Is Coconut Oil Good, or Bad for My Dog?

With new studies recently released, is it time to rethink the use of coconut oil for our dogs? Coconut oil is a very popular product, used by pet owners all over the world, boasting some great health benefits. Take a look at the benefits, and some potential downsides of using coconut oil for your dogs with us!

What is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is made by pressing the flesh of the coconut. The state of the flesh in its complete form, determines the type of oil produced.

When shopping for coconut oil, you may notice that both refined, and unrefined varieties are available. Unrefined coconut oil is the fresher option – this is the result of pressing fresh coconut flesh. Refined coconut oil is produced by pressing dried coconut flesh (called copra), so is more processed.

Virgin unrefined oils are typically the most pure option, as virgin oils are from the initial press, as opposed to subsequent presses, where non-virgin oils are produced, which are not as nutrient rich.

Coconut oil is rich in Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) – a type of saturated fat, healthier than heavy fats. Around 65% of coconut oil’s make up is MCTs! More on those later!

Using Coconut Oil Externally

Coconut oil is often a fantastic choice for topical (external) use! It is used in the dog world for all sorts – flea prevention (as it makes the coat more slippery), to treat dry skin and noses, to soothe sore areas of skin, and much more!

The MCT content of coconut oil has great antimicrobial properties, so can be used to help promote healing of minor wounds, pyoderma, and other fungal and bacterial skin issues. The specific fatty acid largely responsible for this is called Lauric Acid, which makes up around half of the MCTs.

Findings Here
Findings Here
Findings Here

The oil from coconuts is extremely moisturising to the skin! So moisturizing in fact, that studies comparing it to mineral oils (well renowned for being excellent for the skin) have been carried out! Results show coconut oil has just as much of a positive impact on skin moisture as mineral oil.

Findings Here

Using Coconut Oil Internally

Internal use of coconut oil is quite popular among the dog community, however, some new research suggests that it might not be such a good idea.

Let’s take a look at the benefits first, before we move on to the new research!

Those who feed coconut oil claim it helps their dog’s coat condition due to the content of fatty acids. People also notice a difference in dental health – coconut oil can be a great choice for a doggie toothpaste, mixed with a little bicarbonate of soda (baking soda for those reading from other parts of the world!).

Findings Here

There is some evidence to suggest that changes to cholesterol levels are possible by consuming coconut oil – it’s said to reduce the bad Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and increase the High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol in the body. There are also studies which state the very opposite, and that consuming coconut oil may actually increase levels of LDL. This conflict is something which needs further research, and is something to take into consideration if you’re looking at feeding it to your dog.

Findings Here

Coconut oil is antioxidant rich – this means it helps to combat dangerous free radicals in the body! Packing antioxidants into your dog’s diet is important, but other sources are available. Blueberries are one of the most powerful antioxidant sources readily available in your supermarket.

Findings Here

Seizure control is another proposed benefit to feeding coconut oil – this is because as part of a ketogenic diet, fats are important. There is evidence to suggest that the MCT content in coconut oil cause an increase in ketone levels in the bloodstream. There are links between high ketone concentrations and reduced frequency of seizures.

Findings Here

What Does New Research Suggest?

As we mentioned, some new studies into the use of coconut oil internally, have been published! Of course, we had to read and digest them; so what do they say?

The new research findings affect the gut! As we always speak about here at My Pet Nutritionist; gut health is so incredibly important, and has a knock on effect to all parts of the body, as well as being largely responsible for immune health.

Leaky gut appears to be a major concern with feeding coconut oil, according to the new studies. Leaky gut happens when there is inflammation and irritation of the gut lining. The one-cell-thick intestinal lining is formed with ‘tight junctions’ in the healthy gut – this means the cells are right next to each other with no gaps, which stops particles from crossing the membrane into the bloodstream where they are recognised as foreign bodies, which presents symptomatically as intolerances. When irritated, gaps open up between the cells, which allows for particles to leak from the gut and into the bloodstream.

Studies show that the previously mentioned Lauric Acid, is inherently inflammatory. Studies also suggest that although antimicrobial, it may also destroy the membranes of lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which causes an immune response. The studies also state that coconut oil may cause the overproduction of LPS, and also increase it’s toxicity.

Findings Here
Findings Here

As coconut oil is a saturated fat, this also contributes to inflammation in the gut, which leads to leaky gut. The fat content of coconut oil is also a worry because high fat diets feed some bacteria, causing leaky gut.

Findings Here

What can we use as an alternative?

As an alternative to coconut oil, for internal use, you may prefer to use a high quality MCT oil. It’s important to source a good MCT oil, as pure as possible, as not every MCT oil on the market is created equal!

For coat and skincare, internally, you can look at some other healthy fatty acid sources, such as fresh or tinned oily fish (sardines, mackerel), raw eggs, or algal oil. We have two fantastic blogs about feeding healthy fats to you dog!

Read more on omegas here.
Read more on raw eggs here.

This article should have given you an insight into the pros, and potential cons of using coconut oil, particularly internally, for your dog. We hope our balanced view gives you the knowledge you need to make in informed decision as to whether you give your dog coconut oil, or switch to an alternative. If you would like help improving your dog’s diet, or require help with a complex health issue, please don’t hesitate to book in for a consultation with one of our team.

Team MPN x

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