Most dog owners have never considered the necessity of low sodium dog food. Low sodium dog food is most often prescribed to dogs that have some form of heart disease. If it has to come to your attention that your dog is in need of a diet with little to no salt, it is crucial that start them on this type of food immediately.
What to look for, where to find it, and why your dog needs low sodium dog food can be found in this article. Good luck on your dog’s journey to a healthy heart.
The Best Low Sodium Dog Food: What You Should Know
Why is Low Sodium Dog Food Important?
When a dog is suffering from heart disease, he loses the ability to properly filter salt out of the body. When your dog’s body cannot get rid of the salt he eats, it lingers in the body causing edema (swelling), decreased kidney function or failure, and dehydration.
These negative side effects stemming from too much salt can put an unnecessary strain on your dog’s already struggling heart.
How Much Sodium is Too Much?
If your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease but they are not showing any symptoms, a mild sodium restriction diet may be all they need. This type of dog food can be found easily through many popular dog food brands and can even be bought at most stores that sell dog food.
For dogs suffering from severe heart disease or heart failure, a more strict sodium restricted diet can be detrimental. Dogs suffering from heart failure have symptoms such as coughing, breathing heavily, stomach distention (Swollen and hard belly), and edema (fluid retention swelling in various parts of the body).
Most human table foods are a huge no-no for dogs with a sodium restricted diet. Chips, bread, condiments, and many other common human snacks contain a large amount of salt which can be hazardous to your dog’s heart health.
Protein in Heart Patients
High-quality protein is generally recommended for dogs with heart disease or failure. Dog foods which provide real meat instead of meals (ground-up meat by-products) are much healthier for your dog.
Low protein diets can have a negative effect on your dog’s health. When they don’t get enough protein, dogs can lose valuable muscle mass which can decrease their survival time. Protein helps to keep their muscles and heart strong, giving them energy to combat their disease.
The only time your dog's protein should be restricted is if their heart disease is accompanied by severe kidney disease or failure. Kidneys in distress have a difficult time processing protein. When a dog with heart and kidney disease is given too much protein, their kidneys can fail, causing a slew of new problems for your dog’s health.
Sodium Restrictions Guideline
The amount of sodium your dog may be allowed to have all depends on the severity of their heart problem. There are three levels of sodium restricted diets for your heart patient. You can see these levels on the back of dog food bags.
- No Signs of heart disease = Mild restriction. Dogs with a mild restriction may be allowed less than 100 mg/100 kcal
- Early Heart Failure = Moderate restriction. Dogs with a moderate restriction may be allowed less than 80 mg/100 kcal
- Advanced Heart Failure = Severe Restriction. Dogs with a severe restriction may be allowed less than 50 mg/100 kcal
The first two sodium restriction levels can usually be found in many commercial dog foods. Severe sodium restriction diets may have to be acquired through veterinary prescription. Many pets do not want to eat prescription pet foods because of their taste.
It is important to weigh your options between prescription and regular low sodium dog food. If your dog does not eat enough, they may become malnourished, adding to their illness.
Consistency is of key importance in a sodium restricted diet. These dogs need to have the same amount of sodium every day so that their bodies can adjust.
Making Your Own Dog Food
If your dog is not taking well to their sodium restricted diet, making your own dog food may be a great option. You just have to be sure that all the ingredients you use are low sodium and absolutely do not add any salt at all. Talking to your veterinarian about certain recipes you find may be helpful.
Here is a helpful video I enjoy when I make homemade dog food for my dog.
Here are five low sodium dog foods which have consistently been given great reviews by dog lovers.
This food may be suitable for dogs that are in early stages of heart disease. If your vet is recommending a heart healthy diet for your dog, this is a great one to try.
- Moderated Sodium. This is a low sodium dog food but it is not over the top. This is the kind of dog food you might choose for a dog who falls in the mild or moderate sodium restriction category.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids. This ingredient helps to prevent tissue inflammation in your dog’s heart.
- Boosted B Vitamins. B vitamins are great for the overall health of your dog as well as their heart health.
- Tastes Great. Unlike many other sodium restricted dog foods, this one has gotten great reviews for being tasty. The last thing you need is your dog becoming malnourished because they don’t like their dog food.
- Expensive. Unfortunately, this is a common flaw among low sodium dog foods. This is a specialty brand food and you get what you pay for. Though it is expensive, it is cheaper than many other sodium restricted dog foods on the market.
