Shih Tzu who ate homemade playdough treated for salt poisoning by emergency vets

For many children, making ornaments out of salt dough will be a popular way to enjoy time at home during the coronavirus crisis.

But one family discovered to their horror that salt dough also poses a potentially deadly threat to dogs.

Tracy Fellows had to rush her dog Woofus to the vet after he took a fancy to some ornaments her daughter had made.

When she discovered the five-year-old Shih Tzu had been eating the salt dough, which is made from flour, salt and water, Tracy and her family checked online and were dismayed to discover how easily it can poison dogs.

Tracy called out-of-hours pet emergency service Vets Now in Gateshead who asked how much he had ingested.

The family calculated Woofus had eaten the equivalent of 70 grammes of salt – more than enough to kill a dog double his size.

Image of Woofus, dog almost killed swallowing salt dough
Woofus was saved by emergency vets after swallowing poisonous salt dough

Tracey said: “We were told to take him to the clinic in Gateshead immediately. By this time he was drinking copious amounts of water and urinating everywhere.

“The vet was obviously quite concerned because the salt dough was starting to affect his body.

“When I asked what the outcome could be, I was warned it could result in brain damage, multiple organ failures or even death, so I needed to get him there as quickly as possible.”

Tracy added: “Woofus started to shake slightly on my 12-year-old daughter’s knee as we drove to the vet – so I was trying to reassure her that although it was serious and we might lose him, it was not her fault.”

Thankfully, Gateshead is just a 20-minute drive from the family’s Sunderland home. Tracy was full of praise for the Vets Now staff who began treating Woofus as soon as he arrived.

He was given medication to make him vomit and then put on a drip and monitored closely through the night.

Vet Jacqueline Seymour said she was delighted Woofus had managed to battle through his ordeal without any lasting side-effects.

She said: “Given how much salt dough he’d eaten, Woofus has had a lucky escape.

“Too much salt is dangerous for dogs and sodium toxicosis, as it’s known, can occur when dogs ingest anything high in salt from home-made playdough to sea water.

“Tracy did the right thing by contacting us so quickly, and hopefully Woofus’s case will alert other families that salt dough ornaments can pose a serious risk.

“Dog owners should keep anything high in salt out of reach. Those worried their dog has been poisoned by salt should contact their vet or, out of hours, Vets Now straight away for advice and treatment.”

Image of salt dough figures
Salt dough models similar to those Woofus swallowed

Read our related advice article

Recipes for homemade playdough are widely available on the internet. They typically recommend mixing one part salt, two parts flour and one part water, then adding vegetable oil and colouring.

The warning over the dangers of salt dough to dogs was one Tracy was happy to endorse.

She said: “I think the important message is that people are always told that it’s dangerous for dogs to eat chocolate, but there are other things, such as in this case salt dough, that can be just as bad or even worse.

“I know that raisins are another thing that are poisonous to dogs.”

The Vets Now clinic in Gateshead – where Woofus received treatment – was recently rated as “outstanding” in the delivery of emergency and critical care by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

It’s one of 55 Vets Now clinics and pet emergency hospitals across the UK that are open through the night, seven-days-a-week, and day and night on weekends and bank holidays, to treat any pet emergencies that may occur. All of our out-of-hours clinics and 24/7 hospitals have a vet and vet nurse on site at all times.

How much salt is too much for dogs?

Studies show the amount of salt that can cause poisoning in a dog is roughly 2-3 grammes per kilogramme of body weight. Doses of around 4g per kg can be fatal. Shih Tzu Woofus weighs 8kg, which means swallowing just 32g of salt could kill him. The average Labrador weighs around 30-35kg. Every breed of dog is susceptible to salt poisoning.