Coconut Oil for Dogs – What You Should Know

The ultimate guide to the relationship between coconut oil and dogs.

So you’ve heard about coconut oil for dogs and started scratching your head, sound about right? Don’t worry, you ain’t the only one my friend.

With this coconut for dogs guide you’ll be well informed on the topic; and we even threw in some quality product picks for you. Let’s get started, shall we?

Is coconut oil beneficial to dogs?

Is-Coconut-Oil-Beneficial-to-Dogs

Over the past couple of years pet parents have been discovering the benefits of coconut oil for themselves, and subsequently for their furry best friends.

The USDA National Nutrient Database states that coconut pulp contains:

  • potassium
  • fiber
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • vitamin C
  • . . . all of which are beneficial to dogs.

Coconut water for dogs also proves to be a good source of electrolytes and enzymes. That said, coconut oil also has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties; all of which may help improve the overall health of our furry best friends in a natural way.

Some supplements may be confusing to use. Coconut oil, on the other hand is simple to use. It also can be used in many ways; which makes the benefits numerous. Coconut oil includes fatty acids and nutrients, all essential to the well being of pets.

Although not an Omega-3 oil, it has an abundance of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Studies referenced from veterinarian Dr. Jean Dodds and canine nutritionist Diane Laverdure’s book, Canine Nutrigenomics, show that MCTs are broken down faster in the bloodstream than regular fats. This results in a supply of accessible non-carbohydrate energy.

What are enhanced botanical oils

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“Enhanced botanical oils are plant-based oils like palm kernel oil and coconut oil that have been modified to primarily consist of specific medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are an effective energy source for the brain cells of dogs age 7+.” according to Purina.

Formulas contain enhanced botanical oils shown to promote alertness and mental sharpness in dogs age 7+, with visible results within 30 days.

. . . and what are MCTs?

“The MCTs, which stands for Medium-Chain Triglycerides, in our Purina® Pro Plan® Bright Mind™ Adult 7+ products are derived from botanical oils. MCTs provide an easily absorbed, additional source of fuel for the brains of dogs age 7 and older. MCTs naturally nourish senior dogs’ minds, helping them think more like they did when they were younger.”

How coconut oil can help dogs

How-coconut-oil-can-help-dogs-the-benefits

So, can is it good for dogs? Sure looks that way! But to find out more about the potential adverse effects as well as the potential benefits of coconut oil for dogs, let’s keep reading.

Coconut oil for brain health in dogs

coconut-oil-for-dog-brain-health

Coconut oil is safe for dogs when used moderately and correctly. According to a dog-based study (Pan et al, 2010) 24 Beagles were supplemented with 5.5% MCT. The Beagles whose ages ranged from 7-11 years of age, showed improvements in learning tasks after a few weeks.

The study concluded that MCT’s contribute an alternate source of usable energy to support a dog’s brain.

Coconut oil for dogs skin and coat

Coconut-oil-for-coat-health-in-dog

Topical antimicrobial use: Studies demonstrate that lauric fatty acid has been shown to have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. No studies have been performed in dogs, most were in petri dishes, and none of these were with coconut oil itself. One study showed great effectiveness of topical virgin coconut oil in decreasing staphylococcal colonization in humans with atopic dermatitis.

“There is at least some research-based evidence to support coconut oil’s use as a topical antimicrobial,” explains Dr. Melissa Eisenschenk, DVM, DACVD, via Pet Dermatology Clinic, MN. Adding, coconut oil has loads of caprylic acid which help to fight off fungal infections.”

Oral microbial use: There are other uses as well says, Dr. Eisenschenk “Monolaurin, the monoglyceride of lauric acid from virgin coconut oil, is FDA-approved as an emulsifying food additive most popularly used in margarine. It was not approved as an antimicrobial food additive because although it is a very good anti-fungal and anti-bacterial chemical, its antimicrobial effectiveness is inactivated by starches and proteins.”

“There is some evidence that proves that coconut oil is useful for bacterial infections in humans for techniques like “oil pulling,” adds Dr. Eisenschenk. Coconut oil also helps with bad breath in dogs.

Coconut oil as an anti-inflammatory

Coconut-oil-as-an-anti-ainflammatory-for-dogs

Coconut oil is a healthy fat that also displays anti-inflammatory properties. Studies demonstrate that coconut oil helps support cell membranes, promotes hormone balance, enhances skin and coat condition, supports thyroid function, as well as helps with stomach sensitivities.

