By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker
Coconut oil’s popularity as a natural remedy has grown exponentially in recent years because of its versatility in addressing various health conditions. Additionally, research surrounding coconut oil’s possible benefits toward pets is also increasing. If you’re planning to use coconut oil for your pets, know its health benefits first, as well as how much coconut oil dogs and cats can safely eat.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Dogs and Cats?
Generally, dogs and cats can have coconut oil because its lauric and caprylic acids1 exert antimicrobial and antifungal effects that can help alleviate yeast infections and lower yeast production. Coconut oil also boosts their skin health, improving dogs’ and cats’ lipid barrier to make it more resistant to pathogens like yeast and bacteria.
Plus, combining other omega-3 oils like fish oil and krill oil, which are rich in essential fatty acids, with coconut oil may assist in combatting inflammatory responses. Before utilizing coconut oil for your pets, however, ensure that you pick 100 percent organic, cold-pressed and human-grade coconut oil.
Can Dogs and Cats Eat Coconut Oil?
It’s OK to directly feed coconut oil to pets, but take note that how much coconut oil should be given to dogs and cats depends on their weight. Ideally, for every 10 pounds of body weight, give your pet a quarter-teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day. You can add it to their fresh homemade or commercial raw diet.
In a PetMD article, Dr. Colleen Smith of the Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute suggests using coconut oil as a base for dog treats and combining it with turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory capabilities, and fat-soluble vitamin D. However, careful monitoring for weight gain must be done if you’re feeding coconut oil to an overweight or obese pet due to its high amounts of fat. If this is the case, feed your pet coconut oil only once a day.2
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs
Coconut oil may promote better cognitive function and brain energy metabolism, and reduce buildup of brain lesion-causing amyloid proteins. These benefits aren’t limited to senior dogs whose brain functions are slowing down, but other older pets too.3
This effect is connected to the high amounts of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) in the oil. According to a 2010 study published in The British Journal of Nutrition, massive improvements in brain function were seen in senior beagles who were fed MCT supplements.4 Aside from this brain-related link, coconut oil may also help:5
Alleviate skin conditions like eczema and contact dermatitis
|Relieve cuts, wounds, stings and bites
Lessen dog odor (due to coconut oil’s monolaurin content6)
|Eliminate dog fleas, for coconut oil’s lauric acid content can deter these pests7,8
||Ease yeast infections such as candida
Boost nutrient absorption and digestion
Promote fast recovery among dogs with kennel cough
|Regulate your dog’s insulin and levels and lowering diabetes risk
Lower heart disease risk
|Moderate thyroid function
||Enhance motility among dogs with arthritis and joint issues
How to Use Coconut Oil for Dogs
Coconut oil can improve your dog’s skin health through two mechanisms: enhancing immune system function and promoting better function of some organ systems. Dogs struggling with dandruff, itchy skin, or dry and flaky skin can be fed coconut oil, or it can be used topically. Apply coconut oil all over your dog’s coat at least once a week, for both short- and long-haired breeds. (although owners of the latter may find this a bit difficult).
The American Kennel Club suggests letting the coconut oil sit on the dog’s skin for around five minutes before rinsing it off. If the dog’s skin still feels greasy, a light shampoo and rinse may be needed.9 Other uses of coconut oil for dogs include:
- Helping relieve hot spots — Combine 5 teaspoons of coconut oil with five drops of oil of oregano to make a salve or cream and apply this once a day.10 Aside from promoting healing, this oil mixture may combat the bacterial infection that may be responsible for hot spots.
- Soothing allergic reactions, abrasions and cracked paws — Apply coconut oil on your dog’s paws to help heal sores, cracks or abrasions caused by excessive chewing.11,12
- Targeting ear mites and infections — Coconut oil can be used in dog’s ears to help ease yeast and ear infections, target ear mites, and lessen swelling.13
- Preventing ear wax buildup — Clean your dog’s ears thoroughly daily with coconut oil to help avoid ear wax buildup that may lead to the ear conditions mentioned above. You can try mixing a drop of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of coconut oil, or you can dab the coconut oil onto a cotton round, add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide afterward and apply on the dog’s ear.
- Improving dental health — Brush your dog’s teeth with coconut oil daily for optimal dental health. Holistic veterinarian Dr. Ihor Basko suggests using a soft baby toothbrush dipped in coconut oil. If your dog has bad breath, you can add one to two drops of parsley oil.14
Health Benefits of Coconut Oil for Cats
Your feline friends can also utilize coconut oil to their advantage, as this oil can work for them by:15
- Helping improve nutrition — Coconut oil contains vitamins E and K, iron, and fatty acids. In particular, fatty acids may react with some enzymes in your cat’s GI tract, assist with nutrient absorption and aid in promoting balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut.
- Assisting with asthma relief — Although more research is needed to fully confirm this, giving coconut oil to cats with asthma may aid in healing lung tissue and restoring levels of fatty acids in affected areas.16
- Preventing hairball formation — By providing moisture to the digestive tract and lowering risk for hairball formation itself, coconut oil can be effective for cats coughing up hairballs. This is important for kibble fed cats, who need increased moisture and lubrication to allow the hairball to smoothly move through the digestive tract. Coconut oil even works better than commercial hairball treatments.
- Helping address constipation and promoting regular bowel movements — Cat constipation can be relieved with coconut oil, as it assists in softening stool so it passes easily. It also lowers your cat’s risk for megacolon.
Washington-based holistic veterinarian Dr. Anna Gardener highlights that coconut oil can be used to lessen arthritis-caused inflammation and fight bad breath in cats, too.17
How to Use Coconut Oil for Cats
Just like with dogs, most of coconut oil’s uses for your cats are mainly for their skin:
- Itchy skin — Coconut oil can be beneficial for cats with dandruff or itchy skin. Feeding your cat with coconut oil or a combination of coconut oil and fish body oil may assist in reducing production of itch-causing yeast, or help alleviate the body’s inflammatory response.
