Should You Give Your Dog Coconut Oil?
Over the past few years, coconut oil has become a popular staple for many people looking to optimize their health. With purported benefits like boosting the immune system, improving cognitive ability, and acting as an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal, coconut oil is a multipurpose elixir of sorts. But should you give your dog coconut oil?
Many holistic and naturopathic veterinarians recommend their clients give their pups coconut oil. But before we discuss the benefits, let’s get into some doggone science.
What’s In Coconut Oil That makes it So Healthy?
Coconut oil is made by harvesting meat from the coconut palm. When pressed (we’ll get into that a bit later), the remaining oil contains roughly 90% saturated fats, most of them being Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).
We’ve been told for years that saturated fat is bad for us. But this is not accurate.
Saturated fats from animal products and coconut oil are quite beneficial. And these MCTs, in particular, offer several benefits, including excellent fuel and energy sources.
MCTs are made up of lauric acid, known for its antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral capabilities. Also included are capric acid and caprylic acid, which are also anti-fungal, and other polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
The Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs
You just read about the different fatty acids found in coconut oil and how some can fight off pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi and act as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Additionally, some holistic vets recommend giving dogs coconut oil to fight chronic inflammation seen in conditions like arthritis.
But that’s not all.
Some vets believe the MCTs in coconut oil can help those dogs with digestion issues. (as an aside – some felines can benefit from coconut oil as well, as it is believed to help pass hairballs through the digestive tract.)
Since MCTs are quickly digested, they can give dogs, especially senior dogs, a much-needed energy boost. As an added benefit, older dogs may experience a boost in their mental function as well.
Of course, not only can your dog eat coconut oil to reap the benefits, but you can also apply it topically to their skin. Moreover, coconut oil has been shown to help with conditions such as:
- Hot spots
- Bug bites
- Dry, itchy skin
- Soothing dry and cracked noses
- Making your pup’s coat glossy
- Getting rid of that… dog odor
Speak with Your Vet Before Getting Started
There have been few studies to back up some of these purported health benefits. Much is anecdotal evidence and the personal experience of holistic vets who lean more toward natural treatments for their clients.
We must remember that while coconut oil is an excellent source of beneficial saturated fats, it will not provide the daily fat requirement for your dog.
That said, using coconut oil for some health conditions we’ve mentioned may be beneficial. Please speak with your veterinarian to see what they think. Many traditional vets may have no experience using coconut oil. So it might also be a good idea to seek advice from a vet who treats patients holistically.
You must speak with your vet before giving your dog coconut oil if they have a history of pancreatitis, gain weight easily, or do not metabolize fats efficiently. With some dogs, coconut oil should only be used topically.
Getting Started with Coconut Oil
If you decide to give coconut oil a try, it’s pretty easy to get started. For oral applications, it’s a good idea to start with a small amount and build the dosage up slowly. Dogs (and even some cats!) love the taste of coconut oil and will eat it right off the spoon. You can also mix it in with wet or dry food. Talk to your vet about what they recommend regarding how much and how fast to increase the dose. You wouldn’t give a Great Dane the exact amounts you’d give a pug! Giving too much too soon can cause loose stools.
Topical applications are simple. Just rub a little into the hot spot or dry, itchy area and let it seep into the skin. If you accidentally put too much on, use a paper towel to remove excess, so you don’t get oil on the rug or furniture.
If your dog has a dry or cracked nose, you can also rub a little on there morning and night. Just be sure to really get it in there! Then distract him for a few minutes, so he doesn’t try and lick it all off!
Choosing the Right Coconut Oil for Your Dog
These days, most grocery stores carry coconut oil. You can also get it online. Look for unrefined (virgin) coconut oil. Even better, look for unrefined coconut oil that has been cold-pressed. This method quickly processes the oil after the coconuts are harvested to preserve the beneficial fats and nutrients.
Once you’ve opened a jar of coconut, it will last for months or even a year right in your cupboard. You can also store it in the refrigerator, however, the oil will harden, making it more difficult to scoop and use.
As pet parents, most of us are always looking for new ways to take even better care of our fur babies. For many, adding coconut oil, either orally or topically, has helped their pups thrive. Speak to your vet to see if coconut oil may be a beneficial supplement for your dog.
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- Coconut Oil Nutritional Profile retrieved from the Harvard School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/
- Reisen, J., “Coconut Oil for Dogs: Is it Really Good for Them?” https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/is-coconut-oil-good-for-dogs/
- Ruggeri, C., CHHC., “How to Use Coconut Oil for Dogs (+ the Top 8 Benefits)” Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/pet-health/coconut-oil-for-dogs/
- Hall JA, Jewell DE. Feeding healthy beagles medium-chain triglycerides, fish oil, and carnitine offsets age-related changes in serum fatty acids and carnitine metabolites. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49510. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049510. Epub 2012 Nov 7. PMID: 23145181; PMCID: PMC3492282.