Like so many other components of a dog’s diet, sodium is essential for life, yet toxic in excessive quantities. But fortunately, sodium is generally not a mineral most dog owners need to worry about.
Domestic dogs typically ingest more than enough sodium to meet their biological needs, and they have several physiological mechanisms for excreting excessive amounts of sodium (such as increased urination and water consumption), should they consume too much.
However, in some cases, dogs will need a specific low sodium diet.
Warning: There is a lot of misleading information on the web regarding the sodium content of various dog foods, but we have confirmed the sodium content of all the foods listed below with the manufacturers. However, we have NOT yet confirmed the sodium content of the treats discussed below. Always remember to double-check the nutritional information on the product packaging and consult with your vet if you’re unclear about anything.
Best Low Sodium Dog Food: Quick Picks
- Earthborn Weight Control [Best Low Sodium Recipe]! 50mg/100kcal – This grain-free, low-fat, low-carlorie, chicken-based food is fortified with glucosamine and boasts an impressive low-sodium count.
- Earthborn Adult Vantage [Best Moderate Sodium Recipe]! 60mg/100kcal – This gluten-free, low calorie and low-sodium formula features chicken and whitefish meal as the first ingredients, along with hearty oatmeal and barley grains.
- Wellness Complete Lamb & Barley [Best Lamb-Based Option]. 63mg/100kcal – With lamb and lamb meal as first ingredient (along with hearty grains like oatmeal and barley), this quality recipe doesn’t skimp on protein while still boasting moderate sodium levels. It also is wheat, corn, and soy-free.
- Wellness Complete Toy Breed Chicken, Brown Rice, & Peas [Best For Toy Breeds]. 57mg/100k cal – This small-breed kibble features chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal as the first ingredients, along with healthy brown rice with low to moderate sodium levels.
- Wellness Simple Turkey & Potato (Canned) [Lowest Sodium Wet Food]. 56/100kcal– This limited-ingredient and gluten-free wet food features high-quality turkey as the first ingredient and is blended with easily digestible carbohydrates with no additives added.
Best Low Sodium Dog Treats: Quick Picks
- Hills Ideal Balance Soft-Baked Naturals Chicken & Carrot | 35mg/kcal [Pick #1]! This natural dog treat is made with real chicken and other all natural ingredients, no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors added.
- Hills Science Diet Soft Savories Peanut Butter & Banana | 36mg/kcal [Pick #2]. This recipe features real peanut butter as the #1 ingredient and ahs a soft and tender texture.
- Hills Science Baked Light Biscuits with Real Chicken | 34mg/kcal [Pick #3]. Great-tasting, low calorie snacks made with real chicken to help build and maintain lean muscle and fortifid with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Continue reading for more in-depth reviews
Health Problems that Require Low-Sodium Foods
High salt intake can cause many people to develop high blood pressure, but this rarely appears to happen to dogs. In fact, a 2008 study, published in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, found that dogs adapt well to a wide range of sodium levels. The author of the study states that:
“There is no strong evidence that increased dietary sodium increases the risk of hypertension in dogs and cats, and the current recommendation for hypertensive animals is to avoid high dietary salt intake without making a specific effort to restrict it.”
As you can see, you probably don’t need to worry about your pup developing high blood pressure unless you supplement his diet regularly with Doritos and pickled eggs. But high blood pressure isn’t even the reason most dogs end up needing a low-sodium diet.
Most dogs that require a low-sodium diet suffer from congestive heart failure (some liver or kidney issues can also lead your veterinarian to recommend restricting his salt intake). Congestive heart failure causes fluid to build up in the body, and salt exacerbates this phenomenon.
By reducing the level of sodium in your dog’s food, you can help your dog shed some of this excess fluid in his urine. This will help take some strain off of his internal organs, and generally bolster his health.
