Coconut oil is extremely popular these days. You may use it yourself as a health supplement, for cooking, as a homemade toothpaste or deodorant ingredient, to moisturize your skin or condition your hair.
Because of its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, many people also use coconut oil for a number of medicinal purposes. But what about the health benefits of coconut oil for dogs?
Although supplements can be a confusing topic for many dog owners, you probably know about the benefits of adding oils to your dog’s diet. Oils contain essential fatty acids and nutrients, which, as the name indicates, are essential to your dog’s health.
Coconut oil is one of these oils. The fats in coconut oil are considered “conditionally essential,” meaning that at under certain circumstances (such as during pregnancy and early growth) they are essential.
In fact, the Medium Chain Fatty Acids found in coconut milk are also in the breast milk of humans and other mammals, and coconut oil is an ingredient in many infant formulas.
It’s not an Omega-3 oil but the health benefits of coconut oil for dogs are vast. Keep reading to find out how it can boost your dog’s wellbeing.[Related: Why does your dog need Omega-3 oils anyway? Find out here]
What’s In Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil consists of more than 90% saturated fats. All fats and oils are composed of triglycerides. Coconut oil is composed primarily of Medium Chain Triglycerides. All triglycerides are made up of individual fat molecules called fatty acids. Coconut oil contains 64% Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs).
Breaking it down further, the MCFAs in coconut oil are made up of 48% lauric acid, 8% caprylic acid and 7% capric acid, plus myristic and palmitic acids.
Coconut oil also contains about 2% linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acids) and about 6% oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acids). Most of coconut oil’s health benefits come from the MCFAs, especially lauric acid.
Lauric acid has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Capric and caprylic acid have similar properties and are best known for their antifungal effects. In addition, the body can efficiently metabolize MCFAs to provide an immediate source of fuel and energy, enhancing athletic performance and aiding weight loss.
In dogs, the MCFAs in coconut oil balance the thyroid, helping overweight dogs lose weight and helping sedentary dogs feel energetic.
According to Dr Bruce Fife, certified nutritionist and naturopathic doctor and president of the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil gently elevates the metabolism, provides a higher level of energy and vitality, protects you from illness, and speeds healing. As a bonus, coconut oil improves any dog’s skin and coat, improves digestion, and reduces allergic reactions.
6 Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil For Dogs
Here are some ways giving your dog coconut oil regularly can support her health.
- Clears up skin conditions such as eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis and itchy skin
- Reduces allergic reactions and improves skin health
- Makes coats sleek and glossyGets rid of doggy odor
- Prevents and treats yeast and fungal infections, including candida
- Disinfects cuts and promotes wound healing
- Applied topically, promotes the healing of cuts, wounds, hot spots, dry skin and hair, bites and stings
- Protects against fleas, ticks and mitesSoothes and heals dry cracked pads and elbow calluses
2. Digestive System
- Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
- Aids healing of digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel syndrome and colitis
- Reduces or eliminates bad breath in dogs
- Expels or kills parasites
3. Immune System
- Contains powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agents that prevent infection and disease
- May reduce risk of cancer
4. Endocrine/Metabolic System
- Regulates and balances insulin and can help prevent or control diabetes
- Promotes normal thyroid function
- Increases energy and helps reduce weight
5. Musculoskeletal System
- Helps build strong bones
- Eases inflammation and can help with arthritis discomfort
6. Brain, Eyes, Ears and Mouth
- Promotes good nerve and brain function and prevents dementia
- Helps clear up ear and eye infections (let it melt and then use as eye drops, and also use topically in the ears)
- Improves oral health and can be used to clean teeth
Is Coconut Oil Safe For Dogs?
Dr Bruce Fife, author of Coconut Therapy For Pets, says that coconut oil is extremely safe for all kinds of animals, from dogs to cats to birds, rabbits, guinea pigs as well as cows and horses.
Research shows that coconut oil is well tolerated, even in toxicity studies where researchers fed huge amounts of coconut oil to animals. If your dog got into a whole jar of coconut oil, he’d probably just get a bout of loose stool or diarrhea.
Caution: Despite the safety of coconut oil, if your dog has a health condition, it’s best to check with your holistic vet before adding any new supplements, including coconut oil.
Unlike some other oils which can become toxic when heated, coconut oil is very heat stable, even at high cooking temperatures. Because of its stability, it’s slow to oxidize or turn rancid, and has a storage life of about two years.
What Kind Of Coconut Oil Should You Buy?
Wondering what kind of coconut oil is best for my dog? There are a few things to think about.
Choose Virgin or Extra Virgin coconut oil (they’re the same thing), preferably organic and sold in a glass (not plastic) jar. There’s another form of coconut oil called RBD, meaning refined, bleached and deodorized. It’s best to avoid RBD because it’s been heated and filtered, causing some potential loss of nutrients … but it may be an acceptable solution for dogs who just don’t like the taste of coconut oil, as it has a more neutral flavor.
