Coconut oil may be the latest, hottest, all-natural trend for humans, but pet parents are also exploring it as a beneficial supplement for their four-legged companions. And far from being a fad or an overnight craze, it may prove true. “It provides many benefits for dogs,” Dr. says. Colleen Smith, DVM, CVA, CVCP or the Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute.
Coconut oil can aid dogs with everything from itchy or bumpy skin to digestion issues. But is this oil all that it’s cracked up to be, and are there risks that should be aware of ?
What is Coconut Oil ?
Coconut oil is extracted from mature coconuts and takes the form of an edible oil that has been used in food and beauty products. It is high in saturated fat and medium-chain triglycerides, which are thought to be behind the health benefits for both humans and dogs.
How Coconut Oil Benefits Dogs
So what exactly makes coconut oil so beneficial? “Coconut oil can increase energy levels, improve skin and coat, improve digestion, and reduce allergic reactions,” says Smith.
Dr. Katie Gryzb, a Brooklyn-based veterinarian, explains that coconut oil can potentially slow cognitive dysfunction in dogs. “Fatty acids are helpful in cognitive function, which has been medically proven,” she says.
In addition, Dr. Pema Melu, DVM, or Holistic Veterinary Healing in Germantown, MD, explains that medium-chain fatty acids, like coconut oil, help with physical and digestive ailments because they are “directly absorbed in the GI tract and go are metabolized into utilizable energy. ”
Besides the overall health benefits, coconut oil can be used as a coating for swallowing dogs, and it can be applied to a dog’s coat.
How to Give Coconut Oil to Dogs
Coconut oil can generally be given 1-2 times a day with meals. How much you should give your dog depends on his size. Many veterinarian 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 is 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.
“Coconut oil can also be used as a base for dog treats,” explains Smith. She suggests mixing turmeric and vitamin D with coconut oil for optimum snacks. Turmeric works as an anti-inflammatory, while vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Be careful that you do not give too much vitamin D to your dog, however. Over-supplementation can cause kidney problems.
To find the best coconut oil, understanding the labels can make all the difference. Smith recommends pet parents use organic, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil.
Topical Application of Coconut Oil for Dogs
Coconut oil can add moisture to your dog’s skin and prevent flaking. It also helps freshen up a dog’s coat if used with a light touch. To use it topically, simply rub on your hands and then gently pat the coat, run your fingers through the fur, and massage a little down on the skin. Since coconut oil can be given orally, you will not have to worry if dogs have their own applied to their coats.
Coconut Oil Concerns
While coconut oil is generally safe for dogs, some canines may have an allergic reaction to the supplement. Additionally, giving a dog to much coconut oil in the diet could result in diarrhea. Smith warns against prone to pancreatitis, as it is a risk due to high fat content.
And not all veterinarians are convinced that coconut oil is beneficial for dogs at all. Dr. Ken Tudor notes that coconut oil may possibly raise “bad cholesterol” levels in dogs and “adds 120 calories for every tablespoon without adding any appreciable nutritional value.”
Coconut Oil Alternatives for Dogs
If you have an allergic reaction to coconut oil, then there are alternatives. Cold water fish oils, like salmon oil, flax seed oil, excellent sources or omega-3 fatty acids that can provide some of the same benefits of coconut oil. Of course, with any supplements, a dog’s intake should be monitored and it’s best to consult your veterinarian when it comes to any health issues with your pet. Giving coconut oil or similar supplements to dogs is not a guaranteed cure-all or magic fix.