Recommended Sodium Levels for Canines
Various dog foods have wildly different sodium levels. Unfortunately, it is actually somewhat difficult to find the sodium levels of many dog foods, as manufacturers aren’t required to print such information on the labels. In fact, the AAFCO doesn’t even establish a maximum acceptable level for sodium content – it only establishes a minimally acceptable value.
However, with sufficient homework, you can usually find the sodium content of commercial foods. This can allow you to select a food that fits within the range prescribed by your vet.
Generally speaking, most veterinarians use the following categories when discussing low-sodium diets (it usually easier to use the amount of sodium provided for each 100k calories as your unit of measure when comparing foods):
- Dogs with no sodium restrictions require food with at least 0.5% sodium content (>100mg sodium/100kCal)
- Dogs who require mild sodium restriction should be offered foods with between 0.35% and 0.5% sodium content (80 to 100mg/100kCal)
- Dogs who require moderate sodium restriction should only receive foods with between 0.1% and 0.35% sodium content (50 to 80mg/100kCal)
- Dogs who require severe sodium restriction should be offered food with less than 0.1% sodium content (<50mg/100kCal)
While the AAFCO doesn’t address the maximum amount of sodium dogs can ingest safely, the National Research Council of the National Academies does.
According to their guidelines, a 33-pound dog who burns about 1,000 Calories per day should not consume more than 2,000 milligrams per day. They do not explicitly state how to extrapolate this figure, as calorie consumption and body weight do not necessarily have a linear relationship.
Salt Toxicity Is Serious Problem For Dogs
For the most part, a dog food’s sodium content is only a long-term concern of those dogs with certain medical conditions.
But sodium can be immediately dangerous – a condition called salt toxicity — to any dog who consumes a significant quantity in a short period of time, such as if Fido gets into the spice cabinet or pantry and goes to town on a shaker.
Salt toxicity isn’t just a problem for dogs, as numerous other species are susceptible (pigs only tolerate a small amount of salt in a short amount of time, while sheep can tolerate quite a bit).
The lethal dose for dogs is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 grams per kilogram of body weight. As a point of reference, a teaspoon of salt weighs about 5 grams and a kilogram is equal to about 2.2 pounds.
Dogs who consume significant amounts of salt may vomit, or suffer from muscle tremors or seizures. But this kind of toxicity is somewhat rare in dogs, and tends to occur via accidental ingestion of very salty food.
Contact your vet immediately if your dog exhibits signs of salt toxicity – this isn’t a long-term problem to be solved with low-sodium food, it requires prompt medical care. About 50% of all salt toxicity cases prove fatal, even with prompt treatment.
What to Look for in a Low-Sodium Food
Low-sodium foods should be nutritionally similar to other foods, aside from the reduced amount of sodium contained therein. They should also exhibit the same characteristics that other high-quality foods do, such as:
- They should feature a whole protein source as the first listed ingredient. Dogs are omnivores, who require a variety of different foods to stay healthy, but the bulk of their calories should come from meat. Look for items like deboned chicken, deboned turkey, lamb, beef, pork, trout or salmon, rather than meat-meals or byproducts made from these animals.
- They should be made in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, or Western Europe. These countries have very strict safety and food-quality regulations in place, which help to reduce the chances that you’ll purchase a food tainted with harmful substances.
- They should be made without unnecessary dyes, colors, flavors or additives. Your dog probably doesn’t notice his food’s color very much, so colors and dyes are best avoided, as they can trigger food allergies. And foods that require artificial flavors should probably just concentrate on improving their ingredients and recipes, not adding things to cover an unpalatable product.
- They should only contain properly labeled meat meals and meat byproducts. Despite the fact that they often contain items humans would never eat, meat-meals and byproducts can be nutritious and valuable sources of supplemental protein. However, they must be made from identified sources. For example, “chicken meal” is acceptable, but “poultry meal” is not.
- They should emphasize whole-grains and other carbohydrates with a high nutritional value. Carbohydrates are an important component of your dog’s diet, but not all carbohydrates are created equally. For example, enriched wheat provides a very high number calories, while providing very little fiber. Whole wheats, on the other hand, provide a much better fiber-to-calorie ratio.
