Natural health enthusiasts across the nation have been discussing the many benefits of coconut oil over the past few years. Proponents of coconut oil credit this new superfood with everything from relieving eczema to aiding in digestion to helping stave off the progression of Alzheimer's.
This broad list of potential benefits has helped coconut oil find its way into an equally broad list of products. Today, many dog lovers understand that their pets can take advantage of coconut oil’s potential health-boosting powers, and many have already made it a trusted tool in their pet care arsenal.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, "Can dogs have coconut oil?" you'll be happy to hear that the answer is “Yes,” if used in small amounts. Let's take a look at the potential benefits of coconut oil for dogs, from helping soothe and heal the skin to many other benefits that go much further than skin deep.
5 Potential Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs
- Protecting and soothing paw pads: Both hot and cold conditions can be rough on your dog’s paws. While dogs certainly look cute in booties, other pet lovers opt for a “paw balm” to protect their pups’ pads. On its own or mixed with similar ingredients, coconut oil can provide both protection and relief.
- Promoting a shiny, sleek coat: Coconut oil is a popular ingredient in shampoos and conditioners for a reason. Its unique composition empowers it to penetrate the hair follicle and shaft and produce a smoother, silkier appearance.
- Fighting odors: There’s a lot to love about dogs, but their smell doesn’t typically make the list. Rubbing a small amount of coconut oil into your pet’s coat can neutralize odors and leave them smelling clean for days.
- Combating infection: Lauric acid -- the same component that makes coconut oil a must-have hair product -- has shown antibacterial and antifungal properties. Coconut oil has the same appearance and feel of common disinfectant ointments and many dog owners use it much the same way.
- Soothing itchy and dry skin: In addition to providing for a healthy coat, coconut oil goes deeper to soothe irritated skin. Many dog lovers trust it to alleviate the itching and discomfort associated with hot spots, flea and tick bites, and other skin conditions.
In addition to these top five benefits, coconut oil for dog skin allergies has more recently become a trend among dog owners, but not one without merit. That's because some veterinarians -- and especially holistic veterinarians -- tell us that the application of the saturated fats in coconut oil to canine skin can dramatically reduce the effects allergens have on tissue and can even help with skin infections that stem from allergic reactions.
Words of Caution: Coconut Oil Isn't a Canine Cure-All
Even holistic vets are quick to discourage pet owners from viewing coconut oil as an all-purpose solution for every dog. Dr. Colleen Smith of the Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute notes that it is high in saturated fat, which could present a great risk for dogs with pancreatitis. That abundance of fat can also lead to diarrhea and weight gain when coconut oil is consumed in excess.
Other veterinarians are skeptical that something as simple as coconut oil could have real health benefits for dogs. Writing for PetMD, Dr. Ken Tudor shoots down one health claim after another. He acknowledges that coconut oil can raise levels of what some consider to be “good cholesterol,” but notes that it also raises “bad cholesterol” at the very same time. “This is not a problem for pets,” he writes, "since cholesterol has nothing to do with canine heart disease. It is, however, a good indicator of the misinformation (or at least mixed messaging) associated with coconut oil." Dr. Tudor also remarks that coconut oil (for all its fat) lacks most of the essential fatty acids that dogs need to ingest as part of a healthy diet.
Consult Your Veterinarian
Search for “coconut oil” online and you’re sure to find some eye-popping claims. Like any other buzz-laden superfood or supplement, coconut oil is still mostly mysterious.
It’s unclear whether coconut oil can do all or any of what its fans claim it can. Pet owners should greet any claims about its benefits with healthy skepticism and always consult their vet before introducing this or any other oil to their dog.
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