- Dry skin and other skin issues like allergies18 — Moisturize your cat’s dry skin with coconut oil19 by feeding it to her or applying it topically. The book “Coconut Therapy for Pets” suggests smearing a thin layer of oil over your cat’s body by rubbing the oil between your hands and then gently massaging it onto their coat.20
Furthermore, while allowing your cat to spend valuable time outdoors can boost his health, increased sun exposure may cause the skin to lose moisture. To avoid skin drying, try placing a thin coat of coconut oil onto the tip of their nose and ears.21
- Feline dermatitis or skin inflammation — Cats with feline dermatitis can benefit from coconut oil in relieving the affected area. Start by cleaning the wound with diluted povidone iodine, and then add a few drops of lavender oil in the coconut oil (to be used as a carrier oil) and apply onto your cat’s skin.
- Matted cat hair — Coconut oil has the ability to loosen up matted fur. Use your fingers to scoop out coconut oil from the container and gently massage it into the fur. Abode for Pets says that while your cat can untangle the fur themselves, you can opt to rub the tangled hair between your thumb and forefinger.22 Addressing this issue quickly is a must, since cats with matted hair have a higher risk for skin infections and fleas.23
For cats suffering from constipation, give them half a teaspoon of coconut oil per 10 pounds of body weight. You can mix it onto your pet’s food or give it directly, one to two times daily. Coconut oil may be useful in relieving cat gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) when rubbed on the gums daily.24 Use it as a natural remedy for fleas too, since coconut oil can repel these parasites.25
A crafty way to use coconut oil for cats is to give it alongside some supplements your cat may stay away from. Grind up the pill first, then spread some high-quality coconut oil over your cat’s paw. Take the powdered medication and apply it onto the paw so he may lick it off. 26
Is Coconut Oil Safe for Dogs and Cats?
While coconut oil is generally safe for cats and dogs, exercise caution because there may be some side effects. Some dogs or cats may be allergic to coconut oil and cannot tolerate it well.27,28 Owners of pets with pancreatitis must exercise caution and limit coconut oil intake, or avoid it at all, since this oil is rich in saturated fats that may worsen their pet’s condition. Furthermore, coconut oil is high in calories, so if your pet gains weight easily or metabolizes fat ineffectively, use coconut oil sparingly.29,30,31
Start with small dosages and gradually increase the amount of coconut oil once your pet’s system has been accustomed to it. Doing so may help prevent greasy stools, upset stomach or diarrhea, which are side effects of giving too much coconut oil to your pet all at once.32,33
Using Coconut Oil for Dog and Cat Treats
Here’s an easy recipe you can try at home if you want to use coconut oil to make appetizing pet treats:
✓ Coconut oil
✓ Organic raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
- Melt some coconut oil into a liquid consistency.
- Add safe, organic and pet-friendly fruits into an ice tray.
- Pour the coconut oil over the fruits.
- Keep the ice tray in the freezer for several hours.
- Once the treats are frozen, take them out of the ice tray and give as a refreshing treat to your pet.
To store unused coconut oil, ensure that it is kept in a dark place, such as a cupboard, since it’s light-sensitive. You can also try storing it in dark glass containers.34 As responsible pet owners, ensuring that your dog’s or cat’s overall health is in optimal condition is of utmost priority. This is easier said than done, however, because of the threats your pets may encounter.
Coconut oil is valuable to your pet’s health because of its multiple purposes, whether you’re addressing a particular condition or want to prevent one in the first place. Before using coconut oil extensively, consult your veterinarian to know how much of this oil you should be giving, and check if your pet is allergic to this coconut oil, which may prevent your pet from reaping the positive effects of this oil in the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Coconut Oil for Pets
Q: What kind of coconut oil is best for my dog or cat?
A: The best type of coconut oil to use for your pet is 100 percent, organic, cold-pressed and human-grade coconut oil.
Q: Is coconut oil good for dogs’ skin?
A: Yes. Coconut oil can improve your dog’s skin by providing moisture and shine to the coat, reducing foul dog odor, boosting recovery for wounds, hot spots, stings and bites, and assisting with lowering your dog's risk for yeast infections.
Q: Can I put coconut oil on my dog’s fur?
A: Yes. You can put coconut oil on your dog if he has itchy skin or dandruff, at least once a week. Coconut oil can also be effective for fighting fleas in both dogs and cats.
The American Kennel Club suggests that after slathering coconut oil on your dog's coat, let it sit for around five minutes before rinsing thoroughly. However, should your dog's coat still feel greasy or oily, lightly shampoo your dog first and then rinse thoroughly to get rid of the excess grease.
Q: Can I add coconut oil to my dog’s food?
A: Yes. The amount of coconut oil you should put in your dog's food must depend on his or her weight. Ideally, give your pet a one-fourth teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day for every 10 pounds of body weight.
Q: Can I brush my dog’s teeth with coconut oil?
A: Yes, as coconut oil may help enhance your dog's dental health. To do so, dip a soft baby toothbrush into coconut oil and brush on your dog's teeth. You can also add one to two drops of parsley oil to freshen your dog's breath.
Q: Is coconut oil bad for cats?
A: Coconut oil may only be toxic for cats if they are:
- Fed excessively high dosages
- Allergic to coconut oil
- Diagnosed with pancreatitis (since coconut oil's high saturated fat content may exacerbate the disease)
- Prone to gaining weight quickly or metabolize fat inefficiently
It's best to give your cat very minimal quantities of coconut oil first, and only increase the dosages once their body has gotten used to it.