There are a ton of ways that humans use coconut oil, ranging from softening the skin to treating eczema, but you may not know that it can also be beneficial for your dog! Extracted from mature coconuts, coconut oil is an edible oil that’s often found in both food and beauty products thanks to the fact that it’s high in saturated fat and medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid with proven health benefits, ranging from weight management to enhanced cognitive function.
From easing tummy troubles and soothing irritated skin to preventing infection and reducing allergic reactions, coconut oil has also been shown to have many benefits for the canine population.
Add Coconut Oil to Meals and Treats
After consulting with your pet’s veterinarian, you can consider adding coconut oil to your pet’s meals as a way to help balance out his or her thyroid—meaning it can help overweight dogs lose weight, and help even the most sedentary dogs feel more energetic. Studies have also indicated that coconut oil can improve nutrient absorption, help counteract digestive disorders, like inflammatory bowel syndrome and colitis, and reduce overall inflammation in the body.
Start with no more than a 1/4 teaspoon for smaller dogs—larger breeds may handle up to one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight daily—and ensure that your pet doesn’t already have a weight issue or is a breed that’s prone to pancreatitis, as coconut oil’s high fat content can cause weight gain when not used properly.
Like to make your own dog treats? Consider coconut oil as a base; when mixed with health-boosting, anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, it can help turn a tasty treat for Rover into a powerful way to help keep him illness-free.
Just be sure you’re choosing organic, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil, and immediately stop offering it to your dog if you notice any signs of stomach distress, like diarrhea or allergic reactions. If your dog does seem to have an allergic reaction to coconut oil, alternatives like salmon oil and flaxseed oil can offer some of the same benefits of coconut oil due to the omega-3 fatty acids.
Not only will the coconut oil likely make your pet’s kibble irresistible, but because it’s a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA), the oil will be directly absorbed into the GI tract and go straight to the liver, where it metabolizes into energy for your pooch and helps ease or even prevent physical and digestive issues. Some studies in humans and rodents have shown that a diet that includes MCFAs can actually help decrease the size of fat depots and possibly even help prevent weight gain—and all while providing an additional boost of energy to help improve athletic performance and stamina.
Apply Coconut Oil to Your Dog’s Skin
Just like on people, applying coconut oil to your dog’s skin can help infuse your furry friend’s skin with moisture—especially important in the harsh winter months—and prevent flaking or other signs of irritation. If your dog already has dry skin or dandruff, coconut oil is highly effective at hydrating and increasing lipid levels on the surface of the skin.
Simply rub a small amount into your hands and massage into the skin, running your fingers through their fur—the coconut oil may also help your dog's coat appear more sleek and glossy. Just be aware that your pet may lick himself a bit more frequently that day!
If you live in a wooded area or like to go for hikes with your dog, rest assured that coconut oil can also serve as a non-chemical way to repel fleas and ticks and keep your pet safe from disease. When applied to your dog’s coat, coconut oil can help repel unwanted pests from latching onto your dog’s skin; some research has shown that it can also help eliminate mites.
Use Coconut Oil as a Coating on Pills
Anyone who has ever had to give their dog a pill knows that it’s not always the easiest task. If your dog has figured out that the glob of peanut butter you’re offering her is actually masking a pill (and thus refuses to take it), coconut oil can also be used as a handy trick to get your pet to take her meds. Used as a coating on pills, it can not only make taking medicine more enticing and enjoyable to your pet, but it will also help your pet swallow the pill more easily.
Use Coconut Oil to Soothe Wounds
Coconut oil is considered to have natural antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, so if your dog is suffering from cracked pads or other cuts, it can be safely used as a natural topical antibiotic to help heal and soothe any wounds. Dogs that suffer from seasonal allergies—and thus tend to chew on their paws or scratch their ears more frequently—can also get some relief from coconut oil on these types of sores.
Brush Your Dog’s Teeth With Coconut Oil
Coconut oil’s antimicrobial properties make it a natural—and delicious—way to clean your pet’s teeth. Human studies show that oil-infused toothpaste can be used to gain the same benefits as the common practice of oil pulling. Toothpaste made with coconut oil can help eliminate harmful bacteria in the mouth and prevent plaque that can lead to dental disease forming in the first place. You can add the oil to your dog's toothpaste or try applying it directly to their teeth the same way you would a commercial dog toothpaste.
Coconut Oil. Harvard School of Public Health.
Basson, Abigail R. et al. Regulation of Intestinal Inflammation by Dietary Fats. Frontiers in Immunology, vol. 11, p. 3639, 2021. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2020.604989
Ströher, Deise Jaqueline et al. Virgin Coconut Oil Associated with High-Fat Diet Induces Metabolic Dysfunctions, Adipose Inflammation, and Hepatic Lipid Accumulation. Journal of medicinal food, vol. 23, no. 7 pp. 689-698, 2020. doi:10.1089/jmf.2019.0172
Flaxseed Oil. VCA Animal Hospitals.
Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Peter J. H. Jones, Physiological Effects of Medium-Chain Triglycerides: Potential Agents in the Prevention of Obesity. The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 132, no. 3, pp. 329–332, 2002. doi:10.1093/jn/132.3.329
Zhu, Junwei J et al. Better than DEET Repellent Compounds Derived from Coconut Oil. Scientific reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-32373-7
Widianingrum, Desy Cahya et al. Antibacterial and immunomodulator activities of virgin coconut oil (VCO) against Staphylococcus aureus. Heliyon, vol. 5, no. 10, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02612
Kablian et al. Efficacy of oil infused toothpaste against oil pulling: A study. Research Journal of Pharmaceutical, Biological and Chemical Sciences, vol 7, no. 6, pp. 1-5, 2016.