Some Pets Find Them Irresistible, but They Can Be Deadly

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

salt lamp

Story at-a-glance -

  • Himalayan salt lamps are made from large pieces of salt mined from the Himalayas
  • If your pet licks the salt lamp repeatedly, it can lead to salt poisoning
  • Initially, salt poisoning may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite and lethargy; excessive thirst or urination can also occur
  • Neurological symptoms, including incoordination, tremors, seizures and coma can also result from salt poisoning
  • If you have a salt lamp in your home, keep it out of your pet’s reach; if this isn’t possible, and you suspect your pet is licking it, remove it

Salt lamps are popular not only because they give off a soft, warm glow but also because they’re said to improve air quality and enhance well-being. If you have one of these in your home, be very careful to place it out of reach of your pets, as it can turn into a salt lick that’s toxic to your pets.

Himalayan salt lamps are made from large pieces of salt mined from the Himalayas. If you have cats, it may be nearly impossible to place the lamp in a spot your kitty can’t access, so it’s best to avoid having one at all, unless you’re absolutely certain your cat isn’t licking it.

With dogs, it’s easier to place the salt lamp out of reach, but be sure it’s not on a counter where your dog can access when you’re not looking. Unfortunately, some pet owners may not realize that a salt lamp can be dangerous for their pet until it’s too late.

Salt Lamps May Taste Good to Pets but Can Be Deadly

The problem with salt lamps is that they can lead to salt poisoning in your pets. “One lick won't kill them but it’s kind of like us with potato chips. They like the salt so they’ll keep going back for more and more," veterinarian Karen Follet of the Thomas J. O'Connor's Animal Control and Adoption Center in Massachusetts told Western Mass News.1

The lamps themselves are not poisonous, nor is salt in general, but excessive salt intake is poisonous to dogs and cats and can lead to the following symptoms:2

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Loss of appetite

Lethargy

Walking “drunk”

Abnormal fluid accumulation within the body

Excessive thirst or urination

Injury to the kidneys

Tremors

Seizures

Coma

Death

If you catch the symptoms early enough, salt poisoning, also known as hypernatremia, may be treated with the administration of intravenous (IV) fluids, monitoring of electrolytes, treatment for dehydration and brain swelling and supportive care.3

Even with treatment, however, salt poisoning has a mortality rate of greater than 50%,4 but offering your pet fresh water immediately may help (and may help to prevent salt poisoning entirely). Initially, salt poisoning may lead to vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite and lethargy. Excessive thirst or urination can also occur.

Neurological symptoms, including incoordination, tremors, seizures and coma can also result. “So there will be altered mentation, staggering around, vomiting … they can go into seizures," Dr. Follet said told Western Mass News, adding, “It pulls all the fluid into their bloodstream, so it pulls it out of the tissue … the brain is really sensitive to that.”5

How Much Salt Is Toxic to Pets?

The amount of salt that’s poisonous depends on the size of your pet, but it’s possible that a small dog or cat could reach toxic levels by licking a salt lamp repeatedly. For example, a Yorkie or Chihuahua weighing 10 pounds or less could experience poisoning from consuming just .05 tablespoons or more. For comparison, the following amounts may be toxic in dogs of other sizes:6

  • Dogs weighing 11 to 25 pounds (pug, Boston terrier, poodle): 0.5 Tbsp. or more
  • Dogs weighing 26 to 40 pounds (beagle, Scottish terrier): 1.3 Tbsp. or more
  • Dogs weighing 41 to 70 pounds (boxer, cocker spaniel): 2 Tbsp. or more
  • Dogs weighing 71 to 90 pounds (retriever, German shepherd): 3.5 Tbsp. or more
  • Dogs weighing 91 to 110 pounds (great Dane, St. Bernard): 4.5 Tbsp. or more

While some cats and dogs may want nothing to do with a salt lamp on your nightstand, others may find it irresistible. Therein lies the problem, as your pet could be licking the lamp without you even noticing. You may not even associate symptoms your dog or cat is experiencing with the lamp.

One such story circulated the Internet in 2019, in which U.K. pet owners noticed their cat Ruby “walking really strangely” with her head tilted in a strange way. They thought she was simply cold, but when they returned home from work, Ruby was unable to walk or see properly, couldn’t eat or drink and had lost control of her tongue.7

Veterinarians revealed extremely high sodium levels, which they were able to get back to normal in a few days. However, the outcome could have been much worse. “Salt poisoning is extremely deadly to animals and she is basically a miracle to still be here now. These salt lamps are addictive to animals, and if they get a taste it becomes just like potato chips are to us,” Ruby’s owner said.8

Advertisement
Get ​34% Off on a Canine Hormone Support 3-PackGet ​34% Off on a Canine Hormone Support 3-Pack

Watch Out for Other Sources of Salt

Other sources of salt that could be dangerous to pets include:

  • Homemade play dough or salt dough ornaments
  • De-icing salts (such as rock salt)
  • Paint balls
  • Table salt
  • Enemas containing sodium phosphate

Saltwater poisoning can also occur among dogs who visit the beach and consume too much saltwater. If you suspect your pet has consumed too much salt from any source, get him to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately, as this is a life-threatening situation.

If your pet has lost the ability or desire to consume freshwater, IV fluids will be urgently needed. The sooner your pet receives treatment, the better the chances of recovery are. If you seek help immediately, before signs of poisoning have started, emetic medications may even be given to encourage vomiting and get some of the excess salt out of your pet’s system.

As for whether or not you should keep a salt lamp in your home, if it’s out of reach of your pet or you know your pet ignores it, then there’s no harm in having one. However, if your pet has access, and you suspect he may be licking it, it’s best to remove it.