Is Coconut Oil Good or Bad for Dogs?

Fresh coconuts and a jar of coconut oil on a wooden table
Coconut oil is known for its versatility. Can it help dogs? Magone / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Aside from its culinary uses, people praise coconut oil for its versatility, from dental hygiene to relieving skin conditions. Coconut oil’s impressive benefits have made it trend-worthy. Some people have even fed coconut oil to their dogs or applied it to their fur. But is coconut good or bad for dogs?

Most studies exploring the benefits of coconut oil have been conducted on humans, but some uses may apply to dogs. We will consider both the benefits and risks of the use of coconut oil on dogs below.

Coconut Oil May Keep Away Pests 

Coconut oil possesses antimicrobial properties that may help prevent infection by ectoparasites, including fleas, mange mites and ticks. If your dog has already been infected, the topical application of coconut oil to the area could help eliminate ectoparasites. 

A 2013 study published in E-International Scientific Research Journal found that virgin coconut oil (*VCO) shampoo is very effective against lice, ticks, mites and fleas in dogs. Researchers noted that 80% VCO shampoo was the most effective concentration for reducing the ectoparasite count as early as the sixth week of treatment. Virgin coconut oil shampoo may prove both an effective and more affordable treatment option than commercial shampoos.

Coconut Oil Could Treat Skin Issues

Coconut oil is a common household remedy for topical application when treating minor skin problems. Coconut oil contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties

Some dog owners claim that coconut oil is just as effective in treating skin issues in their pets. 

Is coconut oil safe for a dog’s skin? According to the Drake Center for Veterinary Care, topical uses of coconut oil can benefit itchy, dry and irritated skin in pets. However, you should not feed your dog coconut oil as it could increase lipids in the blood, though it may be helpful for other conditions. Consult with a veterinarian before feeding your dog coconut oil.

Coconut Oil Can Improve Your Dog’s Fur

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a fatty acid that easily penetrates the hair shaft. One older study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft in humans more effectively than mineral or sunflower oil. Other fats can leave hair looking greasy, but the lauric acid inside coconut oil leaves hair looking lustrous and healthy. 

Can you use coconut oil to improve a dog’s coat? Yes, though studies conducted on dogs in this regard are rare. For topical application to fur, rub a small amount between your fingers and lightly pat on your dog’s coat. Gently massage it into the fur and skin. 

Is Coconut Oil Toxic for Dogs?

There’s always the risk of an allergic reaction, but the adverse effects when using coconut oil on dogs are minimal. The ASPCA advises owners to avoid letting their dogs have coconut oil since it may irritate the gut lining, causing a stomach ache, loose stools or diarrhea. 

Coconut oil is also high in saturated fats, harmful to any diet in excess as it could contribute to high cholesterol levels. Its high caloric content could also increase weight gain.

Always consult with a veterinarian first, and take precautions when introducing a new supplement to your dog’s diet or grooming routine. In small amounts, coconut oil is considered generally safe for dogs to consume or have topically applied to their fur or skin. 

How Much Coconut Oil Should You Give Your Dog?

No recommendations on dosage are set as research is limited, but start small. PetMD suggests that you give ¼ teaspoon daily to small dogs and up to one tablespoon daily for larger dogs.  Coconut oil can be given as a base for treats. Stop all treatments at any sign of intolerance.

Closely monitor your dog’s reaction and tolerance of treatment with coconut oil. For any further questions or concerns, speak with your veterinarian about giving your pet coconut oil.

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