Can Dogs Eat Coleslaw? One Part is Actually Toxic

can dogs eat coleslaw

All dog owners will be familiar with that look they give you when you’re preparing food. It can be very tempting to let them have something that perhaps they shouldn’t. But you should always check the nutritional values and dangers first as the case with coleslaw.

In this helpful guide I will explain to you whether dogs can have coleslaw, what ingredients could be toxic, and if slaw is a safe food choice for your dog.

Can dogs have coleslaw?

Theoretically dogs can eat coleslaw, and in small amounts your dog might be ok if it’s consumed by accident. But coleslaw is not something in reality you should ever let your dog eat because it is not good for them and could actually make them ill.

But why is coleslaw bad for dogs?

Well, let’s take a look at the ingredients of a classic coleslaw brand you can buy in shops like Walmart in the US, and Asda in the UK:

Ingredients: Cabbage (44%), Mayonnaise (35%) [Rapeseed Oil, Water, Pasteurised Whole Egg, Sugar, White Wine Vinegar, Spirit Vinegar, Salt, Stabilisers (Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum), Mustard Powder], Carrots (13%), Water, Double Cream (Milk) (2%), Onions (1%), White Wine Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Colour (Carotenes), Flavouring. 

Reading through those coleslaw ingredients, some things really jump out at me as being bad for your dog such as:

  • Cream
  • Mayo
  • Onions
  • Raw cabbage
  • Salt and sugars

Not to mention the unnatural preservatives too. The bottom line is, coleslaw has zero nutritional value for your dog, and could make your four-legged friend quite ill.

Let me explain why…

Why your dog should not eat coleslaw

The main elements of coleslaw are mayonnaise and cabbage. The mayo dressing is high in sugars and fats and is an extremely rich flavor. Nothing in mayo is good for a dog’s digestive system.

Whilst mayonnaise in coleslaw itself is not toxic to dogs, if your pet is fed a regular diet of fatty foods then weight gain is inevitable. Overweight dogs are prone to a range of health issues including strain on their joints and heart, or the development of illnesses such as diabetes and pancreatitis.

can dogs have coleslaw
Your dog might beg for coleslaw but it’s not a great choice and should be avoided.

The main ingredient of cabbage is ok for dogs to eat, but not when it’s in a coleslaw with all the dressing and other elements. But you still need to be wary of cabbage as it’s a food that can cause gas in some dogs, and more serious stomach upsets.

Cream is something else you should not let your dog eat, and there’s lots of it in coleslaw. Many dogs are lactose intolerant and can have dairy allergies, so cream should be completely off the menu.

Then there are the salts and sugars, both of which should be to an extreme minimum in any dog’s diet – for obvious reasons, I hope!

And lastly, the reasons why a certain part of coleslaw can be toxic to dogs… onion.

Is coleslaw toxic to dogs?

Generally speaking, coleslaw is not toxic to dogs, and won’t poison them. But the onion ingredient, whilst only a small percentage of coleslaw, is actually toxic to dogs.

Any food that’s part of the allium family such as garlic, onions, and leeks, are poisonous to dogs when eaten in large quantities. In truth, there won’t be enough in a portion of coleslaw to kill your dog, but it’s reason enough to not let your dog eat coleslaw at all.

The lack of nutritional value

If you are still not convinced that coleslaw is bad for dogs, you just need to look at the core nutritional values. It’s high in fat, sugar, and salt, whilst being low in fibre and protein.

Then there’s the calorie counts.

I decided to look at the calories in some of the more popular coleslaw brands and how much a portion could take up in an average dog’s diet.

It makes for shocking reading.

The calories in coleslaw vs a dog’s daily diet recommendations

Many vets you speak to will recommend that dogs only have 25 calories a day for every pound that they weigh.

If we take two of the most popular dog breeds and how much an average adult male weighs, we see that:

  • Average French Bulldog is 25 pounds: Should eat no more than 625 calories daily.
  • Average Labrador is 70 pounds: Should eat no more than 1,750 calories daily.

As well as a recommended intake of daily calories, there’s also a guidance on how many treats your dog should have outside of their normal diet. This is the 90/10 rule where snacks or treats should only account for 10% of your dog’s daily food.

When we compare and calculate this to popular coleslaw brands in the US and UK, here’s how it breaks down for each dog breed.

  • Asda Creamy Coleslaw 100g (167 calories): 27% French Bulldog / 10% Labrador daily intake.
  • Walmart Deli Coleslaw 100g (160 calories): 26% French Bulldog / 9% Labrador daily intake.
  • KFC Coleslaw 100g (144 calories): 23% French Bulldog / 8% Labrador daily intake.

 As you can see, a portion of coleslaw doesn’t have a huge impact on the daily calories of a larger dog breed such as a Labrador, but it’s significant for a smaller breed like a Frenchie.

 Handy Hint: I have also looked into what is safe for dogs to eat from the Kentucky Fried Chicken menu including their own-brand coleslaw… find out more here.

What happens if my dog eats coleslaw?

If you dog eats a little coleslaw, chances are he will not have an adverse effect, but if you are in any doubt, you should always consult with a professional vet.

The short-term possibilities and risks of dogs having coleslaw include:

  • Possible choking hazard on the cabbage.
  • Gas and stomach upsets from the rich ingredients.
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea.

If you see any of those signs above, contact a vet immediately.

Conclusion

Coleslaw has no nutritional value for dogs and is very fatty and high in sugars. It’s not a food you should be feeding your dog deliberately.

It contains some harmful ingredients, can cause digestive problems, and in very rare cases, could actually harm your dog significantly.

Do not let your dog eat coleslaw, it’s not worth the risk.

Disclaimer: I am not a vet and all the information in this guide is based on my own common sense and calculations, plus information I have read on veterinarian websites. You should always do your own research before letting your dog eat anything that hasn’t been manufactured for dogs. 

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I regularly write about the things that your dog might not find safe to eat. You can find out more about some surprising ones below.

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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