It can also help dogs keep on weight. That said, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian for the best advice on how much coconut oil to use. Using a cold pressed virgin coconut oil that is free of any additives will yield better health benefits.

Related: Best glucosamine for dogs – Top 5 examined

Coconut oil for cuts and scrapes in dogs

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Coconut oil is known for its antibacterial uses and contains medium chain fatty acids. (MCFA’s) These are rare types of fat molecules which promote healing, and prevent infections. Coconut oil can be applied to cuts and scrapes in dogs. It can also be used to help heal sunburn, although the best measures would be preventative.

Dogs should not be exposed to extreme heat or cold, and should be kept indoors during the hot summer days. Exercise during the summer should be limited to early morning or late afternoon when it is cooler.

Did you know there were pain meds for dogs, such as Tramadol

Coconut oil for flea prevention in dogs

Coconut-oil-for-flea-prevention-in-dogs

Coconut oil can help ward off fleas in dogs when applied lightly to the skin. It may also help soothe skin irritation in dogs. It works best when applied lightly throughout the dog’s skin, paws, and irritated red areas on the surface of the skin. Coconut enriched shampoos combined with neem or rooibos tea can also help to fight off fleas.

Dogs should be bathed regularly, and preventative flea medications prescribed by your veterinarian are strongly recommended. A healthy and active lifestyle combined with a healthy high-quality diet is beneficial to your dog’s well-being.

Coconut oil for hot spots in dogs

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Toxins need to be flushed out in a natural way allowing your dog to start healing. Coconut oil is soothing to the skin, and beneficial in helping the skin to re-balance.

With hot spots being one of the most annoying problems affecting dogs, one can attempt to overcome hot spots by:

  • feeding a healthy diet with added coconut oil
  • removing toxins from your dog’s environment
  • and strengthening your dog’s immune system.

Coconut oil can be rubbed on lightly to the dog’s coat to alleviate the itch associated with hot spots. By combining oral and external use, coconut oil helps fight flea bite skin allergies too. Virgin coconut oil needs to be used in moderation and in combination with regular bathing and grooming.

Looking to find out more about your dogs history? Look into these DNA test kits for dogs.

As usual, always work together with your veterinarian most especially regarding hot spots and skin allergies. The skin is the largest organ, and although coconut oil can be beneficial in treating inflammation, your veterinarian whether integrative or holistic needs to be informed.

Working together with your veterinarian offers the best long term solutions to health care.

Successful treatment of any skin disorders in dogs requires veterinary care with a precise diagnosis. Your vet will need to do a microscopic analysis of skin scrapings and hair. Diagnosing skin problems in dogs entails skin swabs, blood and urine tests, and sometimes biopsies.

You will need to visit your veterinarian a few times to get a full diagnosis, and systematic drugs will be required. These may include antibiotics, cortisteroid medications and medicated shampoos. Coconut oil should not be used solely as a form of treatment for skin irritations in dogs.

Coconut oil for digestion in dogs

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Studies have demonstrated the benefits of coconut oil for digestive purposes. The saturated fats in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties which help in fighting off bad bacteria, fungi, and parasites that result in indigestion.

Adding coconut oil to your dog’s feed may help overcome any digestive issues like inflammatory bowel issues and colitis. That said, too much coconut oil can result in loose stools and in weight gain. Studies have shown that feeding coconut oil for long periods of time will also increase the overall fat in the diet, which may not be ideal for some pets.

Pet parents should always consult with their vets as to the best dosage for their dogs. Take into consideration a dog’s:

  • weight
  • current diet
  • life stage
  • medical problems
  • and so forth.

Coconut oil should never be liberally given to dogs in case of pancreatitis or hyperlipidemia; as it can also worsen these conditions. Thus although coconut oil seems safe, it is not without any side effects when given too liberally.

Coconut oil is beneficial in helping the body absorb nutrients like minerals, vitamins and amino acids.

Some veterinarians indicate that there are not enough studies to prove that coconut oil is beneficial in other medical conditions. Dr. Boehme, DVM, Drake Center for Veterinary Care, CA says that there is no credible basis that coconut oil helps with:

  • cancer prevention
  • dental cleaning
  • periodontal disease prevention
  • weight loss
  • and thyroid dysfunction.

That said, Dr. Boehme says that there is a credible basis to coconut oil helping with the following:

  • dry skin
  • wound healing
  • atopic dermatitis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • poor bowel absorption
  • cognitive dysfunction.

