Coconut oil, which was popular about 15 years ago, is making headlines again for it’s many health benefits in humans…but, what about our pets? There is not much, if any, research documenting the benefits of coconut oil in dogs or cats, but clinical improvement has been seen in dogs with the following conditions:
- Skin Allergies
- Digestive Problems
- Cognitive Disorders
Coconut oil may be used for other conditions as well, but the experience and research just isn’t out there yet.
So, how does it work? There is one basic theory that explains the health benefits in dogs. Coconut oil contains a fatty-acid called lauric acid which is converted to monolaurin in the body. Monolaurin is antibacterial and antiviral. It may have antifungal and antiinflammatory properties, too. Since dogs with skin allergies often have bacterial and/or fungal infections of their skin in addition to the inflammation, these properties of coconut oil explain why dogs with allergies often improve on coconut oil.
What about cats? There is not much research or clinical experience out there yet for the use of coconut oil in cats. The benefits and mechanism of action are likely the same as it is in dogs, but please remember that cats are not just small dogs or humans. Their bodies metabolize medications differently than dogs and humans do. Some drugs that are safe for us or for dogs are highly toxic to cats. However, coconut oil is often used to improve skin health in cats.
BEWARE…the use of coconut oil in our pets does carry risks. “Natural” does not always mean “safe” for our pets. Coconut oil, just like any other medication, should be used under the supervision of your veterinarian. Consult with your veterinarian before using coconut oil, especially for pets that are prone to inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), hyperlipidemia, or for pets that are overweight.
Coconut oil is administered orally or topically in our pets. One study showed that processed coconut oil may not be as beneficial as raw, or virgin, coconut oil. Choose organic, unprocessed coconut oil when possible. When applying the coconut oil topically, rub a small amount into your hands. Then gently pat your pet’s haircoat and rub it in. Try to keep your pet from licking it off for at least an hour. Many pets may lick excessively in the area that you apply the coconut oil, so it is important to supervise your pet closely after applying. Coconut oil can also be given orally. Your veterinarian can help you determine the dose which is determined by your pet’s body weight. Start off with a very small amount (1/8 teaspoon) at first so that you know how your pet will react to it and to monitor for any digestive upsets.
Coconut oil can benefit many of our pets. Experience and research is showing that it may help many of the ailments that our dogs and cats suffer from.