Coconut oil and a coconut in front of palm trees.

Coconut Oil for Dogs: Potential Benefits and Hazards

People are positively nuts for coconut oil. Fans credit the ingredient with everything from boosting their metabolism to giving their hair a healthy glow. Like kale and acai berries before it, coconut oil has become a veritable superfood. Health-conscious dog lovers are even beginning to work it into their pet care routines. While there haven’t been any clinical trials studying coconut oil and dogs, anecdotal evidence suggests that canines can enjoy many of coconut oil’s benefits.

5 Ways to Use Coconut Oil

  1. Fight Fungus and Bacteria: Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, a compound that’s been shown to possess both antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  2. Protect Your Pup’s Pads: The summer months are especially tough on a dog’s vulnerable paws. A dab of coconut oil can both provide a protective coating and help sooth injured pads.
  3. Neutralize Odors: Even the proudest pet parents have to admit that dogs don’t always smell great. Small amounts of coconut oil can deodorize your pet’s coat and keep them smelling fresh for days. It’s a popular ingredient in deodorants and shampoos for a reason.
  4. Treat Cuts and Infections: Coconut oil has the same look and texture as disinfectant ointments like Neosporin. It also boasts some of the same wound-healing benefits. Spread some on cuts and nicks to speed up healing and stave off infection.
  5. Condition Your Dog’s Coat: Human hair care enthusiasts already know that coconut oil makes for a great natural conditioner. Try it out on your dog to keep their coat smooth, shiny, and silky.

Potential Health Hazards

Coconut oil is undoubtedly versatile, but it’s not a miracle cure. Dr. Kathy Boehme of the Drake Center for Veterinary Care reminds pet owners that “the risks may outweigh the benefits for some individuals.” This is particularly true where ingestion is concerned. Dogs with pancreatitis or irregular fat metabolism, for example, should avoid eating any coconut oil. Even very healthy dogs can become overweight if high-fat coconut oil becomes a staple of their diet.

Dr. Boehme also reiterates that there is little to no evidence for many of coconut oil’s most impressive potential benefits. Though many pet owners say coconut oil can fight cancer and thyroid disorders while promoting weight loss, the science simply isn’t there.

The American Kennel Club notes that — while it’s full of fat — coconut oil does not provide all of the Omega-6 and Omega-3s that dogs need. These fatty acids are essential for heart health and help dogs maintain a healthy blood pressure. Coconut oil has some, but the small amount tends to be poorly absorbed.

Ask Your Vet

Like a lot of so-called superfoods, coconut oil can be a somewhat controversial subject. Experts and armchair veterinarians alike have logged on to publish a wealth of conflicting information. Some say coconut oil can work full-body miracles for both dogs and their owners. Others, however, hesitate to recommend it for anything besides topical uses. When in doubt, consult your vet. They’ll help you navigate through the noise and make an informed pet health decision.