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Coconut Oil for Dogs (2023 Guide): FAQs, Benefits, Risks & Research

Coconut oil is known for its health benefits and can be a good supplement to add to your dog’s diet. However, dog owners need to understand how coconut oil affects their dogs’ health before feeding it to them.

While there are good things about coconut oil, it can also lead to negative effects, especially if you don’t feed it to your dog properly or give the wrong amounts. We have all the information you need to help you decide if introducing coconut oil to your dog’s diet is the right move for your dog.

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How Does It Work?

Coconut oil is a plant-based oil that’s extracted from mature coconuts. It consists of 90% saturated fats. While many have been led to believe that fats are bad for the body, there are good kinds of fats that the body needs for healthy daily functioning. Coconut oil contains good fats, which are mostly Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).

MCTs are composed of lauric acid, which is a potent fatty acid with antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. They also contain capric acid and caprylic acid. These fatty acids also have antifungal properties.

It’s important to note that dogs need a diet that has a healthy balance of fats, and they use fat as an energy source. So, they can benefit from eating coconut oil because of its high fat content.

What Are the Different Types of Coconut Oil?

You can find several different types of coconut oil. Here’s a brief overview of some of the main varieties that you can find in stores.

coconut oil in a glass dish
Image Credit: SchaOn, Pixabay

Virgin Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is considered the best kind of coconut oil. It’s the least processed and doesn’t undergo any heat processing. This helps preserve and retain more antioxidants than more processed varieties of coconut oil.

One downside to virgin coconut oil is its short shelf life. Because it’s minimally processed, it won’t last as long as other kinds of coconut oil.

Unrefined Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil is also often referred to as raw coconut oil. It gets its name from its process of quick-drying or wet-milling raw coconut meat.

Once the coconut meat is harvested, it can go through a wet-mill process, which just means that the meat is rendered into coconut milk. The fat is then separated from the milk. The coconut meat can also go through a quick-drying process, which involves drying out the meat and then squeezing the oil from it.

Unrefined coconut oil still retains a good amount of nutrients and beneficial enzymes because it’s never heated in high temperatures.

Refined Coconut Oil

Rather than being harvested from raw coconut meat, refined coconut oil is made from copra, or dried coconut kernels. Because copra needs to go through a decontamination process, it gets cooked in high temperatures to kill any bacteria. Because of this process, refined coconut oil loses some of its natural nutritional value.

Refined coconut oil can also contain some additives and preservatives. It’s often used as a cooking oil because it can handle high heat.

RBD Coconut Oil

RBD coconut oil is one of the lowest-quality coconut oils sold in stores. It’s refined, bleached, and deodorized and is much more processed than any other variety of coconut oil. Because it’s highly processed, it loses a lot of its nutritional value, flavor, and fragrances.

Since it loses its natural taste and smell, it’s often used in food preparation. It’s also the cheapest kind of coconut oil and has the longest shelf life.

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Where Is It Used?

Coconut oil can be used as a cooking ingredient or consumed as a supplement. It can also be used topically to treat hair and skin issues.

Coconut oil contains saturated fat, which makes it good for cooking in high heat and frying. You can also use it as a baking substitute, and it’s often used in place of butter for vegan recipes. It’s also a common ingredient for vegan ice cream.

Some research shows that when coconut oil is used topically, it can help alleviate skin irritation and eczema. It may also be a natural product that helps protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays. Since it has antifungal properties, it can be used topically to help fight infections. It’s also often used as a skin moisturizer and can help nourish the hair and scalp.

Advantages of Coconut Oil

There are several significant advantages to coconut oil. It has many valuable nutrients that can help boost a dog’s health. Along with being a good source of healthy fatty acids, it may also help with weight loss and management. Some studies have shown that people have lost belly fat after introducing coconut oil to their diets. However, more research has to be done to provide a more conclusive statement.

Coconut oil can also help with nourishing and moisturizing the skin and coat. It can also be used topically on dogs’ noses and paw pads as a moisturizer. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties, which boosts the immune system.

Coconut Oil
Image Credit: moho01, Pixabay

Disadvantages of Coconut Oil

One of the main disadvantages of coconut oil is its varying qualities. Refined coconut oil is the most affordable type of coconut oil, but its nutritional value is considerably lower than virgin coconut oil. Unfortunately, high-quality coconut oil can be very expensive and can cost more than olive oil.

Since coconut oil contains a high percentage of saturated fat, too much can be detrimental to a dog’s health. It can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of developing heart disease. So, it’s best to refrain from feeding coconut oil to dog breeds that are predisposed to heart conditions.

High-quality coconut oil will also have a stronger smell and flavor. While it’s safe for dogs to eat, some dogs may not like the smell or taste, so it can be difficult getting them to eat it.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the Difference Between Coconut Oil and Coconut Butter?

Coconut oil and coconut butter are made from different parts of the fruit. Coconut oil is extracted from coconut meat, while coconut butter is pureed coconut meat, which also includes oil.

A common comparison of these coconut products is peanut butter and peanut oil. Peanut butter consists of ground-up peanuts, while peanut oil is an extraction of oil from the rest of the peanut. Both products are safe for dogs to eat if they eat them in small quantities.

coconut halved
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

How Much Coconut Oil is Safe for My Dog to Eat?

Small dogs should start off with ¼ teaspoon of coconut oil, while medium to large dogs can consume between 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil a day. If you have a dog that’s overweight, make sure to consult with your veterinarian before introducing coconut oil to its diet. In some cases, coconut oil can exacerbate weight gain.

Can Coconut Oil Replace Fish Oil?

Both fish oil and coconut oil have different benefits, so one can’t completely replace the other. However, you can alternate between the two to introduce more variety to your dog’s diet.

liquid fish oil
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Coconut oil is a supplement that has significant benefits that dogs can enjoy. It can help improve the skin and coat and boost the immune system. However, it can also cause unnecessary weight gain and may have links to heart disease. So, the best way to find out if your dog would benefit from coconut oil is to have a conversation with your veterinarian. If you get cleared to feed your dog coconut oil, make sure to use high-quality varieties, like virgin coconut oil or unrefined coconut oil, and avoid buying low-quality refined coconut oil and RBD coconut oil.


Featured Image Credit: etorres, Shutterstock

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