Natural health enthusiasts across the nation have gone nuts for coconut oil over the last few years. Proponents credit the new “superfood” with everything from relieving eczema to aiding digestion to helping stave off the progression of Alzheimer's. This broad list of potential benefits has led coconut oil to find its way into an equally broad list of products. Some dog lovers are beginning to wonder if their pets can take advantage of coconut oil’s potential health-boosting powers. Others have already made it a trusted tool in their pet care arsenal.
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 dry, itchy 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.
Words of Caution
Even holistic vets are quick to discourage pet parents from viewing coconut oil as an all-purpose solution for every dog. Dr. Colleen Smith of the Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute notes that its high fat content 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 coconut oil has any real benefits to speak of. Writing for PetMD, Dr. Ken Tudor shoots down health claims one after another. He acknowledges that coconut oil can raise levels of so-called “good cholesterol,” but notes that it raises “bad cholesterol” as well. “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. He also remarks that coconut oil (for all its fat) lacks most of the essential fatty acids that dogs need.
Consult Your Veterinarian
Search for “coconut oil” online and you’re sure to find some eye-popping claims. Like any other buzzy superfood or supplement, coconut oil is still mostly mysterious. It’s unclear whether it can do all or any of what its fans claim it can. Pet parents should greet any claims about coconut oil’s benefits with healthy skepticism and consult their vet before introducing it to their dog.