Move over, olive oil—coconut oil is taking over more shelf space at the grocery store! This oil is surging in popularity in humans and animals alike because of its numerous cat nutrition and dog nutrition benefits.
“Coconut oil is a great source of healthy fats,” says Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, and consulting veterinarian for Big Barker. According to Dr. Wooten, this trendy ingredient may help your pet with everything from dry, itchy skin to digestion.
The Coconut Oil Difference
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids and saturated fat, which are key components to pet nutrition and can increase metabolism, boost good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, and provide a healthy source of energy. Coconut oil also has antimicrobial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, which means coconut oil may actually stop the spread of bacteria and viruses and limit the reproduction of yeast.
Coconut oil contains numerous antioxidants, which fight harmful free radicals in your pet’s body. Benefits of coconut oil may also include faster wound healing and immune system support.
Coconut oil uses include alleviating digestive disorders, and it has been shown to help absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and improve healthy gut flora. In both human and animal studies, medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil have been shown to reduce gut inflammation.
Topical Application of Coconut Oil
As it is rich in vitamin E, “Coconut oil may address dry, itching skin,” says Dr. Wooten. One of the most popular coconut oil uses is topical application for skin conditions, such cracked paws, dandruff and “hot spots.”
From a practical standpoint, Dr. Wooten doesn’t typically recommend topical application of coconut oil, as she warns that most animals will track the oil onto your floors and furniture or simply lick off the coconut oil—“after all, coconut oil tastes good!” she says.
Coconut Oil for Pet Nutrition
It may be more effective (and less messy!) to have your pet directly consume coconut oil. Choose an organic, cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil. It’s important to start small, giving small dogs or cats ¼ teaspoon a day. Larger dogs can have up to 1 tablespoon. You can offer your pet the coconut oil on a spoon or mix it into their dog food or cat food.
Coconut oil is extremely calorie-dense (about 120 calories per tablespoon), so it’s important that you use coconut oil sparingly to avoid weight gain in your pup.
One way to ensure you don’t overdo it is to use commercial dog food or cat food with coconut oil added in. Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Lamb & Peas Recipe is a kibble than contains wholesome ingredients such as organic lamb, organic peas, organic potatoes and organic lentils, as well as a hearty dose of coconut oil. This kibble also contains no inflammatory carbohydrates such as wheat, corn, soy or fillers.
Halo Vigor Lamb, Turkey & Salmon Recipe is a grain-free cat food that, in addition to ingredients such as lamb, turkey, salmon, eggs and sweet potatoes, contains a dose of coconut oil. The healthy fats in this kibble support skin and coat health, elevate metabolism, and enhance digestion.
Primal Chicken Formula Freeze-Dried Nuggets offer a wholesome shortcut to a raw-food diet. In addition to chicken that’s free of hormones, steroids and antibiotics, these nuggets contain organic coconut oil with nutrients that mimic the natural bacteria found in the digestive tract.
Coconut Oil Alternatives
Although rare, some animals can have allergic reactions to coconut oil. The high fat content of coconut oil can also cause diarrhea. If your pet is at risk for pancreatitis, coconut oil can do more harm than good. If coconut oil isn’t a perfect fit for your animal, there are many healthy fat alternatives, including fish oil, like salmon, anchovy and krill (which also contain omega-3s).
If you are interested in the beneficial properties of coconut oil for your pet’s nutrition, ask your veterinarian if coconut oil would be a useful and safe supplement for your pet.