Dogs are social animals, and, as such, they're hardwired to desire what those around them are eating, especially their humans. So when dogs see us enjoying a coconut, it's only natural for them to want to join in the fun. But are coconuts safe for dogs to eat? Are coconuts toxic for dogs?
Where do coconuts come from?
While experts typically agree that coconuts date back to the first century B.C., Portuguese and Spanish seafarers in the 14th and 15th centuries are thought largely responsible for brining the coconut from Indonesia to the Western world.
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The coconut is kind of the Swiss army knife of fruit. In addition to being a nutritious food, coconut is used to make cosmetics, clothing, oil, milks and beverages. Coconuts are high in healthy saturated fats, which are known for boosting fat loss and providing your dog's body and brain with quick energy.
Can dogs eat coconut?
Yes, dogs can eat coconuts. Coconut is loaded with nutrients that decrease inflammation, boost the immune system and keep your dog's coat shiny. But coconuts are also high in both calories and healthy fats — so dogs should only eat small amounts of coconut. Otherwise, they'll get a little too plump.
Health benefits of coconuts for dogs
There are no shortage of health benefits dogs can enjoy when consuming either coconut meat or coconut oil. Coconut is high in fiber, manganese and healthy fat — all of which support bodily functions like respiration and circulation, as well as benefit the immune and cardiovascular systems.
Coconuts are an amazing food for dogs to eat. Unlike other fruits which are high in sugars and carbohydrates, coconuts are packed full of essential minerals and healthy fats. The mineral profile of coconuts helps your dog's body carry out most daily functions. Coconuts offer an impressive amount of manganese, which builds strong bones and helps your dog metabolize macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats).
Coconut oil is arguably the most healthy fat available, and many researchers believe that it actually reduces body fat in overweight dogs because coconut oil is absorbed directly in the small intestine — giving your dog quick, efficient energy to burn fat stores elsewhere in the body.
May regulate blood sugar
Coconuts are low in carbohydrates, but high in healthy fat and fiber, which may stabilize blood sugar levels. Coconut is rife with an amino acid called arginine, which is what one Indian study attributes an improvement in insulin levels and other glucose markers in animals. These findings don't suggest that you should replace your diabetic dog's medication with delicious coconut meat, but it does point to the possibility that coconut contributes to increased energy levels and improved mood by balancing blood sugar.
Coconut meat has powerful antioxidants like gallic acid, caffeic acid, salicylic acid and p-coumaric acid that are collectively known as phenolic compounds. Several animal studies have discovered that these compounds may help protect cells from damage and death caused by oxidative stress. In other words, the nutrients in coconuts may have the potential to help dogs fight infection, strengthen immunity, and avoid some types of cancers.
Benefits heart health
Dogs who regularly consume responsible amounts of coconut may improve their cholesterol levels and decrease body fat, which are both risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Of course, coconut alone won't help your dog's heart health, but coconut can supercharge an already healthy diet and active lifestyle.
A New Zealand study found that coconut has been linked to elevated rates of good cholesterol (HDL) and decreased levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), as well as reduced incidents of heart disease.
The best ways to feed coconut to dogs
Humans typically eat fruits like coconuts raw, and the same goes for dogs. Unless you're feeding your dog a drizzle of coconut oil over their chow, or letting them sip on unsweetened coconut water, cutting raw coconut into small 1/4 to 1/8-inch pieces is the best way to feed coconut to dogs.
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Coconut oil is often recommended by veterinarians and dietitians. If you haven't been given specific instructions on feeding your dog coconut oil, start slowly with around a teaspoon drizzled over their chow once or twice a week.
It's not recommended that dogs drink coconut water that has been made for humans, as it most likely has additives that are potentially harmful to dogs.
Are there any concerns with feeding coconut to dogs?
The main concern with feeding coconuts to dogs is portion size. Coconuts are calorically dense, which means dogs should not eat too much in a single day. They're also high in healthy fat, but that doesn't mean dogs should eat an overwhelming amount of coconuts. An active, medium-sized dog can responsibly eat around 1-2 ounces of coconut meat several days a week.
Coconuts are a delicious and nutritious food for dogs. Coconut is loaded with nutrients that decrease inflammation, boost the immune system and keep your dog's coat shiny. However, dogs should avoid eating too much coconut because it's high in both fat and calories. Too much of a good thing could cause your dog to put on weight.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.