Coconut oil has become all the rage for healthy eating, skin care, and many other things. But what about coconut oil for your dog? Is it safe? Healthy? PetMD explains.
Coconut oil: It’s not just for slathering on your skin at the beach. From healing skin ailments to improving digestive health to aiding immune systems, coconut oil has been touted as a new and natural way to obtain optimum health. Dog owners are jumping on the coconut oil bandwagon, too, and finding that a little coconut oil in their dog’s diet (or smoothed onto their skin or coat) does wonders for their dog’s overall health.
As with any new food or product you feed or apply to your dog, it’s best to check with your dog’s veterinarian first. Your vet will help you figure out if coconut oil is right for your dog.
What is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil comes from the fruit of the coconut palm tree. The oil is high in a saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides. You might be thinking, “Wait — aren’t saturated fats bad for you? These are the fats we’re told to stay away from, right?” Not exactly. According to Dr. Jean Dodd’s pet health resource blog: “Whereas most saturated fats are comprised of long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), coconut oil is comprised mainly of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Our bodies metabolize (break down) and recognize medium chain fatty acids differently than long chain fatty acids, producing a very different effect.” Dodd goes on to say that coconut oil’s chemical composition is different than the fat found in steak or butter, or some other fatty food.
What Are the Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs?
If you search the Internet, dog owners from around the globe have reported copious benefits to using coconut oil in their dog’s diet and grooming routine. Some of the benefits reported include:
Gut and Digestion (when taken internally)
- Helps improve digestion
- Reduces or eliminates body odor and bad breath
- Reduces symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
- Increases nutrient absorption
Skin Health (when applied topically)
- Helps with eczema
- Minimizes red, itchy and dry skin
- Reduces skin allergies
- Prevents yeast infections
- Clears up contact dermatitis
- Prevents fungal infections
- Aids in the healing of wounds and punctures
- Moisturizes fur and makes coat shiny
Overall Health (when taken internally)
- Prevents and controls diabetes
- Helps normalize thyroid function
- Reduces arthritis symptoms
- Reduces symptoms of kennel cough
- Helps with weight loss
Coconut oil also gives the “good” HDL cholesterol a boost. “Fat in the diet, whether it’s saturated or unsaturated, tends to nudge HDL levels up, but coconut oil seems to be especially potent at doing so,” says Walter C. Willett, M.D., on the Harvard Health website.
While coconut oil is unlikely to be a true cure-all for every symptom your dog might have, it’s certainly beneficial and warrants a discussion with your veterinarian on whether or not to incorporate it into your dog’s diet.
How Much Coconut Oil Should I Give to My Dog?
The amount to feed your dog depends on your dog’s weight. If your dog has never eaten coconut oil before, start by giving him a small portion (about 1/4 of a teaspoon) at first over the course of three to four weeks. Then you can build up to a normal portion. According to the Wellness Mama website, the recommended dose of coconut oil for dogs is one teaspoon per 10 pounds of dog. You can feed your dog coconut oil as a treat or mix it into your dog’s food.
When applied topically, coconut oil can be applied much like lotion: just smooth a small dab onto your dog’s skin as needed. For instance, if your dog has dry paw pads, rub a small amount of coconut oil onto his paws — preferably before a nap or before bedtime so he’s not walking on his oiled paws afterward. Coconut oil smells and tastes good (mmm, pina colada!), so your dog might be tempted to lick the oil off. Be sure to rub it in well so that the oil is able to absorb into your dog’s skin. You can also wrap your dog’s oiled skin in a towel for several minutes so that it has a chance to absorb.
Are there Side Effects to Feeding Coconut Oil to My Dog?
According to Dr. David A. Gordon of Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital in Poway, Calif., the main side effects of feeding coconut oil can be increased weight if fed too often to an overweight pet. Another side effect can be soft stool. As with anything you feed your dog, observe him after he eats coconut oil to make sure it agrees with him. If you notice any side effects in your dog, stop feeding him the coconut oil or reduce the amount you give him.
Which Kind of Coconut Oil is Best?
Beyond brand names, you will want to choose unrefined coconut oil, also known as virgin coconut oil. If you can find a coconut oil that is cold-pressed, then even better. This method helps ensure that the coconut oil is processed very quickly after it is harvested, which preserves as much of the nutrients as possible.
Coconut oil has different tastes and scents, depending on which brand or type that you buy. They can range from a strong coconut taste, to very mild and almost bland, to buttery and rich, to nutty and toasty. Experiment with different kinds until you find one that your dog will enjoy.
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