health effects. Dogs have been reported to develop hypernatremia after swimming/playing in the ocean (which contains 3.5% sodium) without having access to fresh water.
Salt poisoning in dogs results in clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, lethargy, walking drunk, abnormal fluid accumulation within the body, excessive thirst or urination, potential injury to the kidneys, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death when untreated. If your dog ingested an extreme amount of salt in a short time, the cells in the body will start to release water to even out the levels of salt in the blood. This causes the destruction of brain cells due to the lack of water, creating neurological symptoms like dizziness, headache, and seizures.
Treatment for salt poisoning includes careful administration of IV fluids, electrolyte monitoring, treatment for dehydration and brain swelling, and supportive care. Your dog will be admitted to the hospital for oxygen, IV fluid therapy, and electrolytes to manage dehydration. The salt level will have to be brought down gradually because a sudden change in sodium levels can cause a heart attack or cerebral edema (brain swelling). It is important to feed a low sodium diet for at least 30 days after the episode. Dog’s prognosis is good as long as there is no damage to the brain, heart, or liver. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and continue to take your dog for annual check-ups.