Coconut oil is a staple in most pantries thanks to its range of health and beauty applications in humans. Understandably, many pet parents have begun to wonder whether coconut oil might have similar benefits for their four-legged friends. But is coconut oil safe for pets, and what benefits might it offer?
Coconut oil is an edible oil derived from coconuts. The reason it’s so popular for health and wellness is that it’s high in saturated fats and medium-chain fatty acids.
Coconut oil is not toxic to cats nor dogs. In many cases, pets can safely ingest coconut oil with no problems at all. Feeding or applying coconut oil to your pet may provide them with some health and wellness benefits.
3 pet-safe uses for coconut oil
The medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil are believed to have a range of benefits, including being anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Coconut oil is also soothing and nourishing for the skin and hair. Because of these properties, coconut oil may have a few particularly useful applications in cats and dogs.
- Digestive help: Some experts believe coconut oil might help alleviate digestive problems in cats and dogs. It was thought that pets with constipation or bowel inflammation may benefit from a daily dose of coconut oil to soothe the digestive tract and help things move along smoothly. However, newer research suggests that coconut oil might actually have the opposite effect in pets, causing more inflammation. It’s best to discuss the topic with your vet if your pet is experiencing chronic digestive issues. One more proven digestive benefit is that coconut oil might be useful in alleviating uncomfortable hairballs in cats. Ingesting coconut oil can add moisture to the hairball and make it easier for your pet to pass.
- Skin and coat: One of the most appropriate uses for coconut oil in pets is topical application to alleviate skin and coat problems. Coconut oil is rich with moisture and vitamin E, so it can moisturize dry skin and fur and reduce itchiness caused by dryness or allergies. Rub a very small amount of coconut oil between your hands and apply it to your pet’s coat or dry patches of skin about once a week. Pets ingesting coconut oil may also experience skin and coat benefits from the inside out.
- Paw care: The vitamin E and soothing properties of coconut oil also make it a great home remedy for dry, cracked and painful paw pads on both cats and dogs. Again, it should be applied topically no more than once a day. Be mindful that if you apply coconut oil to your pet’s skin or paws, they might lick it off. Thus, you’ll want to use small amounts to prevent them from ingesting too much.
It’s important to note that there are many touted benefits of coconut oil for pets, including improved cognitive health, dental care, reduced arthritic inflammation and weight loss, but the science does not always support these claims. Coconut oil should not be treated as a natural “cure-all” for pet health problems.
Coconut oil safety
Before giving your cat or dog coconut oil, make sure to discuss its use with your pet’s veterinarian. Coconut oil might not be the best supplement choice for your pet or may not be compatible with your pet’s current health.
Most pets tolerate small amounts of coconut oil perfectly well. However, if your pet is given too much coconut oil, they might experience an upset stomach, resulting in diarrhea. Additionally, some pets are allergic to coconut oil. These pets might suffer from itchy skin, vomiting or diarrhea within hours of ingesting.
One other thing to note is that because coconut oil contains an abundance of fats, it’s not an ideal supplement for cats or dogs who are overweight. Adding fats to your pet’s diet can lead them to gain excess weight, putting them at risk for obesity and health problems like diabetes. If you do feed your pet coconut oil, make sure to factor these calories into their daily totals.
If you think your pet might benefit from coconut oil, they should only ingest it around once a day, maximum. Small dogs and cats should have around ¼ teaspoon, while larger dogs might tolerate between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon.
Finally, if you want your pet to receive anti-inflammation or skin and coat benefits, a better long-term alternative might be fish oil. Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are quite beneficial for pets. Coconut oil does not contain omega-3 fatty acids, so it might be best used in a pinch or topically only occasionally.