- They should address any other health needs your pooch has. For example, if your dog suffers from a food allergy to chicken or beef, you need a low-sodium food that doesn’t contain these ingredients. Alternatively, if your dog suffers from arthritis, you probably want a low-sodium food that contains glucosamine or chondroitin.
How to Identify Low Sodium Dog Foods
While we’ve done our best to highlight a few great low sodium diet choices here, it’s worth remembering that formulas can change, so understanding how to do the math yourself is always best.
Generally, when looking for a low-sodium dog food, your best bet will be to look for weight management formulas. These almost always have lower sodium levels than standard dog food.
5 Best Low-Sodium Dog Foods
The following five foods are among the best foods available, that have a relatively low sodium content. While these may not be sufficient for dogs requiring severe sodium restriction, they should work for those with mild sodium restrictions.
Please remember to always consult your vet before embarking on any kind of new diet with your dog – especially when you are trying to meet certain requirements like a low sodium diet.
These formulas have been reported to offer lower sodium amounts than most, but we always recommend getting in touch with the brand’s customer service to verify that the formula has not changed and that the food does indeed meet your and your dog’s sodium restriction requirements. Do not make dog diet selection choices based solely on this article!
Note: Because ultra-low-sodium diets are quite rare, we’ve highlighted the recipes with the lowest sodium content in orange.
1. Earthborn Kibble Adult Vantage
High-quality animal meats with low sodium levels
This kibble features chicken meal and whitefish meal as its first ingredients and a sodium content of only 60mg/100kl.
About: Earthborn Kibble Adult Vantage is a high-quality dog food for canines who need moderate sodium restriction with 60mg/100kl. Many owners sing the praises of Earthborn, testifying to their quality.
This food uses quality animal proteins, with chicken meal and whitefish meal as the first two ingredients. Other ingredients include oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and rye.
While some owners prefer grain-free diets (see below for sodium restricted grain-free kibbles from Earthborn), there shouldn’t be a problem feeding most dogs a dry food that includes some grains, so long as the grains don’t make up most of the kibble composition.
Earthborn also has several other kibbles that are suitable for moderate sodium restrictions:
- Earthborn Weight Control (Grain-Free): 50mg/100kl
- Earthborn Large Breed (Grain-Free): 60mg/100kl
- Earthborn Puppy Vantage: 80mg/100kl
- Earthborn Weight Control: 50mg/100kl
- Earthborn Small Breed: 80mg/100kl
Earthborn is a well-liked dog food brand, with grain and grain-free kibbles that meet the requirements for moderate sodium restriction.
Earthborn is fairly reasonably priced, but not the cheapest option out there. One owner found that one of her bags was only 3/4 full when received, but this seems to be a one-off manufacturing issue. Overall though, there isn’t much bad to say about this brand.
Chicken Meal, Whitefish Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice...,
Rye Flour, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of vitamin E), Canola Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of vitamin E), Tomato Pomace, Ground Flaxseed, Apples, Blueberries, Carrots, Peas, Spinach, Garlic, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Taurine, L-Lysine, DL-Methionine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Beta-Carotene, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Oxide, Magnesium Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Niacin, D-Calcium Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, L-Carnitine, Vitamin B12 Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Ferrous Sulfate, Biotin, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Calcium Iodate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Manganese Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product.
2. Wellness Complete Health Lamb & Barley
USA-made quality kibble with moderate sodium
This USA-made lamb-based recipe offers great sodium restriction with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives added.
About: Wellness Complete Health Adult Lamb & Barley is a USA-made, high-quality lamb-based dog food that also offers great sodium restriction. At sodium levels of 63mg/100k calories, it’s one of the lower sodium options on the market.
This formula is also wheat, corn, and soy free. It also contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Veterinarians have written in noting that they not only heartily recommend Wellness Complete, but that they give it to their own dogs as well! Some owners have even said that they’ve been able to take their dog off certain medications after feeding their dogs Wellness Complete for a few months.