Coconut oil will usually look white in the jar, but it may liquefy and turn clear on your kitchen counter. Or, if you add it to a smoothie with some frozen fruit, it will solidify fast and you may have little chunks of coconut oil in your smoothie. This is normal and you may see your oil turn to clear liquid and then go back to a white solid state again, depending on your room temperature.
How Much Coconut Oil Should You Give Your Dog?
As a daily supplement, work up to about 1 tsp per 10 lbs of body weight per day. Start with ¼ of this amount to avoid loose stool from the extra oil going through your dog’s digestive system, then increase gradually until you get to the recommended dose.
Note: Because of the essential fatty acids in Omega-3 oils, your dog will still need some Omega-3 oil as well a coconut oil. It’s a good idea to rotate coconut oil on alternate days or at different meals with your choice of Omega-3 oil, so that your dog gets the benefits of both types of oils.
For therapeutic or medicinal purposes, you may need to double the above dosage – but again, work up gradually until your dog’s system adapts to the extra oil in her diet. You might want to consult your holistic vet about the optimal dose for your dog’s size and health condition.
Some dogs love licking coconut oil off the spoon (or your hands!) but others prefer it mixed into food. Adding it to food can also help prevent digestive upset when you first start giving coconut oil to your dog.
Other Ways to Use Coconut Oil:
Coconut Oil For Fleas And Other Insects
One little known use of coconut oil is to repel insects like fleas and ticks.It smells pleasant and is completely non-toxic. You can rub it into your dog’s coat before going for a walk in the woods to help repel ticks. Using it like this can also help make your dog’s coat soft and shiny!
To Eliminate Parasites
Dried, unsweetened coconut meat (from 1 or 2 Tbsp to ¼ cup added to food, depending on your dog’s size) has long been recommended as a safe, natural treatment to eliminate intestinal worms. But now there are reports that coconut oil can also have the same effect.
Pet owners who started giving their pets coconut oil as a supplement have reported seeing worms coming out in their animals’ stools. Some people use the dried coconut as well as coconut oil with very effective results.
To Combat Dog’s Yeasty Skin
Herbalist Rita Hogan recommends the following coconut oil skin treatment to help get rid of yeasty skin:
- Let extra virgin coconut oil melt in a small glass bottle holding about 8 oz
- Add 10 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 drops of lemon essential oil
- Shake to mix
- Massage it into your dog’s skin once a week or more often as needed
This coconut oil mix will last several months. Store it in a dark place.
[Related: DIY itchy skin relief, natural antibiotic and immune system booster. Find 3 more coconut oil recipes here]
Cooking With Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is very stable at high temperatures so if you cook or bake treats for your dog, you can substitute it for other oils. If you make dehydrated meat, fruit or veggie treats for your dog, try tossing the raw pieces in a little coconut oil before dehydrating, for an extra flavor and health boost.
What About Other Forms Of Coconut?
You can get the health benefits of coconut oil for dogs in other ways too.
If you buy whole coconuts your dog may enjoy eating a piece of coconut meat … or you can save yourself the trouble of cracking open the coconut and buy fresh or dried coconut meat (be sure to get the unsweetened kind). One cup of fresh shredded coconut contains about 2 Tbsp of coconut oil, and a cup of dried shredded coconut equals about 3.5 Tbsp of coconut oil.
This is another good way to give coconut to your dog. One 14 oz can of coconut milk contains about 5 Tbsp of coconut oil. But be careful what you buy … a lot of coconut milks sold in stores have additives like sugar, preservatives and emulsifiers, which you’ll want to avoid. Don’t use the coconut milk beverages in cartons that you’ll find in the refrigerated or dairy sections of the store as they have very little actual coconut milk in them, and lots of added water and sugar instead.
It’s fine to give coconut water regularly to your dog. Again, make sure you’re buying a product with no added sugar or chemicals. Coconut water is also a great natural source of electrolytes. Homeopathic veterinarian Dee Blanco DVM recommends the following mixture to rehydrate your dog if she gets overheated on a summer day:
- 1 cup of coconut water
- About ¼ to ½ tsp of sea salt (choose a good quality sea salt like Celtic or Himalayan)
- Add some natural sparkling mineral water like Perrier or San Pellegrino.
The sparkling water is the important part as the bubbles help get the electrolytes into your dog’s cells more quickly.
You can syringe the mixture into your dog’s mouth if necessary.
It’s time to take advantage of the many health benefits of coconut oil for dogs. There are many ways you can use it both as a health supplement and for therapeutic or medicinal purposes. Try it for your dog and observe the improvements in her health!