Is coconut oil good for dogs? As with most supplements made for humans, the benefits of using coconut oil for dog health are mostly backed by anecdotal evidence - although some holistic and naturopathic veterinarians recommend the oil as a natural aid for certain types of conditions in canines and as support for overall wellness.
Coconut oil can be ingested or used topically, and there are both benefits and risks when it is used either way. Here’s your guide on whether or not coconut oil can provide a healthy advantage for your furry pal.
What is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is derived from coconut meat and contains at least 90% saturated fats which are mostly made up of medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs (about 70% of the saturated fats). MCTs are considered “good fats” and have potential health benefits for humans.
MCTs are composed of the following:
- Lauric acid, which has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.
- Capric acid and caprylic acid, both of which have antifungal benefits.
- Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are good for the heart and support a number of important body functions.
Virgin and extra-virgin coconut oils have also been found to contain high concentrations of polyphenols, which deliver antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Coconut oil is available as is, and can be used in a variety of ways, from cooking to hair treatment. It is also a common ingredient in skin care and hair products. As a health supplement, coconut oil capsules are widely available online and at health stores. It is also used as a carrier oil for CBD products.
How can coconut oil benefit your dog?
According to holistic and naturopathic veterinarians, coconut oil may deliver the following benefits when given to dogs:
- Help fight off bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.
- Aid in weight loss and digestion, and treat some digestive issues.
- Improve cognitive function in older dogs.
- Treat hot spots, itchy skin, bites, stings, and other skin conditions.
- Condition and moisturize skin and coat.
- Get rid of doggy odor.
- Lower blood sugar levels.
- Reduce chronic inflammation.
- Promote metabolic function and bone health.
- Help with arthritis symptoms, thyroid dysfunction, gum disease, and cancer.
Take note, however, that these claims have yet to be supported by scientific studies. As a holistic approach to your dog’s health or an alternative treatment to certain ailments, it is best to get proper guidance from your vet. It is especially important to consult your vet first if your pet pal has an underlying condition, is taking medications, pregnant, or nursing.
Using coconut oil for your dog
Recent studies have shown that the high levels of saturated fats in coconut oil may cause more harm than good to dogs. Additionally, while MCTs are potentially beneficial to health, the lauric acid that is also present mostly cancels out these benefits.
Lauric acid has antimicrobial properties, but it is mostly stored away as fat after being processed in the liver. Saturated fats, on the other hand, have been linked to chronic inflammation, which has been associated with many metabolic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease.
So giving your dog coconut oil orally is not advisable. What you can give him, instead, is MCT oil which is also derived from coconut oil. This way, he can get the benefits of MCTs without the harmful effects of saturated fats and lauric acid.
Even with MCT oil, start with the smallest dose and observe how your pet reacts to it. If he experiences diarrhea, then you haven’t given him too much. However, long-term supplementation with MCT oil, even in small doses, may lead to weight gain. If Fido is already overweight or obese, giving him oil high in saturated fats is definitely a bad idea.
The best way that your dog can benefit from coconut oil is by using it topically, whether the oil itself or in creams, lotions, shampoos, and soaps. As with most oils, you may have to rinse it off with soap and water after letting the skin/coat absorb it.
When choosing a coconut oil product for your dog, look for unrefined or virgin coconut oil; cold-pressed is also a healthier option as this is an extraction method that preserves the most nutrients.
Using Coconut Oil for Your Dog - Final Thoughts
The use of coconut oil, particularly as a supplement, is controversial. Many health experts are advising against oral intake of this oil, both by humans and dogs. Some components of the oil have known health benefits, but others are also known to cause harmful effects. The responsible thing to do as a pet owner is to always err on the side of caution.
Always consult your vet before giving your dog any type of alternative treatment or prior to starting him on any supplement. Remember that not everything that is good for human consumption is also good for our canine friends. (And even for humans, there may be more risks than benefits to using coconut oil.)
The better option is to give Fido MCT oil, but only in small doses, or to only use coconut oil topically. There are also other natural oils you can opt for which are healthier, safer, and more effective, such as fish oil, krill oil, and flaxseed oil.
Lastly, do your due diligence and spend time looking up both the positive and negative health effects of any new product or ingredient you’re thinking of giving to your beloved pet.