Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
Coconut Oil Health Benefits for Dogs
Coconut oil is an oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts and is obtained from tropical coconut palms. It is generally sold as a solid rather than a liquid when kept at under 75 °F, just like your average lard or butter. However, unlike butter that can soon turn rancid, coconut oil can last up to 2 years—courtesy of its high levels of saturated fat, which makes it slow to oxidize.
The History Behind the Health Benefits
For thousands of years, inhabitants of the tropics have used coconut oil both for cooking and health. Pacific Islanders who used coconuts regularly were even found to be free of heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. This oil has had a bad reputation for years, however, due to being high in saturated fat; health organizations have historically warned people about consuming it for years.
In the 1980s and 1990s, it was essentially phased out due to its terrible reputation. It was then replaced by other vegetable oils that turned out to be far more harmful. Nowadays, coconut oil has made a big comeback, and demand is so high that stores cannot keep up.
Isn't It High in Saturated Fat?
So why is it good for dogs? In the 1950s, saturated fat was unjustly accused of causing high cholesterol and heart disease, when in reality, it was trans fat that was the culprit. 90% of coconut oil is saturated fat and at least 50% of this fat is lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Lauric acid is the same compound found in "mother's milk" and has many disease-fighting qualities.
How Much Coconut Oil Should I Give My Dog?
How much should I give my dog? According to veterinarian Karen Becker (featured in the video below), the dosage of coconut oil for dogs is as follows:
Offer 1 teaspoon for every 10 to 20 pounds of body weight.
Initially, you may want to start with smaller doses to see how your dog responds.
How Can It Help My Dog?
Dogs enjoy many of the same benefits humans get from this wonderful oil—this is because it works from the inside out, and can also be used topically and can be ingested. While not many studies have been formally conducted, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence from owners reporting dramatic changes in their dog's coat and overall health. Let's take a look at some of the many health benefits:
The Benefits of Giving Your Dog Coconut Oil
- Reduces degenerative diseases
- Helps with digestive issues
- Helps prevent bacterial, viral, and fungal infections
- Relieves arthritis
- Promotes thyroid health
- Reduces allergies
- Helps maintain a healthy weight
- Provides energy
- Reduces dry skin (elbows, noses, and paw pads)
- Reduces "doggie odors"
The Benefits of Applying Coconut Oil Topically to Your Dog
- Promotes the healing of wounds
- Disinfects cuts
- Reduces benign growths, sebaceous cysts, and skin tags
Dr. Karen Becker Discusses Coconut Oil for Dogs
How to Offer It to Your Dog
Dr. Karen Becker (featured in the video above) discusses the health benefits of giving coconut oil to your dog and also suggests using it to hide pills. The good news is that most dogs love to lap it right off the spoon and will just swallow a pill along with it.
What Kind Should I Buy?
Not all coconut oil is created equal. Look for unrefined, virgin coconut oil, made from fresh coconuts and preferably stored in glass jars. Refined coconut, often labeled "RBD," is often the cheap oil you find in the skin and hair-care sections of department stores. This oil is obtained from dried coconut using chemicals and lacks all the good nutrients found in unrefined coconut.
Where Can I Find It?
Most grocery stores carry coconut oil nowadays and most products are produced in the Philippines, Thailand, Brazil, Hawaii, Mexico, Jamaica, Belize, Fiji, and Sri Lanka. It's not a bad idea to invest in higher-quality oil, even though it's a bit more pricey; you'll ultimately get a good return on your investment.
Why This Oil Is a Win-Win
According to Mercola.com, you should have two types of oil in your kitchen: extra-virgin olive oil used raw for salads and coconut oil for frying. Why? As it turns out, coconut oil is a stable oil and resists heat-induced damage, so it is great for cooking. Not to mention, it keeps your heart healthy, keeps cholesterol levels stable, and supports weight loss.
So, not only can your dog reap the benefits, but you can too and in many ways. Lastly, be sure to work with your veterinarian before adjusting your dog's health regimen as always.
For Further Reading
- Causes of Lumps on Dog Paw Pads
Wondering what may cause unusual lumps and bumps on a dog's paw pad? Learn possible causes for why your dog has lump on paw pad and why it's so important to see the vet.
- Why Does Your Dog's Breath Stink? Common Causes of ...
xandert ''Doggy breath'' is often a term used to define the typical odor deriving from the dog's oral cavity. Often, this breath may be acceptable and almost pleasant as in small puppies that are just being weaned, or the breath may be quite more...
- How to Make a Dog's Nail Quick Recede
When you allow Rover's nails to grow too long, the quick grows along with the nail. Be careful when you decide to trim those nails and let the quick recede. Ask your groomer of vet for help!
- Dog Sebaceous Cysts Home Remedies
Can your dog's sebaceous cyst be treated naturally with home remedies? Learn when it's best to try home remedies and why surgery is often the best option.
© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli
Evelia Veronica Rivera from Bridgeport, CT on March 24, 2014:
very interested in trying!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 28, 2013:
We give it to our dogs and we use it for cooking. The best are the organic ones that are pure and not refined.
ocfireflies from North Carolina on April 28, 2013:
I have recently become interested in the benefits of coconut oil and coconut products in general. It did not occur to me that my dogs could also benefit. Thanks for the info-very helpful. Kim
Agnes on March 30, 2013:
That's what I was thinking. Thanks again!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 30, 2013:
Many dogs love it and they'll just lick it off the spoon. If you look at the video by the vet I posted, she suggests using it to hide pills, so looks like many dogs must like. Some though add it to the food.
Agnes on March 30, 2013:
Good to know. I have coconut oil at home, but I didn't know I could give it to my dog. Do you add it to the food?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 25, 2013:
You bet wetnosedogs! At least she'll lick off something good for her-- a win-win situation!--
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 25, 2013:
Thanks for the votes up Donna! I am starting to love it too and it makes my hair soft and shiny too!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 25, 2013:
Larry, thanks for your expert input on this. It helps clarify the myth of the "Saturated fat monster" --love that name--!
wetnosedogs from Alabama on March 25, 2013:
This is most interesting and I would love to get some for putting it on (especially Bella) topically. She licks creams off when I need to put them on. If she licks the coconut oil off, it would be beneficial in her tummy, too!
Donna Cosmato from USA on March 25, 2013:
Thanks for informing folks about the many benefits of coconut oi. We use it exclusively in our baking and cooking and both our dog and cat love it. You mention using it topically for dogs but it is equally as healing for humans with dry skin problems. Great hub, voted up.
Larry Fields from Northern California on March 25, 2013:
Thanks for putting another nail into the coffin of Politically Correct diet. Back in the day, publicity hound Ancel Keys (spelling?) promoted the myth of the Saturated Fat Monster. These days, scientifically informed people know that this particular Scare-of-the-Month-Club item is a half-truth.
The 2 most common saturated fatty acids in the typical American diet are palmitic acid and stearic acid. The former contributes to atherosclerosis, while the latter is as benign as the oleic acid in olive oil. However the two are usually found together in foods in varying proportions.
All trans fatty acids are unsaturated. And the main sources are margarine (which was falsely touted as being more healthful than butter); and shortening, which is added to a variety of 'junk' foods.
I even wrote a long, boring hub about this stuff.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 25, 2013:
Thanks for commenting and stopping by Jocent. "The Tree of Life" is a beautiful name! Thank you for your expert advice on this, I will look for the VCO oil. The coconut oil in the oil section of my local store carries only refined coconut oil:( The label proudly states it has no coconut taste. What's wrong with coconut taste? I love it and my dogs do too!
jocent on March 25, 2013:
You have high praises for the processed coconut oil and it truly makes us and our country proud of the Tree of Life. Coconut industry is one of the major export of the Philippines. Coco oil has been the topnotcher among the products but there is a new and more popular oil that is naturally processed without heat and is called "Virgin Coconut Oil" or VCO. It has a lot of positive and clinically proven curative powers. Maybe you can try this on your dog.
Coconut oil is made from coconut meat that is harvested from the coconut palm. It consists of at least 90% saturated fats, most of which are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).
If you subscribe to the theory that there are good fats and bad fats, MCTs are considered “good” fat and can provide several benefits, including being a source of fuel and energy.
Components of MCTs:
- Lauric acid - which is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral
- Capric acid and caprylic acid - which are known for their anti-fungal effects
- Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids
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.”
How Much Coconut Oil for Dogs
How much coconut oil should you give your dog? When starting your dog on coconut oil, it is absolutely vital that you start slow. Begin slow, start with a tiny amount. Your dog needs to take time for their body to adjusts to the addition to their diet. If you start with a larger amount of coconut oil, your dog could react poorly. Side effects can include diarrhea or greasy stools.
We have covered a lot so far, for more info about fats check out, WEBMD for some good information.
What exactly is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is derived from coconuts, using mainly the meat (white solid stuff inside the shell). The meat can be used to extract both coconut oil and coconut milk. Extraction processes may vary. ‘Extra virgin’ or unrefined olive oil is also available. Unrefined oil does not use heat to extract (“cold-pressed”) and is viewed as a healthier option, as the oil is extracted immediately after the coconuts are harvested, in order to preserve as many nutrients as possible. And without the presence of extreme heat, the nutrients are not in jeopardy of being burned away or lost in the process.
Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat (normally 80%+). This abnormally high fat percentage causes some health professionals to suggest limiting your intake of things like coconut oil. 1 tbsp of coconut oil contains around 121 calories.
