Coconut is a delicious and nutritious part of humans' diets, and small amounts of it are good for dogs, too. The dense, white coconut fruit (often referred to as "meat") is high in vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat. Whether it is raw, dried, blended into milk, or pressed into oil, coconut is a fine addition to your dog’s diet as long as it's fed with care.
Coconut Benefits for Dogs
People love coconut because of its rich, tropical taste and its numerous health benefits. These attributes also make it appealing as a dog food supplement. Most dogs enjoy the flavor, and the following nutrients in coconut give dogs' diets a boost:
- Manganese (integral to bone health and metabolic functioning)
- Phenolic compounds (antioxidants that help repair damaged cells)
- Lauric acid (a medium-chain fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation in the body and supports the immune system)
Coconut oil also offers skin-protecting properties, so it's a natural moisturizer for dry, cracked dog paws.
Coconut Products Dogs Can Eat
Our omnivorous canine companions don’t need coconut in their diet, but it’s generally a safe treat that many of them enjoy. To feed it safely, follow these guidelines:
- Coconut meat: Whether raw or dried, coconut meat is usually sold shredded or in flakes. A pinch of unsweetened, shredded coconut can be fed to your dog as a treat or food additive if your dog seems to love it. More than a pinch—or large flakes—can pose a choking hazard and may upset a dog's stomach due to the high fat and fiber content.
- Coconut oil: High-quality coconut oil can be purchased by the jar and is a great way to amp up the health benefits of your dog’s current diet. Purchase non-hydrogenated coconut oil only, and start out with a quarter teaspoon with food. If your dog enjoys it, you can slowly increase the amount to one tablespoon per 30 pounds of body weight daily. Watch for loose stools and cut back on the amount of oil if diarrhea occurs.
- Coconut milk: Unsweetened coconut milk is safe as a dog treat as long as it is given in small amounts (about a teaspoon per meal).
- Coconut Flour: This alternative to wheat flour is dog-safe and can be used to bake dog treats.
- Coconut Sugar: While dogs don't need added sugar in any form coconut sugar has a low glycemic index, so it makes a healthier alternative to cane or beet sugar if you're sharing a homemade cookie with your dog.
Fun Ways to Feed Your Dog Coconut
If your dog loves coconut—and you love getting creative in the kitchen—then consider whipping up homemade coconut treats. Here are a couple of fun ideas to get you started.
- Coconut oil pup-sicles: Mix ½ cup of solid coconut oil with a handful of your dog’s favorite frozen fruit, portion out into an ice cube tray, and freeze. Just remember to follow the coconut oil feeding guidelines when portioning out your pup-sicles.
- Coconut, peanut butter, and honey biscuits: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine ½ cup coconut flour, 1 egg, 1 cup water, ½ cup peanut butter, ½ cup melted coconut oil, 2 tablespoons of baking powder, and 1 tablespoon of honey or coconut sugar. Roll out dough and cut into shapes; then bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are set.
- Banana blueberry coconut smoothie: Blend together 1 banana, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup ice, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, and 1 tablespoon coconut oil. If your dog is small, portion the smoothie out and save the remainder in an air-tight container in the fridge.
Coconut Products Dogs Should Not Eat
Most coconut treats are safe and healthy for dogs, but the following should not be fed to your canine companion:
Sweetened Coconut: Avoid feeding your dog sweetened coconut, which contains added sugars that aren’t healthy for your pup.
Coconut Husk or Shell: If you buy whole coconuts, keep the husk and outer shell away from your dog. These rough parts can be harmful if swallowed.
Coconut Water: Because coconut water is high in potassium, it may be unsafe for dogs and should be avoided.
Evaluation and management of the hyperkalemic patient. Today’s Veterinary Practice.