Related: Control how your dog eats with one these quality dog food bowls.

How to use coconut oils?

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There are numerous ways in which to use coconut oil for dogs. You can find an extensive range of coconut–based dog products, many of which are edible, others topical. You can also use virgin cold-pressed coconut oil in its raw natural form. It’s easy to use, and smells wonderful!

Veterinarians are recommending the use of unrefined (virgin) cold-pressed coconut oil. By doing this you are preserving optimum nutritional value, as well as avoiding any pesticide contamination.

Products like Wildly Organic – Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil are pesticide free.

Wildly-Organic-Virgin-Unrefined-Coconut-Oil

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Cold-pressed organic coconut oil is inexpensive, and widely available in health stores and supermarkets. These can be used topically on your dog’s skin. It can also be used when cooking homemade meals for your dog. Combining coconut oil with turmeric is very popular for good health.

Dog treats with coconut

All dogs love treats! You can either make these at home, or purchase organic coconut dog treats from the pet store or online. Pet food companies dehydrate coconut meat. Coconut chips can be used for positive dog training, or as food toppers.

Coconut oil can also be added to commercial dog food as well. Coconut treats are beneficial to your dog’s health in that they promote a healthy coat, and help keep teeth clean. When purchasing virgin coconut oil, look for the cold pressed coconut oil. CocoTherapy Organic Chips offers both the coconut chips and oil for dogs.

coconut-oil-treats-for-dogs

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Most veterinarians recommend feeding coconut oil in smaller doses, so as to minimize any health risks. Consult with your veterinarian as to any dietary adjustments needed, since the caloric intake will now be higher from the coconut oil consumption.

Coconut oil shampoo for dogs

Any dog shampoo with added coconut has the potential to help alleviate skin allergies and hot spots. Coconut shampoo may also help promote softer coats. Among numerous benefits, brands like Petology Natural Coconut Oil Dog Shampoo have coconut water, coconut oil, and Vitamin E delivering deep conditioning as well as long-lasting hydration for your dogs coat.

coconut-oil-shampoo-for-dogs

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Coconut oil for canine massage & spa day

All dogs love being pampered! Coconut oil can be combined with aromatherapy oils to ease anxiety, and promote good health in dogs. Consult with your veterinarian as to which aromatherapy oils work best with coconut oil. Opt for a spa day with your pooch!

Dog Fashion Spa’s – Essential Calmin Oils are a great choice as a spa treatment for your dog when they need it the most. Easy application and 100% natural ingredients, including marjoram leaf mixed with liquid coconut oil.

Coconut-oil-for-canine-massage-&-spa-day

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Coconut oil for dogs paws

There are numerous pet paw products containing moisturizing balms with coconut oil. These are formulated with non-toxic ingredients, and added organic coconut oils to keep Fido’s paws moisturized and protected against the harmful effects of snow, ice, salt and heat. Products like Muttluks Pawmagik Balm are non-toxic and offer the beneficial properties of coconut oil.

Coconut-oil-for-dog-paws

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Regular coconut oil can also be applied to paws, although dogs will lick it right off. That said, preventative measures need to be taken to help maintain your dog’s health and well-being. Consult with your veterinarian for paw injuries. These sometimes do not improve, and the problem may progress if not treated promptly.

Coconut oil for dog ear and eye health

Coconut oil helps to clear up ear and eye infections in dogs with its antibacterial properties. It can be used topically in the ears or eyes with an eye dropper. Your dog’s eyes and ears are of uttermost importance to your dog.

Zesty Paws Ear Cleaning Grooming Wipes for Dogs is a good option which contains coconut oil as well as a soothing blend of aloe vera.

Coconut-oil-for-dog-ear-and-eye-health

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As with any eye or ear disorders, veterinary examinations are a must. This involves checking the shape and outline of the dog’s eye to see if they are normal. Additional eye tests may be needed.

Brain health

Insulin resistance and altered glucose metabolism in the brain directly affect Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies hint at medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) possibly being beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease. MCT’s also replace carbohydrates, and help reverse metabolic disease.

They also provide an alternate fuel source (ketones) for an insulin-resistant, energy-starved brain. Maintaining good brain health in dogs is of vital importance. Feeding a high-quality diet helps maintain optimal brain health in dogs.

How much coconut oil for dogs?

