Scientific studies are often lacking for natural supplements, leaving us with anecdotal evidence and little else. The health benefits of coconut Oil, however, have been studied quite extensively. We understand that proof at the scientific level is important to pet parents, as they try to navigate the natural health minefield. To that end, we searched far & wide for information and recommendations from experts and scientists, to help guide you as you explore the benefits and dangers of coconut oil for your dog.
Experts Weigh in on Coconut Oil for Dogs
The general consensus is there are no safety concerns with dogs having virgin, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil in their diet or as a topical remedy. That said, your dog may be less tolerant than others due to allergies or a medical condition. All changes in your pet’s diet should be under the guidance of your veterinarian. Coconut oil may not be recommended if certain medical conditions are present or with some medications. Start with a tiny amount and monitor your dog for any negative reaction.
Dr. Bruce Fife, ND, is an author and internationally-recognized expert on the health benefits of coconut oil. The coconut oil dosage he recommends for dogs is up to a tablespoon per day for dogs weighing 30 pounds or more, and up to a teaspoon/day for smaller dogs, noting that it should be slowly increased over time until you reach the dose that your dog tolerates well. Others say up to a teaspoon for any size dog is plenty.
Some natural uses of coconut oil recommended by Dr. Fife are:
- Bone and joint health and the treatment of arthritis
- Increased immunity
- Digestion and constipation
- Dry, irritated, inflamed or itchy skin and minor injuries or bites
- Toothpaste (mixed with a little baking soda)
- Increase energy
Dr. Colleen Smith, DVM, CVA, CVCP, Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute told PetMD “Coconut oil can increase energy levels, improve skin and coat, improve digestion, and reduce allergic reactions.”
A paper from the 2016 Dog Symposium, Nutrition and Thyroid Function Affect Canine Behavior and Cognition, found that Coconut oil (and other Medium Chain Triglycerides) improved cognitive ability. One study concluded, “when 24 Beagles who were between the ages of 7.5 and 11.6 years old at the start of the trial were fed a diet supplemented with 5.5% medium chain triglycerides, their cognitive ability improved significantly. The dogs showed improvement in learning-related tasks after only about two weeks of consuming the supplemented diet, and within one month their learning ability improved significantly.”
“Coconut oil taken orally (about 1 tsp daily per 30-50 pound dog) can ameliorate dry noses, dandruff, and dull hair coats and can improve general gastrointestinal health,” writes Dr. Barbara Royal in her book, The Royal Treatment, A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets.
“A few natural products that can be useful when applied directly onto the gums or used on a toothbrush, include coconut oil and/or therapeutic grade essential oils” writes Katie Kangas, DVM, CVA, CVCP in a Scientific Review Article for AHVMA Journal. “Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides and lauric acid, making it antimicrobial in its own right; but it has also been shown to help draw out toxins when used on the gums, most notably with the process of “oil pulling,” which is becoming increasingly popular for people to do.”
This video from PetMD shares six benefits of coconut oil for dogs:
Not All Experts Approve
Some veterinarians disagree that coconut oil is of any benefit to dogs, and may cause more problems than it resolves. For example, Dr. Ken Tudor told PetMD that coconut oil may possibly raise “bad cholesterol” levels in dogs and “adds 120 calories for every tablespoon without adding any appreciable nutritional value.” Bad cholesterol isn’t as big of an issue for dogs as it is for humans, but the calorie count could be a problem for obese dogs. He also says some studies support benefits that would require more coconut oil than a dog could possibly consume, such as antimicrobial properties. That doesn’t mean it won’t be effective for external fungal or bacterial infections if used topically, according to Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD. in Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats.
“Unfortunately, feeding coconut oil regularly will also increase the overall fat in the diet, which may not be ideal for some pets,” writes Dr. Kathy Boehme of The Drake Center for Veterinary Care. “Coconut oil can also [arguably] worsen pancreatitis and hyperlipidemia (elevated levels of lipids or fats in the blood), so its oral use is very controversial. Coconut oil is also believed to be beneficial for pets with inflammatory bowel disease and cognitive dysfunction. Caution should be used, however, for the same reasons stated.”
She points to the treatment of the following conditions as having a credible basis:
- Dry skin
- Wound healing
- Atopic dermatitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Lymphangectasia (poor bowel absorption)
- Cognitive dysfunction
To my knowledge, the above conditions are the only ones with any level of scientific study behind them. Below you’ll find an infographic that lists 29 ways coconut oil may benefit your dog, if you want to act on anecdotal evidence.
The majority of veterinarians are cautiously optimistic, or at least keeping an open mind. Many natural remedies and benefits simply haven’t been proven at a scientific level and may never be, but it’s more due to funding than promise. In the end, it will probably be overwhelming anecdotal evidence that eventually leads to acceptance or rejection of coconut oil for dogs.
Infographic of possible benefits of coconut oil for dogs provided by Ultimate Home Life.
??? Do you give coconut oil to your dog? What health benefits have you witnessed?
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