As with many of these dog food brands, Wellness Complete isn’t the cheapest option on the market.
Lamb, Menhaden Fish Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice...,
Rye Flour, Tomato Pomace, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Rice Bran, Tomatoes, Ground Millet, Natural Lamb Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins [Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement], Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite], Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Taurine, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, Chicory Root Extract, Garlic Powder, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Green Tea Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation products, Rosemary Extract. This is a naturally preserved product.
Other Good Wellness Options:
- Wellness Complete Toy Breed Adult Deboned Chicken, Brown Rice, & Peas: 57mg/100kcal
- Wellness Simple Duck & Oatmeal (Canned): 53mg/100kcal
- Wellness Simple Turkey & Potato (Canned): 56/100kcal
- Wellness Core Wild Game: 63mg/100kcal
- Wellness Core Large Breed: 69mg/100kcal
- Wellness Core Small Breed: 69mg/100kcal
3. Hill’s Science Diet Large Breed Adult Lamb & Rice Recipe
Low-sodium large-breed recipe
Specially formulated for unique needs of large breeds, this recipe is made without artificial flavors and preservatives and contains only a modest amount of sodium.
About: Hill’s Large Breed is a scientifically formulated dog food, designed for the unique needs of large breeds. This large-breed food has a sodium content of 71mg per 100k calories.
Science Diet is made without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, and it contains only a modest amount of sodium. Most dogs love the taste and digest it well.
- Includes natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to provide your dog with complete nutrition
- Made in the USA
- 100% satisfaction guarantee
In addition to being a low-sodium, yet delicious, food, many dog owners reported improved bowel movements after switching to Science Diet.
This Science Diet food does not include a whole protein source (the primary protein is lamb meal), but because there are relatively few low-sodium diets available commercially, we included it on the list. Unfortunately, this Science Diet recipe is not suitable for small breeds.
Corn Gluten Meal, Brown Rice, Pork Fat, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Dried Beet Pulp, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseed, L-Lysine, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Taurine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene
Other Hill’s Science Diet Options:
- Adult Advanced Fitness Small Bites: 76mg/100kcal
- Adult Small & Toy Gourmet Chicken (canned): 64mg/100kcal
- Adult Small Paws for Seniors (canned): 65mg/100kcal
4. Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream
Fish-based, grain-free kibble
This grain-free diet offers tasty protein sources like salmon and ocean fish meal with a mild sodium reduction.
About: Taste of the Wild’s Pacific Stream Adult Food is a dog food designed for adult dogs, with a sodium content of 70mg per 100k calories. This grain-free diet boosts impressive protein sources like salmon, as well as added vitamins and fruits and veggies for a truly tasty diet.
All of Taste of the Wild’s formulas are grain-free, providing complex carbs via sweet potatoes and legumes, which are more digestible and fiber-packed than standard grain carbs. The dog food also contains dog-friendly probiotics and prebiotics which aid in canine digestion.
The omega-3 fatty acids from salmon oil and fish meal, (and coupled with omega-6 provided by other ingredients) allow for a balanced fatty acid profile that promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat for your pooch.
- First 5 ingredients: Salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas.
- No grain, wheat, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fatty acids to provide your dog with complete nutrition as well as promote skin and coat health.
- Made in the USA
Owners note that dogs with digestion issues in the past seem to thrive on this dog food, and love the taste too!
Some owners have reported getting a bad bag of Taste of the Wild via Amazon, as some counterfeit bags seems to be floating around. For this reason, we recommend purchasing this food via Chewy or another online retailer.
Want More Info? Check out our full in-depth Taste of the Wild dog food review!
Salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peas...,
canola oil, lentils, salmon meal, smoked salmon, potato fiber, natural flavor, salt, choline chloride, taurine, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.
