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.
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 ().
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.
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 ().
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.
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 (, ).
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 ().
Moreover, coconut oil has also been shown to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi in lab studies (, , ).
Bottom Line: Coconut oil may be beneficial for preventing pest infections and treating bites.
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 (, ).
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 ().
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.
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.
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.