Coconut Oil Benefits for Dogs

It’s becoming increasingly challenging to sort through all the supplements and natural remedies touted as being great for your pup’s health. When you hear about one that’s on your own kitchen shelf, it’s natural to wonder if your dog will experience the same benefits you do. When it comes to coconut oil, it may not be a wonder drug, curing all your dog’s ills, but it can provide him some health benefits.

Coconut and oil
Coconut oil on a bamboo platter.
credit: joanna wnuk/iStock/Getty Images

What's In a Coconut?

The firepower in coconut oil comes from medium chain triglycerides, contained in the oil’s saturated fats. Medium chain triglycerides contain lauric acid, as well as capric acid, caprylic acid, myristic acid and palmitic acid. Each acid brings beneficial properties to the supplement -- for example, coconut oil’s anti-fungal properties come from capric, caprylic and lauric acids, while its antiviral and antibacterial powers come from lauric acid.

On the Inside

As a dietary supplement, consider the healing properties of medium chain triglycerides and how they may apply to your pup. For example, the anti-bacterial properties can help ward off infections, such as yeast infections. It also aids in digestion and enhances nutrient absorption and may offer relief to the dog suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Karen Becker of HealthyPets.com notes the lauric acid in coconut oil is effective at strengthening immunity, while Dr. Kathy Boehme of the Drake Center for Veterinary Care states there’s evidence that coconut oil may be helpful for improving cognitive dysfunction. Other potential benefits include eliminating hairballs and improving bad breath.

On the Outside

The most obvious benefit to coconut oil will be seen in a topical application to your dog’s coat. If your pal suffers from dry, itchy skin, a bath with coconut oil will keep his skin and coat soft while lending it a healthy shine. Its anti-bacterial properties disinfect cuts and help heal wounds, also providing a stronger barrier against yeast infections and environmental pathogens. Skin problems such as flea allergy dermatitis, eczema and dandruff also can benefit from coconut oil treatment.

Using the Right Oil the Right Way

If you decide to discover the benefits of coconut oil for your dog firsthand, be sure to use unrefined, or virgin, coconut oil. Unrefined oil is derived from high-quality, fresh coconuts, retaining most of the nutrients found in the original coconut. Refined coconut oil is often sold as “RBD” for refined, bleached and deodorized; it may contain chemicals and is often made from low-quality coconuts. As well, be aware that there are many unsubstantiated claims made about the healing properties of coconut oil. As Dr. Boehme points out, claims of curing or preventing cancer, weight loss, thyroid correction and periodontal disease prevention currently have no credible basis. As well, regular doses of coconut oil can increase the overall fat intake, and may make pancreatitis worse. Talk to your vet before you begin giving your dog coconut oil to make sure he has no conflicting health concerns and to understand the proper dosing information.