Does Coconut Oil Have Benefits for Dogs?

Virtually everyone has heard of the coconut oil craze. The substance is praised as a miracle elixir that can help resolve everything from dry hair and skin to inflammatory bowel disease.

While this is good news for humans, coconut oil’s health benefits may be exaggerated when it comes to pet health. Some holistic pet health sites claim it can prevent canine cancer, dental disease, thyroid conditions, and can help your pet lose weight. These claims are largely unfounded, and the last one is outright false.

Despite that, coconut oil does have some health benefits for pets. The saturated fats in coconut oil are called Medium Chain Triglycerides that are thought to help improve energy, aid in the resolution of skin problems and help boost the immune system. Used both topically and orally, coconut oil is good for your dog. However, you must be educated as to how to use (and not overuse) this oil to see your pet reap the benefits. 

How Can Coconut Oil Benefit My Dog?

More research is needed to determine how coconut oil can improve pet health. Many veterinarians and animal care professionals agree coconut oil does have some benefits for pets, and so far, evidence suggests that coconut oil has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.

Administering the oil orally may benefit:

  • Mild skin conditions, such as dry or flaky skin

  • Cognitive dysfunction 

  • Dull coat

  • Poor immune system

  • Dermatitis

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Lymphangiectasia (malabsorption occurs)

Topical use of the oil may help:

  • Hot spots

  • Wound healing

  • Itchy skin

  • Stings and bug bites

  • Crusty nose and footpads

  • Dry coat

How Do I Use Coconut Oil In My Dog's Food?

Consult your veterinarian before giving coconut oil to your dog. They will discuss the benefits and risks of coconut oil with you, taking into account your canine pal's age and health status.

Although coconut oil is safe for your dog to eat, avoid feeding your furry friend too much. Since it contains high amounts of saturated fat, it can make your dog gain weight. Dogs diagnosed with pancreatitis (the pancreas has trouble processing fat) and hyperlipidemia (elevated fat in the blood) should not ingest coconut oil, as it can worsen these conditions.

If you plan to add this health supplement to your dog's food, use a good quality virgin coconut oil. Start slowly, adding just a small amount of the oil to your dog's food, testing palatability. Observe your dog for any adverse reaction. Although the fatty acids in coconut oil are typically easily digested and absorbed, how a canine will benefit must be considered on a case by case basis.

How About Coconut Oil For My Dog's Skin?

One of the most common reasons for supplementing a dog's diet with the oil is for treating atopic dermatitis. However, in the case of any health condition that you hope to improve with the use of oil, supplementation is not a cure-all. Coconut oil has protective and healing agents but cannot be given in large enough quantities in dogs to be the only solution to the problem. Your vet can discuss the use of coconut oil with you but most likely will suggest additional treatment to be administered concurrently with the oil. With atopic dermatitis, for example, dogs may need oral antihistamines and an anti-itch shampoo to obtain full relief.

Coconut oil is also used as a topical application for dry skin, hot spots, wound healing and more. The antibacterial properties are known to aid in the clearing up of skin injuries. The oil can soften dry skin under the coat, on the nose, and on the footpads. Rub a small amount between your hands (how much you use depends on your dog's size) and apply to the skin, gently massaging it in. Because it is safe for your furry buddy to consume in small quantities, you don't have to worry about them licking the oil off. If they feel oily after the application soaks in, you can shampoo them with a mild, vet recommended product.

As with the oral use, discuss your dog's skin problem with the vet before trying it. There may be a need for antibiotics or a medicated cream for hot spots as an example; it is best to not let a hot spot get out of control and develop into a secondary infection. Using the oil may complement the veterinarian's treatment plan.

Although it may be considered a miracle worker in humans, the jury is still out on how coconut oil benefits canine health. Always consult your vet before administering any supplements to your dog.

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