Can Dogs Eat Salad?

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Written by Rebecca Mathews

Updated: December 9, 2022

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Let’s take a closer look at the not-so-simple question can dogs eat salad? Humans have eaten salads for thousands of years. Because dogs have evolved alongside us for at least 11,000 of those, surely they can eat some salad? The answer isn’t clear-cut because salad is an amalgamation of many different fruits, veggies, oils, and nuts; not all are dog-safe.

Can Dogs Eat Salad Safely?

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Can dogs eat salad?

Whether dogs can eat salad safely depends on its ingredients, so the safest answer is no.

Plain veggies and fruits like carrots, bell peppers, apples, and lettuce are safe. Still, onions, macadamia nuts, chives, and avocados are not.

Salad dressing is also a problem because it is oily, fatty, and often contains toxic sweeteners. We’ll look at toxic ingredients later on. Still, the bottom line is salad is safe for dogs to eat if it’s homemade with non-toxic ingredients and no dressing.

What Is A Salad?

Salads are mixed dishes of raw vegetables with cheese, fish, meats, dressing, and salt placed on top or tossed into the leaves. It’s usually served up cold, but some salads are warmed.

Salad is an old word. It comes from the French salade, which is taken from the Latin herba salata. Salata means salt, which was often used in a vinegary or brine-based solution to flavor salad in Greek and Roman times. There’s lots of historical evidence indicating Persians, Indians, and many nations worldwide have eaten their own types of salad with local ingredients.

Health Benefits of Salad for Dogs

While a mixed salad can be fraught with risks for dogs if made with dog-safe ingredients, it offers numerous beneficial nutrients.

For example, a plain salad of apple, carrot, edamame beans, lettuce, and bell pepper offers these vitamins and minerals.

  • Vitamin A –essential for good eyesight and it supports boosts the immune system
  • Vitamin B6 – converts food into energy
  • Vitamin C – another immune booster plus it helps absorb iron  
  • Vitamin K – vitamin K supports blood clotting
  • Copper – maintains the nervous system
  • Phosphorus – helps repair cells and tissue damage
  • Potassium – keeps fluid level healthy in cells and balances blood pressure
  • Magnesium – supports muscle and nerve function
  • Zinc – an immune system essential and it helps build protein blocks.
  • Manganese – aids connective tissue growth and repair plus it supports red blood cell formation and muscle development.
  • Fiber – helps keep bowels regular and healthy

It’s Low Fat

Salad without dressing or meat is also very low in fat, so it can help maintain a healthy weight and form part of a weight loss plan for overweight or obese dogs.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of pet dogs are overweight or obese in the States. Excess weight is a problem because it not only reduces their quality of life in terms of movement, it can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and diseases like cancer.

Low-fat salad ingredients can help fill the hunger hole, making some dogs behave differently from their usual well-trained self. Hunger makes dogs steal, snap, and feel miserable, so it’s best avoided.

Use Salad as a Training Aid

Obedience training dogs can be really hard work, and food is one of the ways they learn fast. Food-motivated dogs rewarded with a small piece of salad-type food enjoy obedience training and learn fast.

Salad ingredients can also form part of a puzzle ball that’ll keep them entertained for hours which is really helpful if they suffer from separation anxiety.

Risks of Salad for Dogs

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If your dog eats a salad with nuts and dressing, bring him to the vet immediately!

Salad poses several risks for dogs in its core ingredients and dressing. Let’s jump in and take a look at what these problems are.

Toxic ingredients

Simple green leaves or pieces of apple and carrot are just fine and healthy for dogs, but some salad ingredients are toxic and should never be offered.

Avocado

Avocados are healthy for humans, but they contain a lot of pectins that can harm animals. Pectin is a fungal toxin, and there are cases of death by pectin poisoning in cattle. Although dogs are more resistant, it’s best to keep avocados for yourself.

Onion

Onions, chives, and shallots contain N-propyl disulfide. This compound leads to anemia in dogs because it attaches to oxygen molecules and breaks down their red blood cells.

Garlic

Tasty garlic is in the same family of alliums as onion, creating the same red blood cell problem. In fact, garlic is stronger than onion and more toxic.

Black walnuts

Walnuts are moist nuts that quickly grow mold, and black walnuts are prone to a type of mold that’s a neurotoxin for dogs (and horses, but not cats).

Macadamia nuts

These nuts contain toxic compounds for dogs; one of the first symptoms is weak back legs. They also have fat that can trigger pancreatitis.

Dressings

Salad dressings are a big business, and there are many different types. Still, they all have in common: high oil content and sweeteners. Oily and sugary foods can lead to pancreatitis in dogs which is a painful re-occurring condition, and fatty foods lead to quick weight gain, which we’ve already discussed.

But what about low-sugar versions?

Low-sugar anything is often flavored with artificial sweeteners like Xylitol. Xylitol pops up in a wide range of human food, including low-sugar Jell-o, biscuits, cakes, and juice. Xylitol is a big problem for dogs because it creates a massive blood sugar drop that can lead to hypoglycemia, collapse and even death.

Salt

Too much salt creates hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, in dogs and humans. Salad dressing is salty (it’s where it first got the name salata), so it’s a big no in a dog’s diet.

Salad is Fibrous

Fiber is good, right? Yes, but too much fiber creates gastric upsets such as flatulence and diarrhea. This is uncomfortable for dogs and unpleasant for their owners too. Some dogs tolerate high fiber better than others who are sensitive to it.

How Much Salad Can A Dog Eat?

Suppose the salad is undressed and only contains dog-friendly ingredients. In that case, it’s safe for dogs to tuck in, but the ASPCA recommends dogs eat no more than 10% of their daily diet from treats and extras like salad. The remaining 90% should be high-quality complete commercial or homemade dog food with all the nutrients dogs need.

My Dogs Ate Salad, What Should I Do?

It depends on the salad.

If your dog pinched plain salad ingredients that aren’t toxic, the chances are they’ll be just fine. A gastric upset might occur from too much fiber so keep an eye on them for a few days.

However, if the salad was dressed or contained toxic ingredients, speak to a vet immediately. Dogs can experience poisoning symptoms very quickly or take a day or two. Look for increased thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and lethargy.

Other Poisonous Foods for Dogs

We’ve already looked at some common toxic salad ingredients for dogs. Still, there are a few others to be aware of, such as chocolate and alcohol, and although they are not toxic, corn cobs.

Corn cobs are big choking hazards that aren’t digestible. If a dog eats corn cobs and can’t pass the chunks in their stools, it can cause a medical-emergency blockage. Signs of an internal blockage include decreased appetite, stomach pains, drooling, wandering, tremors or collapse.

Is Salad OK For Dogs?

To conclude, salad is usually not OK for dogs because it may contain toxic ingredients and dressing.

Dogs can benefit from dog-friendly salads without dressing or dangerous foods included because they are packed with nutrients. Still, it shouldn’t form more than 10% of their daily diet.

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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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