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The güiña gets its name from the Mapuche word "wiña," meaning "thief." eMinte / Flickr

By Niki Rust

The smallest wild cat species in the Americas faces big problems as its habitat dwindles and it's targeted as a farm pest. But a new study shows it may be able to persist in a human-dominated world—if farmers and policymakers give it a hand.

The güiña (Leopardus guigna), also known as kodkod, weighs 2 to 2.5 kilograms (4.4 to 5.5 pounds), eats birds and rodents, and is only found in the temperate rainforests of Chile and western Argentina. It's listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with habitat loss and illegal killing considered the major causes of its decline.

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By Brianna Elliott

Coconut oil has become quite trendy in recent years.

Studies show that it has several impressive health benefits for humans.

Many people also give coconut oil to their dogs or apply it to their dogs' fur.Pexels

Interestingly, many people also give coconut oil to their dogs or apply it to their dogs' fur.

While most studies on coconut oil have been conducted on humans, their results may be applicable to dogs as well.

This article explores the benefits and risks of using coconut oil on dogs.

Coconut Oil May Help Your Dog's Skin Issues

Using coconut oil to treat skin conditions is a common practice with well-known benefits. The positive effects are likely due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

One study found that coconut oil effectively hydrates the skin of people with xerosis, a condition characterized by dry and itchy skin (1).

This study was conducted on humans—not dogs. However, many dog owners and veterinarians claim that coconut oil can help treat dry skin and eczema in dogs when applied topically.

Bottom Line: Coconut oil may help treat skin conditions in humans and some people claim that it also helpful for the skin of dogs.

It Can Improve the Appearance of Your Dog's Fur

Coconut oil may improve the appearance of your dog's fur.

When applied to the skin, it can make hair shinier and less prone to damage.

This is because lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut oil, has a unique chemical makeup that allows it to easily penetrate hair shafts (2).

Other types of fat don't have this same ability, so using coconut oil may help keep your dog's coat healthy and beautiful.

Bottom Line: The lauric acid in coconut oil has been shown to keep hair healthier than other fatty acids. It can be used to improve the health and appearance of your dog's fur.

It May Help Fight off Pests

The antimicrobial effects of coconut oil may prevent dogs from being infected by ectoparasites, such as ticks, fleas and mange mites.

It has also been shown to help eliminate these pests in dogs that have already been infected.

These effects were confirmed by two studies in which dogs were treated with a shampoo made with coconut oil (3, 4).

In one of these studies, coconut oil also appeared to facilitate wound healing in dogs with ectoparasite bites. This is likely associated with coconut oil's ability to inhibit bacterial growth (4).

Moreover, coconut oil has also been shown to kill bacteria, viruses and fungi in lab studies (5, 6, 7).

Bottom Line: Coconut oil may be beneficial for preventing pest infections and treating bites.

Risks Associated With Using Coconut Oil on Dogs

Although adverse effects are rare, there are a few things to consider before using coconut oil on your dog.

There is always the risk of an allergic reaction when introducing something new to your dog's diet or grooming regimen. If a reaction occurs, stop using it.

Also, some studies have shown that coconut oil can cause high cholesterol in dogs. In extreme cases, this can cause fatty plaques to develop in the arteries (8, 9).

Furthermore, due to its high calorie content, using coconut oil in excess may lead to weight gain.

Lastly, one study concluded that a diet high in saturated fat reduces dogs' scent-detecting abilities. More research is needed to better understand this finding, but you may want to take caution with coconut oil if you have a working dog (10).

Bottom Line: Coconut oil may cause high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries and weight gain in some dogs. If your dog is prone to any of these conditions, talk with a veterinarian before use.

How to Use Coconut Oil on Dogs

Coconut oil is generally safe for dogs to eat or have applied to their skin or fur.

When it comes to selecting a brand, virgin coconut oil is best, as most of coconut oil's benefits have been observed with this type.

According to PetMD, coconut oil can generally be given to dogs 1–2 times a day with meals.

The amount you give your dog will depend on its size. If your dog is overweight or obese, do not give it coconut oil more than once a day.

Veterinarians stress the importance of starting slowly with coconut oil. This will allow you to monitor how your dog reacts to it.

Start by giving 1/4 teaspoon daily to small dogs or 1 tablespoon daily to big dogs and gradually increase the amount. If your dog tolerates it well after two weeks, increase the dose to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of body weight.

Due to a lack of research, these recommendations are not established. It's often a matter of trial and error, and your dog may need more or less for benefits to occur.

Do not feed your dog coconut oil alone. Instead, mix it in with your dog's regular food. This will keep its diet varied and nutrient dense.

All dogs being fed coconut oil should be monitored for weight gain, diarrhea and other symptoms that may signify intolerance.

If you're applying the coconut oil topically, rub a small amount onto your hands and then gently pat its coat, running your fingers through the fur and massaging a little into its skin.

Bottom Line: Coconut oil can be fed to dogs or applied to their skin. Start slowly and increase the amount you give your dog gradually.

Takeaway

Research on using coconut oil for pets is lacking. The benefits are mainly anecdotal, as well as based on findings in humans, rodents and test-tube studies.

Despite the lack of research, giving it to your dog in proper doses is relatively safe.

Ultimately, it's a personal choice. Using coconut oil on your dog has a few potential benefits and might be worth trying.

The risks are unlikely but worth keeping in mind. It's important to monitor your dog's health after adding anything to its regimen, including coconut oil.

Seek advice from a veterinarian if you have further questions or concerns about giving your dog coconut oil.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Actor Leonard DiCaprio made news last fall for his conservation work when his foundation awarded $3 million to the World Wildlife Fund for an initiative to help Nepal double its population of wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.

As DiCaprio explained, “Time is running out for the world’s remaining 3,200 tigers, largely the result of habitat destruction and escalating illegal poaching.”

International Tiger Day is celebrated annually on July 29. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

While conservation groups and foundations have for years been doing important work to save these animals in the wild, tigers remain an endangered species.

Threats faced by these cats include poaching for their pelts, illegal rainforest destruction for palm oil production and habitat loss due to climate change, such as coastal erosion due to sea level rise.

International Tiger Day is celebrated annually on July 29 to bring attention to the perils faced by these fascinating animals.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers living in the wild in the early 1900s. The range of these animals has also diminished and they are now only found in Southeast and South Asia, China and the Russian Far East. The following is a breakdown of tiger numbers by subspecies:

Bengal tiger: Less than 2,000
Indochinese tiger: 750-1,300
Siberian tiger: Around 450
Sumatran tiger: 400-500
Malayan tiger: 600-800
South Chinese tiger: Extinct in the wild
Caspian tiger: Extinct
Javan tiger: Extinct
Bali tiger: Extinct

This short video offers some facts about tigers:

And here are some, perhaps surprising, bonus facts from OneKind:

  • Like its ancestor, the sabre-tooth cat, the tiger relies heavily on its powerful teeth for survival. If it loses its canines (tearing teeth) through injury or old age, it can no longer kill and is likely to starve to death.

  • The roar of a Bengal tiger can carry for over 2km at night.

  • Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes).

  • Like domestic cats, all tigers can purr. Unlike their tame relatives, however, which can purr as they breathe both in and out, tigers purr only as they breathe out.

  • Unlike other cats, tigers are good swimmers and often cool off in lakes and streams during the heat of the day.

How can you help these endangered animals? Consider symbolically adopting a tiger to help save animals in the wild or take action by sending a message to government leaders.

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