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Is Coconut Oil Good or Bad for Dogs? The Surprising Truth

Dog Holding a Bowl

Coconut oil has become quite trendy in recent years.

Studies show that it has several
impressive health benefits
for humans.

Interestingly, many people also give coconut oil to their dogs
or apply it to their dogs’ fur.

While most
studies
on coconut oil have been conducted on humans, their
results may be applicable to dogs as well.

This article explores the benefits and risks of using coconut
oil on dogs.

Coconut Oil May Help Your Dog’s Skin Issues

Using coconut oil to treat skin conditions is a common practice
with well-known benefits. The positive effects are likely due
to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

One study found that coconut oil effectively hydrates the skin
of people with xerosis, a condition characterized by dry and
itchy skin (1).

This study was conducted on humans — not dogs. However, many
dog owners and veterinarians claim that coconut oil can help
treat dry skin and eczema in dogs when applied topically.

Bottom Line: Coconut oil may help treat skin
conditions in humans, and some people claim that it also
helpful for the skin of dogs.

It Can Improve the Appearance of Your Dog’s Fur

Coconut oil may improve the appearance of your dog’s fur.

When applied to the skin, it can make hair shinier and less
prone to damage.

This is because lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut
oil, has a unique chemical makeup that allows it to easily
penetrate hair shafts (2).

Other types of fat don’t have this same ability, so using
coconut oil may help keep your dog’s coat healthy and
beautiful.

Bottom Line: The lauric acid in coconut oil
has been shown to keep hair healthier than other fatty acids.
It can be used to improve the health and appearance of your
dog’s fur.

It May Help Fight off Pests

Small Dog, a Coconut and Coconut Oil

The antimicrobial effects of coconut oil may prevent dogs from
being infected by ectoparasites, such as ticks, fleas and mange
mites.

It has also been shown to help eliminate these pests in dogs
that have already been infected.

These effects were confirmed by two studies in which dogs were
treated with a shampoo made with coconut oil (3, 4).

In one of these studies, coconut oil also appeared to
facilitate wound healing in dogs with ectoparasite bites. This
is likely associated with coconut oil’s ability to inhibit
bacterial growth (4).

Moreover, coconut oil has also been shown to kill bacteria,
viruses and fungi in lab studies (5, 6, 7).

Bottom Line: Coconut oil may be beneficial
for preventing pest infections and treating bites.

Risks Associated With Using Coconut Oil on Dogs

A Jar of Coconut Oil and a Teaspoon

Although adverse effects are rare, there are a few things to
consider before using coconut oil on your dog.

There is always the risk of an allergic reaction when
introducing something new to your dog’s diet or grooming
regimen. If a reaction occurs, stop using it.

Also, some studies have shown that coconut oil can cause high
cholesterol in dogs. In extreme cases, this can cause fatty
plaques to develop in the arteries (8, 9).

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Furthermore, due to its high calorie content, using coconut oil
in excess may lead to weight gain.

Lastly, one study concluded that a diet high in saturated
fat
reduces dogs’ scent-detecting abilities. More research
is needed to better understand this finding, but you may want
to take caution with coconut oil if you have a working dog
(10).

Bottom Line: Coconut oil may cause high
cholesterol, hardening of the arteries and weight gain in
some dogs. If your dog is prone to any of these conditions,
talk with a veterinarian before use.

How to Use Coconut Oil on Dogs

Bottle of Coconut Oil and Half a Coconut

Coconut oil is generally safe for dogs to eat or have applied
to their skin or fur.

When it comes to selecting a brand, virgin coconut oil is best,
as most of coconut oil’s benefits have been observed with this
type.

According to some sources, coconut oil can generally be given
to dogs 1–2 times a day with meals. 

The amount you give your dog will depend on its size. If your
dog is overweight or obese, do not give it coconut oil more
than once a day.

Veterinarians stress the importance of starting slowly with
coconut oil. This will allow you to monitor how your dog reacts
to it.

Start by giving 1/4 teaspoon daily to small dogs or 1
tablespoon daily to big dogs and gradually increase the
amount. If your dog tolerates it well after two weeks,
increase the dose to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of body
weight.

Due to a lack of research, these recommendations are not
established. It’s often a matter of trial and error, and your
dog may need more or less for benefits to occur.

Do not feed your dog coconut oil alone. Instead, mix it in with
your dog’s regular food. This will keep its diet varied and
nutrient dense.

All dogs being fed coconut oil should be monitored for weight
gain, diarrhea and other symptoms that may signify intolerance.

If you’re applying the coconut oil topically, rub a small
amount onto your hands and then gently pat its coat, running
your fingers through the fur and massaging a little into its
skin.

Bottom Line: Coconut oil can be fed to dogs
or applied to their skin. Start slowly and increase the
amount you give your dog gradually.

Takeaway

Research on using coconut oil for pets is lacking. The benefits
are mainly anecdotal, as well as based on findings in humans,
rodents and test-tube studies.

Despite the lack of research, giving it to your dog in proper
doses is relatively safe.

Ultimately, it’s a personal choice. Using coconut oil on your
dog has a few potential benefits and might be worth trying.

The risks are unlikely but worth keeping in mind. It’s
important to monitor your dog’s health after adding anything to
its regimen.

Seek advice from a veterinarian if you have further questions
or concerns about giving your dog coconut oil.

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