The present study was carried out to determine whether the increased salt intake induced by increased specific sodium appetite in pregnant rats modifies water-salt homeostasis throughout pregnancy. Two groups of pregnant rats were used, one fed ad libitum with a normal sodium (NS) diet consisting of standard rat chow and distilled water, and the other fed with a high-sodium (HS) diet with free access to chow, distilled water plus saline solution (1·5 % NaCl). Virgin rats in dioestrus were also studied as non-pregnant controls. Pregnant animals were studied on days 4, 9, 14, 20 and 21 of gestation at which time body weight, water and saline intake, sodium excretion, plasma atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) concentrations, as well as plasma osmolality were determined. Data showed that water intake was higher in the NS group, but total fluid intake (water plus saline) was higher in the HS group throughout pregnancy. Dietary sodium intake was the same for both groups but total sodium intake (chow plus saline) was 60-98 % higher in the HS rats. Pregnant HS rats excreted more fluid (35-50 %) and sodium (up to 100 %) compared with NS rats, indicating that the animals could change their renal excretion in response to a 2·5-fold higher dietary sodium intake compared with the control level. Salt satiety during pregnancy did not modify plasma ANP concentration. In both groups of pregnant rats ANP levels increased 3-fold on day 14 without significant alteration in sodium excretion, suggesting that the natriuretic action of ANP is attenuated at least after the second week of pregnancy. High sodium intake did not change plasma AVP concentration or osmolality and both groups showed the same gradual decrease in plasma osmolality ([similar]8 mosmol kg-1) at the end of pregnancy that was not accompanied by decreased plasma AVP concentration. The present data show that rats maintain the special homeostatic equilibrium that occurs in normal pregnancy even when they are allowed to increase sodium intake to satisfy their salt appetite during this period of the reproductive cycle.