Salt is a necessary part of human diets, but what about wildlife? For example, do squirrels need salt to survive? And if so, is it bad for them if they overeat?
Is Salt Bad For Squirrels?
Squirrels, like other wild animals, can eat small amounts of salt. However, their tiny kidneys cannot filter out the vast proportional amount of salt found in extremely salty foods such as salted peanuts, processed cheese, pickles, and other high sodium food. An adult squirrel can tolerate more salt than a baby.
Feeding wildlife or having a pet squirrel comes with responsibilities, such as knowing what they can and cannot eat. Salt can have detrimental effects on the health of humans, as well as animals.
In small doses, salt is not bad for squirrels. However, feeding them a diet of high sodium foods can lead to health problems, which we will discuss in more detail below.
If you own a pet squirrel, talk to your vet. They will be able to devise an efficient diet to ensure your pet squirrel gets the nutrients it needs.
Do Squirrels Like Salt?
There isn’t much a squirrel won’t eat. This includes salt. These rodents adapt to their environment quickly for survival, which is why you’ll see them rummaging through garbage and raiding bird feeders.
Like us, squirrels have taste buds that help them identify what is safe to eat foods they may or may not like. For example, some squirrels may like the taste of salt while others may not. However, once they taste a salty food they like, they’ll likely keep eating it until it kills them.
However, their sense of taste isn’t as strong as ours, which is why they will eat just about anything. This can harm its health, especially if it regularly consumes high sodium foods.
Do Squirrels Need Salt In Their Diet?
All animals need small amounts of salt in their diet. This is because salt is essential in mineral intake and helps ensure wellness and healthy development. In addition, it is the primary source of sodium and chloride ions.
We’ll take a closer look at these nutrients later to help you understand their benefits to all animals. But, first, let’s take a closer look at how squirrels get salt in their diet.
In The Wild
In the wild, squirrels get the salt they need from salt springs, soil, nuts, and certain plants, such as hickory root, coltsfoot, carrots, and parsnip. That said, it can be challenging to extract sodium from plants unless you have the right tools.
For example, hickory roots are known to have a high salt concentration. However, to access the black tar-like substance that equates to edible salt, you would have to boil it. It would be impossible for a squirrel to overdose on sodium when eating plants in the wild.
When drinking in the wild, they may drink small amounts from salt springs and other salty bodies of water. However, most squirrels prefer drinking from bird baths, fountains, or other feeders in people’s backyards.
Squirrels are more likely to encounter higher amounts of salt in their diet when they live in captivity. This is because their diet is often not as varied, and they’re given salty foods they would not encounter in the wild.
For example, many people like to feed peanuts to squirrels. This isn’t necessarily bad for them, but it can be if the peanuts are salted. If you have a pet squirrel, it’s essential to feed them foods that are close to what they would find in the wild.
Are There Any Benefits To Feeding Squirrels Salt?
There is no need to supplement their diet with salt. In fact, it can be harmful to their health. However, consider buying commercial squirrel food if you have a squirrel in captivity. These foods have all the nutrients they need, including sodium.
In addition, if you’re giving your squirrel human foods as treats, they are likely getting small amounts of salt in their diet. This is because many human foods contain salt.
Why Animals Need Salt
All animals, including humans, need small amounts of salt to maintain their health. This is because it helps the body absorb and transport nutrients, maintains fluid levels, and supports nerve function.
Sodium is one of the minerals found in salt. It’s an electrolyte that helps replenish bodily fluids and supports nerve function. Chloride is another mineral found in salt. It also helps with fluid balance and supports the body’s acid-base balance.
The Dangers of Feeding Squirrels Salt?
While all animals need small amounts of these minerals, too much salt can be harmful. This is because it can lead to dehydration and other health problems such as kidney damage, electrolyte imbalance, cardiovascular issues, and internal bleeding.
Some animals, such as dogs and cats, can develop toxicosis, which means salt poisoning. It is highly likely that a wild squirrel would ever eat too much to experience this.
However, one in captivity might. This is why it’s essential to be careful about the foods you give them and how much salt they contain.
Signs and symptoms of salt poisoning include:
- muscle tremors
In addition, if you’re feeding your squirrel salty foods regularly, they may become addicted to salt. This can lead to them eating more than they should and develop health problems as a result.
Are All Salts Bad for Squirrels?
Not all salts are created the same. In fact, some salts are better for consumption than others. For example, Himalayan salt contains 84 minerals essential to the body. This includes sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
There are all different types of salts such as; kosher, black lava salt, Celtic, table salt, flake salt, etc. None of the salts are poisonous to squirrels in moderation.
That said, all salts can be harmful to squirrels. This is because they can lead to the same health problems mentioned above.
What to Do If Your Pet Squirrel Gets Into Your Salt?
If you have a tame squirrel, you know they can get into anything they want. This includes your salt shaker and any other salty foods you have lying around. If this happens, don’t panic.
First, remove the salt from their reach. If they consumed a small amount, chances are they will be fine. Then, monitor them for 24-48 hours to ensure they don’t develop any symptoms of salt poisoning. If they do, take them to the vet immediately.
Keep all salty foods out of their reach to prevent it from happening again. This includes not only your salt shaker but all human foods.
The best way to do this is to keep your squirrel out of the kitchen. Instead, place their kennel or cage in an area of their own, like a separate bedroom.
If you have a designated feeding area for wild squirrels, keep the feeder away from the road, sidewalk, and other areas you may salt in during the winter.
Do Squirrels Need A Salt Lick? (What Is It?)
All animals such as deer, elephants, goats, and sheep visit salt deposits or lick rocks with high salt content. This is because salt licks make it easy for animals in the wild to get the necessary nutrients.
Salt licks can be purchased at pet stores or online. They are available in the form of bricks, blocks, or granular. Many homeowners purchase them for the wild deer that visit their backyard.
According to this forum, squirrels don’t use salt licks. Instead, consider getting your pet squirrel calcium chews. These are much safer than giving your squirrel salt, and the chews are designed to meet their nutritional needs.
Squirrels eating a diet high in salt can get sick and even die. If you must feed squirrels, do so sparingly and only offer them fresh fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts, and seeds.
As with any pet, it’s important to consult a veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about your squirrel’s health or diet.