Other Low-Sodium Taste of the Wild Options:
- Wetlands: 70mg
- High Praire Adult: 80mg
Low Sodium Dog Treats
Reminder: We have not yet been able to verify the sodium content of the treats listed below. Be sure to check the packaging carefully and consult with your vet if you have any questions.
Need treats for training your pup, or simply want some tasty bonus snacks to give him? These low-sodium dog treats are safe to feed Fido.
Hills Ideal Balance Soft-Baked Naturals
- with Duck & Pumpkin: 37
- with Chicken & Carrots: 35
Hills Ideal Balance Oven-Baked Naturals
- with Lamb and Apricots- 40mg/100kcal
- with Chicken and Apples- 52mg/100kcal
- with Turkey and Cranberries- 33mg/100 kcal
Hills Ideal Balance Breakfast Medleys
- with Grilled Trout and Spinach: 66mg/100 kcal
- with Country Chicken and Egg: 41mg/100 kcal
Hills Ideal Balance Crafted
- with Pacific Style Salmon and Sweet Potato: 53 mg/100 kcal
- with Heartland Rabbit and Potatoes: 39mg/100kcal
Hills Natural Balance Regional Delights
- with Heartland Rabbits and Potatoes- 39mg/100 kcal
- with Pacific Style Salmon and Sweet Potatoes- 53 mg/100 kcal
- with Southern Catfish and Peas- 50mg/100kcal
Hills Science Diet Soft Savories
- with Chicken and Yogurt- 36 mg/100kcal
- with Peanut Butter and Banana- 36mg/100 kcal
- with Beef-N-Cheddar- 37mg/100 kcal
Hills Science Grain Free Treats
- with Turkey and Cranberries- 33mg/100 kcal
- with Chicken and Apples- 52mg/100kcal
Hills Science Dental Chews with Real Vegetables
- Small Dog- 42mg/100 kcal
- Medium Dog- 42mg/100 kcal
Hills Science Baked Light Biscuits with Real Chicken
- Small-34 mg/100kcal
Other Low Sodium Dog Treats:
- lams Adult Original Formula Small Biscuits (green box)
- Purina Alpo Variety Snaps Treats
- Purina Veterinary Diets Lite Snackers
Added Foods to Make Your Dog’s Dinner Taste Better
If you’re having a tough time getting your dog to eat, try adding one of these low-sodium-compliant foods, as recommended by the Medvet Cardiology Department of Cincinnati.
- Pasta (no sauces or flavorings)
- Rice (plain white or brown rice, not flavored rice)
- Maple syrup
- Low-sodium cheese
- Lean, cooked meats (chicken, turkey, beef, or fish) – not deli meats/cold cuts
- Cooked eggs
- Homemade soup or broth without salt – not canned soups!
- Low-salt breakfast cereal – look for labels that says “this is a low-sodium food” (eg, Frosted Mini Wheats)
- Fresh vegetables/fruit (such as carrots, green beans, apple, orange, banana – avoid grapes)
- Gerber brand baby food – only use formulas Chicken, Chicken & Gravy, Beef, or Beef & Gravy
If you’re having a hard time getting your pup to eat his meds, make sure to check out our guide on how to get your dog to take his medicine!
Foods to Avoid For Dogs On Low-Sodium Diets:
- Fatty foods (meat fat, cream, etc)
- Pickled Foods
- Condiments (Soy sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce)
- Deli meats (this includes ham, salami, sausage, hot dogs, bacon, etc)
- Cheese (unless marked as low-sodium)
- Processed foods
- Canned vegetables (unless marked as no salt added)
- Snack foods (potato chips, crackers, packaged popcorn)
- Commercial soups and broths
- Most dog biscuits and treats
We’d love to hear about your experiences with low-sodium dog foods. Have you found one that works well? Have you tried any of the foods detailed above? Let us know in the comments section!
Also, thanks to Vikki Adair who put a lot of this information together through diligent research, contacting manufacturers, and was willing to share her findings!