Coconut is as trendy in the pet world as it is in ours, and you don’t have to look far to see coconut-infused treats and grooming products, or suggestions to feed your dog coconut oil or rub it on his paws in the winter. But what about plain coconut itself—is it safe for our furry friends?
The answer: you bet! While there are some considerations to be aware of, coconut is not toxic to dogs, and offers lots of health benefits to boot.
Coconut Benefits for Dogs
There are a lot of benefits to coconut beyond its great taste. The coconut fruit (which is not a nut at all, but a drupe) is high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And whether it’s raw, dried, or pressed into oil, it’s a great way to get some good-for-you nutrition into your dog’s diet.
Among its key nutrients are high levels of manganese, which is integral to bone health and metabolic functioning. Coconut is also rich in immune-supporting antioxidants, as well as a medium-chain fatty acid called lauric acid, which helps reduce inflammation in the body and provides a boost to the immune system. There are skin protecting properties too, including natural oils that lead to shinier fur and less dry skin. It’s no wonder it’s become such a mainstay of pet treats and shampoos.
How to Safely Feed Your Dog Coconut
Our omnivorous canine companions don’t need coconut in their diet, but it’s a safe treat that many of them quite enjoy. As always however, it’s your job as the pet parent to ensure that you are feeding it safely—and for that, you’ll want to follow a couple guidelines.
If you're feeding coconut meat: Coconut meat can be purchased raw or dried, and usually comes shredded or in flakes. Avoid feeding your dog sweetened coconut, which is used in baking and contains added sugars that aren’t healthy for your pup. Instead, stick to unsweetened varieties, and feed in moderation. While it is non-toxic, coconut does contain medium chain triglycerides that can possibly upset a dog's stomach and lead to bloating. It is also high in calories. Stick to small amounts and watch out for gastrointestinal distress and you should have nothing to worry about.
One more note of caution here, particularly if you’re planning to buy whole coconuts, is to keep the husk and outer shell away from your dog. These rough parts can be harmful if swallowed.
If you’re feeding 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 small amount. It can be fed right off a spoon or drizzled onto your dog’s food, with a recommended maximum daily feeding amount of around one tablespoon per 30 pounds of body weight. As always, keep an eye out for any signs of stomach ache.
While you’re at it, coconut oil can also be used topically for additional benefits. Apply it to skin or fur, with a focus on dry areas like your dog’s paw pads.
Other Ways to Feed Your Dog Coconut
If you love getting creative in the kitchen, then consider whipping up a homemade coconut treat for your furry one! Here are a couple 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. Roll out dough and cut into shapes; then bake for 15-20 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.