- Small Bags. This dog food comes in small bags which makes it even more pricey especially if you have a large breed dog. If you have a small breed dog, the seven-pound size food bag may not be an issue for you.
The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Organic Grain Dog Food does not outright claim to be “low sodium” or “sodium restricted” but it only contains 78 grams per 100 kcal which is perfect for dogs that need a mild sodium restriction.
- Low Sodium. Though this dog food may not be suitable for dogs that require a more extreme sodium restriction, it is perfect for those who are looking to reduce their dog’s sodium intake.
- Dehydrated. This dog food comes in dehydrated packages which make them keep fresh for long periods of time. The ten-pound bag you purchase will make forty pounds of food. Just add water.
- Human Grade. This dog food is such high quality that it has been proven fit for human consumption. Not that you’d want to eat it yourself I’m sure.
- Increased Potty Breaks. Some buyers of this product have complained that this dog food made their dog go poop way more often than they used to. Stomach upset and diarrhea is definitely a big downside to this dog food brand.
- Waiting for the Food to Hydrate. You have to add water to this food before you feed it to your dog. You have to wait several minutes for the water to be absorbed which can be a little annoying on a tight schedule.
This dog food brand is packed with tons of healthy protein. This is a great thing for dogs with heart issues but talk to your vet before using this dog food if your dog has kidney disease. Too much protein can cause an extra burden on the kidneys, worsening the disease.
- Low Sodium. This is a low sodium dog food but it may not be suitable for dogs with moderate to severe dietary sodium restrictions.
- Tastes Great. Dogs tend to love the meaty taste of this dog food. The extra protein makes for a flavorful healthy dog food option.
- Grain-Free. This is a desirable trait for any dog food. Dogs do not need grain fillers in their dog food. Ingredients like corn have no nutritional value and are only used to bulk up the product so it can be made cheaply.
- Some Dogs Don’t Like it. While this brand of dog food does have many great reviews regarding taste, some dogs have been said to turn their nose up at this food. Choosing this dog food can be a gamble if your dog is a picky eater. You won’t know if your dog will like it until you have already made the purchase.
This is a canned dog food option for your sodium restricted dog. Low sodium is not the only heart healthy benefit that this dog food has to offer. Though this dog food is a good fit for many dogs with sodium restriction, it is specifically geared towards aging or elderly dogs.
- Very low sodium. This dog food offers a low sodium option that may be suitable for dogs with a moderate to severe sodium restriction. You will, of course, need to speak with your veterinarian to be sure that this is a good fit for your dog.
- High in B Vitamins and Magnesium. This is great if your dog has kidney issues and is taking diuretics. These nutrients can be lost when dogs are on this type of medication.
- L-Carnitine Added. This ingredient helps to promote healthy heart function and is not generally found in most dog foods.
- Pretty Expensive. Each package of this dog food has a steep price and it much more expensive than most people can afford. If money is no object, then this is a good product for you.
- Small Package. On top of their steep price, this dog food brand only comes in tiny eight-pound bags ensuring that you don't get much bang for your buck.
This is another dog food option that may be good for dogs with early heart disease and mild sodium restriction. Iams is a popular brand dog food which has been given good reviews consistently.
- Low Sodium. This variety of Iams dog food has lower sodium than most other name brand commercial dog foods. This is perfect if you are just looking to reduce your dog’s salt intake.
- Helps Dogs to Lose Weight and Keep it Off. Dogs that are overweight are much more likely to develop heart issues as well as many other health problems. This dog food is also designed to help dogs maintain a healthy weight once the extra pounds are lost.
- Not Too Expensive. You can find this dog food in large bags of 28 lbs or more. The price may look steep but you are getting a lot of food with a single purchase.
- Heavy in Grains. This dog food is full of grain carbohydrates which are great for satisfying hunger with little calories. The only problem with this is that grains are not exactly healthy for dogs. Grains are not easily digested and do not carry very much nutritional value.
My personal favorite product from the five is Royal Canin Early Cardiac Dog Food. This dog food is specifically formulated for heart patient dogs and advertises their low sodium status. They are grain-free unlike many of the other products listed and only have taste as the downfall.
This would be the first low sodium dog food option that I would talk to my vet about if my dog ever needs a sodium restricted diet. Whichever product you choose, it is extremely important to talk to a veterinarian before giving it to your dog.