Health experts have long touted the benefits of coconut oil, but does it offer any health boosts for our canine companions? Many animal care professionals agree that coconut oil is generally safe and can provide benefits beyond shiny, soft coats. Choosing the right type of coconut oil and understanding the best ways to integrate it into your pet’s care routine are key to realizing coconut oil's benefits. And, of course, check with your veterinarian to get the best advice on coconut oil for your dog.
Dog owners have praised coconut oil as a treatment for a wide variety of pet ailments, from improving skin conditions to balancing thyroid levels. Some claim weight loss, and others say it relieves digestive disorders and reduces inflammation. Not all scientists and veterinarians agree with the claims and will remain skeptical until researchers conduct more studies. However, vets who rely on naturopathic remedies say that coconut oil can be an effective treatment for a wide array of dog ailments.
Consisting of 90% saturated fats, coconut oil is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). Because they are shorter in length than other fats, MCTs are easier to digest. They metabolize quickly, serving as fuel for the body and the brain. Additionally, MCTs contain lauric acid, an antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial lipid, which may help your dog fight off illnesses. The lauric acid in coconut oil can also hydrate the skin and improve skin conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
The most common neurological disease for dogs is recurrent seizures with no identifiable cause. Up to 30% of these dogs don’t respond to anti-epileptic drugs, which also have side effects such as weight gain, restlessness, and anxiety. Research findings presented at the Royal Veterinary College in London in 2017 showed that the ketones in coconut oil might decrease seizure activity due to their anti-inflammatory properties and their ability to inhibit other mechanisms that lead to seizures. If your dog experiences seizures, talk with your veterinarian about treatment options.
Cracked paw pads and cuts are common issues for dogs. Because coconut oil hydrates the skin and provides antibacterial and antifungal benefits, it is an excellent choice for treating dry, cracked pads or minor wounds. Some owners claim that the “corn chip smell” present on the feet or skin of their dogs diminished after coconut oil treatments.
Once a week, apply coconut oil directly to your dog’s skin to add moisture and prevent flaking and irritation. Place a small amount of the oil in your hands, then massage it into your pet’s skin and fur for a sleeker, glossier coat. An application of coconut oil reportedly repels fleas and other unwanted pests, such as mites, although there is little research to back up this claim. However, regular use can improve existing skin conditions such as hot spots and abrasions.
Coconut oil not only improves fur quality but also deodorizes it. Research indicates that the odors we smell on our pets originate from microorganisms like yeast and bacteria. Coconut oil’s capric and caprylic acids help eliminate some of the usual doggy smells. Another odorous issue, doggy breath, can stem from dental problems. Regular brushing helps, but some dogs aren’t keen on the idea. Try using coconut oil instead of canine toothpaste. Not only does it reduce odors, but your dog may be more willing to cooperate if their toothbrush is coated in buttery-smooth coconut oil.
Many of the reasons that owners begin using coconut oil are anecdotal. Little to no evidence supports theories that coconut oil leads to weight loss, improves thyroid dysfunction, or prevents cancer. However, some vets and dog owners alike worry about the extensive use of pharmaceuticals for treating canine diseases and conditions. Talk with your vet to see if your pet will benefit from coconut oil.
Veterinarians advise the best way to implement coconut oil into your pet’s diet is to start with small doses, mix it into their food one to two times per day, and monitor the results. Never offer coconut oil alone. For small dogs, start with a total of ¼ teaspoon daily. For medium-sized dogs, up the dose to one teaspoon. Larger dogs should start with one tablespoon each day. Try this dosage for two weeks, then increase it to one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight if there are no signs of digestive distress or allergic reactions.
Before using coconut oil as a food supplement or as a topical application, check with your veterinarian. Dogs with pancreatitis should not have coconut oil, for example. Additionally, there is research showing that coconut oil may lead to high cholesterol and weight gain in dogs. A diet high in saturated fats like those in coconut oil can lead to a reduction in dog’s scent-detecting abilities.
When talking to your vet about the benefits of coconut oil for your dog, it may be helpful to get their advice on what type of coconut oil to use. There are primarily two types of coconut oil: refined and unrefined.
Health experts point out that the term “extra virgin” coconut oil is a marketing tool, not a type of coconut oil. There is no such thing.
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