5 Uses of Coconut Oil for Dogs

German Shepard dog laying its head on table next to jar of coconut oil

The Spruce / Charlotte Engelsen

Coconut oil can have some benefits for dogs, just as it can have for humans; however, in both cases, the benefits should be carefully weighed against any risks. Extracted from mature coconuts, coconut oil is an edible oil that’s often found in both food and beauty products. This is because it’s high in saturated fat and medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acids with some 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 some benefits for the canine population. Here are five ways you can use coconut oil on dogs. Please consult your veterinarian, and ensure you weigh the pros and cons of coconut oil before offering it to your pet.

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 restore balance to their thyroid activity—meaning it can help overweight dogs lose weight, and help 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. However, it should be used in moderation, because of its high levels of saturated fat.

Start with no more than a 1/4 teaspoon for smaller dogs—larger breeds may handle up to one tablespoon. Ensure that your pet doesn’t already have a weight issue or is a breed that’s prone to pancreatitis, because coconut oil’s high saturated fat content can cause weight gain when not used properly. According to the ASPCA, if consumed in small amounts, coconut and coconut-based products may not cause any serious harm to dogs. Oils contained in the flesh and milk of fresh coconuts, however, could cause stomach upset, loose stools, or diarrhea. Thus, coconut oil should be used with caution.

Like to make your own dog treats? Be sure to check with your vet before making any major changes to your dog's diet (including treats). If a vet, who has examined your dog, gives the 'green light,' consider incorporating coconut oil in moderation. When mixed with health-boosting, anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, a tasty treat for Rover may, in some ways, also support his health.

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 as coconut oil due to the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in such oils.

Coconut oil may make your pet’s kibble more palatable, but because it comprises medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), the oil will be directly absorbed into the GI tract and go straight to the liver, where it will be metabolized. Some studies in humans and rodents have shown that a diet that includes MCFAs can help to reduce the size of fat depots and possibly help to prevent weight gain—while also providing additional energy.

Dog treat covered with coconut oil held in front of German Shepard dog

The Spruce / Charlotte Engelsen

Apply Coconut Oil to Your Dog’s Skin

Just as with people, applying coconut oil to your dog’s skin can help to lubricate your furry friend’s skin—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 can increase 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 the fur of your pet—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!

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 to repel unwanted pests.

Coconut oil applied to dog's skin with fur moved to side

The Spruce / Charlotte Engelsen

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, 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 make the medicine more enticing and palatable and can help your pet to swallow the pill more easily.

Use Coconut Oil to Soothe Wounds

Coconut oil is considered to have natural antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, so if your dog has cracked pads or other minor cuts or bruises, it can be safely used as a natural topical antibiotic to help heal and soothe those wounds. Dogs with seasonal allergies—and thus with a tendency 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 the development of dental disease 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.

Dog's teeth being brushed with coconut oil closeup

The Spruce / Charlotte Engelsen

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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