It seems as though in recent years; natural healthcare alternatives have been researched and speculated more and more. People have become increasingly skeptical of traditional therapies like doctor prescribed medications, and in certain scenarios, have started searching for relief elsewhere.
With this being our new reality, you’ve undoubtedly heard whispers about coconut oil and the potential benefits it can offer. And once humans started considering coconut oil as a viable healthcare supplement, our next question, naturally, was “can it help my dog, too?”.
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What exactly is coconut oil?
Coconut oil is derived from coconuts, using mainly the meat (white solid stuff inside the shell). The meat can be used to extract both coconut oil and coconut milk. Extraction processes may vary. ‘Extra virgin’ or unrefined olive oil is also available. Unrefined oil does not use heat to extract (“cold-pressed”) and is viewed as a healthier option, as the oil is extracted immediately after the coconuts are harvested, in order to preserve as many nutrients as possible. And without the presence of extreme heat, the nutrients are not in jeopardy of being burned away or lost in the process.
Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat (normally 80%+). This abnormally high fat percentage causes some health professionals to suggest limiting your intake of things like coconut oil. 1 tbsp of coconut oil contains around 121 calories.
While fats are usually thought of as unhealthy, the saturated fats found in coconut oil consist mainly of Medium Chain Triglycerides, or “MCTs”. For what it’s worth, MCTs are understood as more “healthy” fats, as they can be metabolized quickly and are a good source of energy. MCTs also contain anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
What does coconut oil do for humans?
There are a myriad of potential benefits when it comes to humans and coconut oil.
- Balancing cholesterol
- Controlling blood sugar
- Reducing stress
- Hair health
- Skin health
- Aiding weight loss
Most of these potential benefits are highly speculated. While some studies on the effects of coconut oil have shown positive results, others have produced contradictory evidence. It’s also important to note that a majority of the research that has been conducted has not involved human trials.
What are the benefits for dogs?
The potential benefits that coconut oil can offer dogs are similar to those in humans:
- Anti-inflammatory (for arthritis and bone health)
- Keeps coat/hair shiny and healthy
- Metabolic function, can aid in weight loss
- Topical ointment (hot spots, rashes, etc.)
Like human applications, the effects coconut oil has on a number of these ailments are largely unproven. Some studies have shown promise, while some show the opposite. While there is certain science involved, much of the data is subjective and unreliable. Because of this, many medical professionals are hesitant to recommend coconut oil.
Some veterinary professionals believe Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) can improve brain health and function in older dogs, as well as helping to correct digestive disorders. It is also believed that coconut can in fact be beneficial for dogs topically. If your dog needs assistance in keeping their coat clean and healthy, washing with coconut oil once a week can help. And with the anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties found in coconut oil, some veterinary professionals see coconut as a viable holistic option for dogs with skin issues or discomfort (dry skin, hot spots, allergic rashes).
How should I give it to my dog?
If they seem to like the taste, or you have a dog that will eat anything, you can safely administer coconut oil orally.
However, if you have a dog who is prone to weight gain problems (remember, coconut oil is extremely fatty, even if some of those fats are healthy), it may be best to start topically. If you are using coconut oil in hopes of a shinier and healthier coat for your dog, or to address a skin issue, washing and rinsing once or twice a week is suggested.
Safety: Consult your Veterinarian
With any new supplement or medication, it is important to consult your pet’s doctor. We all want to help our dogs but navigating these largely speculated and unresearched holistic approaches can be tricky. Coconut oil falls into this category.
Talk with your veterinarian. Explain what benefits you are looking for in your dog, how you are hoping coconut oil will help, and see what approach is best to take. Your veterinarian can also give you a detailed breakdown of any and all potential side-effects, specific to your dog.