Current Health Tip - Winter 2011/12

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Salt Toxicity In Pets

Both horses and dogs are amazing companions. However, they differ widely on their needs for salt this time of year. Dogs get into it, but shouldn't have it and horses need it.

During this holiday season a lot of us will cook a Prime Rib Roast. In the endeavor to ‘perfect the Prime’, many will pack our roast in rock salt. This makes a tasty crust; however what to do with the left over salt while hastily trying to pull together the rest of the holiday meal?

Perhaps put it out the front door, or in the garage, with the best intentions of disposing of it later? If you own a dog, you may want to think again. The roast drippings can be very alluring for your canine companion. While your beloved pet is ingesting the drippings he/she is inadvertently consuming the dripping coated salt.

Ingestion of less than a 1/2 cup of salt for a medium sized dog can cause salt toxicity, which can be fatal.

When a large amount of salt is ingested, the sodium diffuses throughout the body. When the sodium reaches the brain and central nervous system, water builds up and tissues swell. As the brain swells, pressure builds up resulting in severe neurological disorders. As the pressure builds, it causes seizures, coma and death.

There is no antidote for salt toxicity. In some mild cases, where less salt is ingested, the dog may survive, however, if the dog eats enough, it is fatal. (Another thing to watch out for is that many home made Play-dough recipes have high salt content.)

Horses have an absolute need for salt. Though salt toxicity can occur in horses, it is rare.

Horses display a degree of nutritional wisdom regarding salt consumption. If salt is available, most horses will consume sufficient amounts to meet their needs without overindulging.

Salt is very important for your horse during our Methow Valley chilly winter climate. Without the warm weather and sweat of exercise, some horses slow down on their water consumption. This can lead to a food compaction type of colic. One way to battle this form of colic is to provide adequate salt so that your horse still maintains the drive to drink sufficient amounts of water.

The form of salt, i.e. block or granular, selenium supplemented or iodized, depends on your horses environment and other types of supplements you may already be providing. Check out the contents of the following link for a nice discussion on equine salt requirements. Equine Salt Requirements Information