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“Coconut oil can generally be given to dogs 1-2 times a day with meals. How much you should give your dog depends on his size. Many veterinarians recommend starting slow with the coconut oil. A good starting dose is ¼ teaspoon daily for small dogs up 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon daily for big dogs.

However, if you have an obese or overweight dog, it’s suggested that coconut oil be provided no more than once a day because of its high fat content. Any dog who is receiving coconut oil should be closely monitored for weight gain.

Too much coconut oil could result in diarrhea, or pancreatitis. There have been cases of cholesterol increases, and weight gain. Several studies demonstrate that coconut oil’s lauric acid helps to increase the “good” HDL cholesterol, though the extra fat consumption from coconut oil is potentially a problem for already overweight dogs.

Any side effects of coconut oil?

side-effects-of-giving-coconut-oil-to-your-dog

The American Heart Association’s (AHA) April 2018 report states that “Coconut oil feeding increased the serum cholesterol concentrations for 4 months, but a decline to baseline values occurred after 6 months.

No gross atherosclerosis occurred in any animal fed coconut oil or the hydrogenated vegetable oil shortening.” In a 2017 report the AHA recommended replacing saturated fat with a healthier fat to lower cholesterol.

Keep an eye out for bad cholesterol

Saturated fat increases LDL cholesterol which could lead to atherosclerosis. AHA recommended not ingesting coconut oil. The advisory, which was “an analysis of more than 100 published research studies dating as far back as the 1950s, reaffirmed that saturated fats raise LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Tropical vegetable oils such as coconut oil contain high levels of saturated fats, and the authors reported that coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol in seven controlled trials.”

“Foods from plants that contain saturated fat include coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil (often called tropical oils) and cocoa butter. For people who need to lower their cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of total daily calories.”

That said, the AHA surprisingly enough considered a mere 17-meta-analyses and systematic reviews indicating a link between heart disease and saturated fat intake. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth noting that coconut oil should be taken in lower doses.

Final say on coconut oil for dogs

It’s no surprise that pet parents are passionate about coconut oil! Isn’t it wonderful to know that you can find something as simple as coconut oil to help boost your furry best friend’s immune system.

Keep in mind that working together with an integrative or holistic veterinarian who are also committed to your dog’s best health is the way to go! It’s important to visit your veterinarian regularly!

Coconut oil & chemotherapy?

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Now, not directly related to dogs, but we find it’s important to note that according to a recent study virgin coconut oil has previously been shown to help decrease the negative effects of chemotherapy, and improve everyday life for breast cancer patients.

“VCO consumption during chemotherapy helped improve the functional status and global QOL of breast cancer patients. In addition, it reduced the symptoms related to side effects of chemotherapy,” adds Dr. Law via Lipid World Biomed Central.

Additionally . . .

According to new research at Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus, coconut oil controlled the overgrowth of a fungal pathogen called Candida albicans (C. albicans) in mice. In humans, high levels of C. albicans in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to bloodstream infections, including invasive candidiasis. The research suggests that it might be possible to use dietary approaches as an alternative to antifungal drugs, to decrease the risk of infections caused by C. albicans.

Another great read: Best Dog Puzzle Toys – Boredom Busters!

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Resources

  1. https://petdermatologyclinic.com/coconut-oil-use-in-dogs/
  2. https://www.proplan.com/dogs/dog-care/bright-mind-faqs
  3. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510
  4. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/coconut-oil-dogs-understanding-benefits-and-risks
  5. https://lipidworld.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-511X-13-139
  6. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/coconut-oil/
  7. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151118125325.htm
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492282/ (Pan et al, 2010)
  9. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/07/18/saturated-fats-why-all-the-hubbub-over-coconuts
  10. http://web-dvm.net/coconut-oil-glorious-or-gimmick/
  11. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/things-you-didnt-know-you-could-do-with-coconut-oil/
  12. https://www.hpnvet.com
  13. http://pivh.org

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Claudia

Written by Claudia

Claudia Bensimoun is a hard working, animal loving, dog journalist from sunny West Palm Beach, and specializes in veterinary content. A long-time contributing features writer for Animal Wellness magazine, Fido Friendly magazine, and the United States Dog Agility Association. She's also the author and ghostwriter of more than 50 dog eBooks. She's passionate about canine nutrition, canine health and wellness, and animal rescue/adoption. Her interests include wildlife conservation, animal welfare, disaster/ humanitarian relief, and veterinary research.

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