While salt is often used in the kitchen, it is quite toxic to cats. The use of salt to induce vomiting in cats is no longer the standard of care, and neither pet owners nor veterinarians advocate for it!1 Salt can also be found in handmade play dough or salt dough, rock salt (for de-icing), paint balls, table salt, seawater, and enema solutions (which include sodium phosphate).
In cats, salt poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea, reduced appetite, lethargy, incoordination, excessive thirst, or urination. Tremors, convulsions, coma, and even death are possible in extreme instances.1
If you suspect your cat is experiencing sodium poisoning, contact your veterinarian right away.
Why Do Some Normal Substances Affect Cats Negatively?
While poisoning in cats is no more prevalent than in other species, cats are sometimes less likely than dogs to recover from poisoning.2 This is because of:
Their size. Because they are often tiny creatures, even a small amount of a deadly substance can be lethal.
They process chemicals differently. Cats have various biological pathways and are less able to safely remove harmful material from their bodies in specific instances.
Outdoor life. Because of their active lifestyle, owners don't always know when their cat consumed the toxin or what it is.
Grooming Habits. Cats may ingest toxic substances intentionally, but can also ingest them while they groom themselves.
What Should I Do if I Suspect Salt Poisoning of My Cat?
Poisoning symptoms can arise rapidly, so it is critical to remain alert. If you think that your cat has consumed or come into contact with something toxic, act promptly. Contact your veterinarian right away. Don't wait for symptoms of the disease to appear, by then they may be too sick. If you do know what your cat has consumed, take a sample of the poison with you to your vet visit to help the doctor decide on a course of treatment.
What are the Causes of Excess Sodium in Cats' Blood?
In general, there are two basic reasons for high sodium in cat blood: excessive salt intake and excessive fluid loss. There are numerous significant causes of feline hypernatremia within these categories.3 The most typical are:
Salt Poisoning: Salt poisoning can be caused by consuming an excessive amount of sodium-containing meals or drinks. Salt toxicity is typically diagnosed in critically sick cats receiving concentrated intravenous fluids. However, this is not a common cause of hypernatremia in cats. Much more typical causes of feline hypernatremia are excessive salt generation inside your cat's body or excessive fluid loss.
Dehydration: Excess sodium in cats' blood is commonly caused by dehydration. When cats are dehydrated, a hormonal imbalance may prevent them from feeling thirsty and seeking water.
Fluid loss: Cats can lose fluid in several ways. Panting, like fever or overheating, can result in fluid loss via the respiratory tract. Diuretics, which are commonly used in diabetic cats, can cause fluid loss through the urinary system. Diabetes insipidus, which is caused by a hormonal imbalance, can also cause excessive urine fluid loss.
Acute sickness, particularly bacterial infections that cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, can result in significant gastrointestinal fluid loss.
Chronic renal disease and diabetes can both cause minimal or excessive urine. This changes the sodium-to-fluid ratio in the blood. Chronic renal illness can also cause sodium retention by the kidneys, which increases salt concentration in the blood.
How is Salt Poisoning Diagnosed?
If you suspect your cat is suffering from high sodium levels, you should consult a veterinarian right away because this disease can be serious and even fatal. A veterinarian will usually collect blood and do a hematological examination to screen for excess salt in the cats' blood. Your veterinarian will diagnose hypernatremia if your cat's salt level reaches 160 milligrams per deciliter of blood.3
Because the signs of excess sodium in cat blood can have different causes, your veterinarian may make a differential diagnosis to rule out other illnesses such as electrolyte abnormalities or hormone imbalances. By determining the specific cause of your cat's hypernatremia, your veterinarian will be better able to treat your pet and help prevent the problem from recurring.3
What is the Treatment of Excess Salt in Cats' Blood?
The majority of cases of excess sodium in cat blood will be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids to replenish water or dilute sodium in the blood. This is a very safe, effective, and conservative method of restoring sodium balance.3 Your veterinarian's next line of action will likely be determined by the underlying reason for your cat's high sodium levels.
If salt poisoning is suspected, your veterinarian will most likely deliver intravenous fluids to restore sodium-water balance and provide advice to prevent future bouts of high sodium consumption. Antibiotics may be used if a gastrointestinal illness is causing vomiting and diarrhea and has dehydrated your cat. Diabetes and chronic renal illness, for example, will need more intensive therapy and long-term maintenance.
How to Help Cats Recover From Salt Poisoning?
Your veterinarian may advise you on preventative measures to keep this problem from harming your cat in the future. The cause of your cat's hypernatremia will determine the care they will need moving forward. If salt poisoning or dehydration is suspected, a veterinarian may advise you to have fresh water available to your cat at all times. Antibiotic therapy and drug administration may also be suggested. If your cat's high sodium levels are caused by a chronic condition, a more thorough treatment plan may be needed.3
How can I lower my pet's risk of salt poisoning?
DO NOT allow your pet to drink seawater; instead, make sure they always have fresh water available. This is especially critical during the warmer months.
Keep salt and salt-containing goods out of your pet's reach.
How much salt is too much for pets?
Just a few grams of salt per kilogram of body weight can be harmful to a pet, and symptoms can appear as low as 0.5-1 g/kg.4 As a result, even a teaspoon of salt can be harmful to a cat.
What are the Dangers of Salt Exposure in Pets?
A dangerously high blood salt content can produce major harmful consequences and even death. Salt poisoning can lead to the following consequences:
Thirst and excessive drinking
Trembling/twitching often starting in the face
The seriousness of the cat's condition depends on how elevated their blood sodium levels are in comparison to the healthy range.
What Common Household Items Are Poisonous to Cats?
Many home goods, or at least those kept in your yard, shed, or garage, can be harmful to cats. Cleaning supplies, decoration chemicals (such as white spirits), and pest control treatments can all be toxic if consumed. These are some examples:
Slug bait – especially if it contains metaldehyde or methiocarb
Rodent bait – especially anticoagulant types. Be aware that cats can also be harmed by eating poisoned rodents
The bottom line is salt, which is normal for us humans, can be quite dangerous to your pets. It’s important to keep it out of your pet's reach. As responsible pet parents, contingencies should be taken into consideration to help avoid any unforeseen stress or emergency visits to the vet.
"Salt," Pet Poison Helpline, https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/salt, accessed Jan. 26, 2024.
"Poisoning in Cats," Cats Protection, https://www.cats.org.uk/help-and-advice/home-and-environment/poisoning, accessed Jan. 26, 2024.
"Excess Sodium in the Blood in Cats," Wag Walking, https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/excess-sodium-blood, accessed Jan. 26, 2024.
"How Does Salt Affect Animals?" Reptile Knowledge, https://www.reptileknowledge.com/reptile-pedia/how-does-salt-affect-animals, accessed Jan. 26, 2024.
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.