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 health benefits in companion animals is also increasing. If you’re planning to use coconut oil for your pets, learn about the health benefits first, as well as how much coconut oil dogs and cats can safely eat.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Dogs and Cats?
Yes. There are several health benefits of coconut oil for dogs and cats, including lauric and caprylic acids1 which exert antimicrobial and antifungal effects that can help alleviate yeast infections and lower yeast production. Coconut oil also boosts skin health, improving dogs’ and cats’ lipid barrier to make them 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 the amount of coconut oil that you can give to dogs and cats will depend on their weight. Ideally, for every 10 pounds of body weight, give your pet a quarter-teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day added to their food.
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 day2 or reduce the amount of food you are feeding to account for the calories in coconut oil.
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 that 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 before shampooing to provide a moisturizing mask for the skin.
The American Kennel Club suggests letting the coconut oil sit on the dog’s skin for around five minutes before rinsing it off.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; this oil can work for them by:15
- Helping improve nutrition — Coconut oil contains vitamins E and K, calcium, and fatty acids.16 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.17
- Preventing hairball formation — By providing lubrication 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, which need increased moisture and lubrication to allow the hairball to smoothly move through the digestive tract. Coconut oil even works better than many commercial hairball treatments.
- Helping address constipation and promoting regular bowel movements — Cats' 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 Gardner highlights that coconut oil can be used to lessen arthritis-caused inflammation and fight bad breath in cats, too.18
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 skin19 — Moisturize your cat’s dry skin with coconut oil20 by feeding it to them or applying it topically to dry patches of skin.
- 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 drop of lavender oil in a teaspoon of 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.21 Addressing this issue quickly is a must, since cats with matted hair have a higher risk for skin infections and fleas.22
Cats suffering from constipation can be given half a teaspoon of coconut oil per 10 pounds of body weight. You can mix it onto your pet’s food one or two times daily. Coconut oil may be useful in relieving cat gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) when rubbed on the gums daily.23 Use it as a natural remedy for fleas too, since coconut oil can repel these parasites.24
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, and then spread some high-quality coconut oil over your cat’s paw. Take the powdered medication and apply it onto the paw so they lick it off.25
Is Coconut Oil Safe for Dogs and Cats?
Coconut oil is generally safe for cats and dogs, but you should exercise caution, as there may be some side effects. Some dogs or cats may be allergic to coconut oil and cannot tolerate it well.26,27
Owners of pets with pancreatitis will be glad to know that lipase is not required for the body to digest coconut oil, so it’s safe for pets with a history of pancreatitis, however, if your pet requires a low-fat diet, you must exercise caution as coconut oil is high in calories, so if your pet gains weight easily or metabolizes fat ineffectively, use coconut oil sparingly.28,29,30
Start with a tiny dab and gradually increase the amount of coconut oil once your pet’s system adjusts 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.31,32
Using Coconut Oil for 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 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.33
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 that is sustainably sourced.
Q: Is coconut oil good for animal skin?
A: Yes. Coconut oil can improve your pet’s skin by providing moisture and shine to the coat, reducing odor, speeding healing of wounds, hot spots, stings and bites,34 and assisting with lowering your dog's risk for yeast infections.35
Q: Can I put coconut oil on my dog’s fur?
A: Yes. You can put coconut oil on your dog if it has itchy skin or dandruff. Coconut oil can also be effective for fighting fleas in both dogs36,37 and cats.38
Q: Can I add coconut oil to my pet’s food?
A: Yes. The amount of coconut oil you should put in your pet’s food must depend on their 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 pet’s teeth with coconut oil?
A: Yes, as coconut oil may help enhance your pet's dental health. To do so, dip a soft baby toothbrush or soft cloth into coconut oil and massage into your pet’s teeth and gums. You can also add one to two drops of parsley oil to freshen your dog's breath.39
Q: What hazards are associated with using coconut oil?
A: Coconut oil, if administered in too high amounts, can cause GI upset. Because it’s a healthy source of fat, it’s also calorie-dense, so when adding it to your pet’s diet you must account for the extra calories or pets can gain weight.