While fats are usually thought of as unhealthy, the saturated fats found in coconut oil consist mainly of Medium Chain Triglycerides, or “MCTs”. For what it’s worth, MCTs are understood as more “healthy” fats, as they can be metabolized quickly and are a good source of energy. MCTs also contain anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
What does coconut oil do for humans?
There are a myriad of potential benefits when it comes to humans and coconut oil.
- Balancing cholesterol
- Controlling blood sugar
- Reducing stress
- Hair health
- Skin health
- Aiding weight loss
Most of these potential benefits are highly speculated. While some studies on the effects of coconut oil have shown positive results, others have produced contradictory evidence. It’s also important to note that a majority of the research that has been conducted has not involved human trials.
Top 9 Benefits of Coconut Oil For Dogs
I spend my days writing and managing social media accounts for several top health websites. Throughout my time working as a health blogger, I’ve learned a lot about coconut oil. It’s seriously nature’s medicine. But I don’t only write about the super oil, I also use it on a daily basis. Admittedly, I’m obsessed with coconut oil. I use it for everything from cooking to conditioning my hair and whitening my teeth. But I don’t stop there. I also feed it to my dogs and use it to moisturize their paws. Find out the top nine benefits of coconut oil for dogs below:
1) Healthy Digestion
Just one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 14 grams of fat, 12 grams of which are saturated fat. While doctors used to warn patients to stay away from this type of fat, today, we know not all sat fats are created equal. According to researchers, the saturated fats found in coconut oil are mostly beneficial lauric acid, which is a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA). Studies show MCFAs put less strain on the pancreas than other fats and are easier for the body (both human and canine) to digest.
Coconut oil also has powerful anti-inflammatory benefits. If your pup suffers from any bowel issues, chances are their intestines are inflamed and damaged. So feed your pooch a little coconut oil every day to help soothe their insides.
2) Wards Off Bad Bacteria
Inside the digestive tract live bacteria – most good, some bad. In order for your pet’s body to function properly, researchers say their gut bacteria needs to stay in balance. In humans, a properly balanced gut has about 80 percent “good” bacteria to 20 percent “bad” bacteria. Well, it’s the same for your pet.
Unfortunately, poor diet, antibiotic use, routine deworming, parasite infections, and an overall unhealthy lifestyle kill your dog’s good gut bacteria (which is also referred to as probiotics). Luckily, coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. So if bad bacteria begins to spread through your pup’s intestinal tract, coconut oil could help kill off the bad guys and nourish the good guys.
Some signs of unbalanced gut bacteria include:
- Poor digestion
- Weakened immune system
- Skin conditions
The best kind of coconut oil is organic extra-virgin, unrefined, and cold pressed. This is the brand that I use and absolutely love it:
3) Increase Nutrient Absorption
When a person or dog suffers from poor digestion, they don’t absorb all of the important nutrients in their food. By improving your dog’s digestion and gut bacteria, they are able to absorb more nutrients into their bloodstream.
4) Aids Weight Management
Over the years, there have been several studies conducted on the effect MCFAs have on weight loss and researchers say the results are promising. Coconut oil has been found to effectively boost metabolism, burn up calories, blast fat, and keep you feeling full for longer. Since nearly 60 percent of today’s pets are considered overweight or obese, coconut oil could be a life saver.
5) Improves Skin Health
Along with adding coconut oil to your pet’s diet, it can also be used topically. If your dog suffers from dry skin, bug bites, stings, burns, allergic reactions, or eczema then rub some coconut oil on his/her skin. As you can see, coconut oil has powerful healing benefits.
6) Moisturizes Paw Pads
A huge misconception that many people have is a dog’s paws can tolerate anything. That’s not true. Just like human feet, paws can crack, blister, and bleed. They’re not made of armor. According to the AKC, a dog’s paw is made up of skin, bone, tendons, ligaments, blood supply, and connective tissue. That doesn’t sound all that different than our anatomy. Rub some coconut oil on your dog’s feet every night before they go to bed to keep their paws soft.
Click here for other tips to keep your dog’s paws safe all year long.
7) Moistures Cracked Nose
If your dog is out in the sun a lot, you may begin to notice tiny cracks forming on the top of his/her nose. Rubbing a little coconut oil on the area can help heal and prevent this from happening!
8) Conditions Coat
As a woman who bleaches her hair, I can tell you how important it is to condition. But sometimes bottled conditioner just isn’t enough. That’s why I do a coconut oil hair mask twice a week. I rub coconut oil through my hair, let it sit for about 20 minutes, and then I wash my hair as normal. I can’t even tell you how soft and shiny my hair is after a coconut oil hair mask. Just how coconut oil keeps my locks healthy, it can keep your pet’s coat looking sleek and shiny.
9) Improves Doggy Breath and Oral Health
Since coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties, it kills any harmful substances in the mouth. This benefits oral health in a few different ways:
- Improves bad breath
- Whitens teeth
- Prevents plaque
- Heals gums