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Can Dogs Eat Coleslaw? Vet Reviwed Facts & FAQs


May 8, 2023
Freshly Made Coleslaw in Bowl


Freshly Made Coleslaw in Bowl
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Coleslaw is a tasty side dish that typically makes appearances at cookouts and BBQ restaurants. If your dog likes to hang around when you’re cooking or eating, then they may want a taste of the foods on your plate, including your creamy coleslaw. While coleslaw likely won’t seriously harm your beloved pet if they sneak a couple of bites, it certainly isn’t something you want to feed them on purpose.


Can Dogs Eat Coleslaw?

The simple answer to this question is that you should not allow your dog to eat coleslaw. Why? There are actually multiple ingredients in coleslaw that can be problematic for your dog. Some ingredients are toxic, while others may lead to stomach upset or weight gain over time. There is even some concern about choking on some of the ingredients in coleslaw, depending on how they are prepared.

Image Credit: F Hocking, Pixabay

What Ingredients in Coleslaw Should Cause Concern?


While a small amount of vinegar is unlikely to cause problems for your dog, vinegar-based coleslaw often contains enough vinegar to create problems. Diarrhea and digestive upset can occur if vinegar is consumed in large enough quantities. For dogs with kidney disease, the acidity of vinegar can also cause issues due to the body’s reduced ability to process acidic foods.


Some amount of salt is essential for dogs, but dogs are more susceptible to salt poisoning than people. This means that salty coleslaw can be dangerous for dogs. It’s generally recommended to not give dogs human foods with added salt, including coleslaw. Salt poisoning can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, and increased thirst in mild cases. It can also cause tremors, seizures, shortness of breath, coma, and even death in severe cases.


Sugar may be present in coleslaw in many forms, including granulated sugar, agave, and honey. In the short term, sugar consumption can lead to stomach upset. Usually, this means mild nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal discomfort. If consumed over the long term, though, sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis, joint problems, and even dental problems.


Mayonnaise is a food that is very high in both fat and calories. While this can result in stomach upset, it can also lead to pancreatitis, which is a serious medical condition. Over time, the extra fat and calories in mayonnaise can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other weight-related conditions. Mayonnaise may also have added ingredients that can cause problems for your dog, including eggs, vinegar, soybean oil, sugar, and salt.


Onions are toxic for dogs, so if your coleslaw contains onions or onion powder, it can be dangerous for your dog. Onions lead to the breakdown of red blood cells in a dog’s body, which results in a dangerous form of anemia. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including panting, pale gums, lethargy, elevated heart rate, vomiting, fainting, and inappetence. Dogs with chronic medical conditions, including kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, and hypothyroidism are at an increased risk of developing onion toxicity.


Like onions, garlic is also toxic for dogs, even in powder form. Garlic can lead to lethargy, pale gums, fainting and collapse, elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, and yellowing of the eyes, skin, and mucus membranes. Garlic is in the same family of plants as onions, so garlic toxicity is very similar in symptomatology to onion toxicity.


While cabbage can be a healthy food, there are some issues associated with it. If roughly chopped into large enough pieces, cabbage can be a choking hazard, especially for small dogs and dogs prone to swallowing food whole. Cabbage can also lead to digestive problems, including gas, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea. When raw, cabbage contains a chemical compound called thiocyanate, which can lead to hypothyroidism in large quantities.

What Should You Do if Your Dog Eats Coleslaw?

If your dog eats coleslaw, the first thing you should do is get a list of the ingredients. It’s important for you to know what’s in the coleslaw, especially if it contains toxic ingredients like onion and garlic. If there are any dangerous ingredients in the coleslaw, then you should reach out to a pet poison hotline and head to the nearest veterinarian.

If your dog consumes coleslaw that doesn’t contain toxic ingredients, then there isn’t anything for you to do except keep a close eye on your dog. Watch for symptoms of toxicity, especially severe symptoms, like shortness of breath, pale gums, and fainting. If your dog exhibits any symptoms of toxicity, they need to immediately see a vet.

vet examines dog
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock


In Conclusion

Coleslaw is not a good food option for dogs. It has multiple ingredients that are toxic or inappropriate for dogs, so it’s best to avoid it completely. There are multiple ingredients in coleslaw that are not an appropriate part of your dog’s diet, like mayonnaise and granulated sugar.

Sometimes, a dog may get into some coleslaw, so it’s important to find out what all the ingredients in the recipe are. Toxic ingredients likely will require veterinary intervention, so it’s important to reach out to your vet or a pet poison hotline for guidance.

Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

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