Coconut - It’s Good For Dogs
by CJ Puotinen
We’re not aware of any clinical trials of coconut oil for canine maladies of any kind, but the anecdotal evidence is impressive. Reports published on Internet forums describe how overweight dogs become lean and energetic soon after coconut oil is added to their diets, or their shabby-looking coats become sleek and glossy, and dogs with arthritis or ligament problems grow stronger and more lively.
Some dogs enjoy chewing fresh coconut “meat” right out of the hard shell. Supervise your dog closely to make certain he’s eating just the coconut flesh, and not chunks of shell.
Even dogs with serious diseases have improved. In one case, a Doberman Pinscher with severe Wobblers made a dramatic recovery in less than a week after coconut oil was added to his diet. In another case, coconut oil helped a dog recover from valley fever (Coccidioides), a fungal infection transmitted by soil spores in the Southwest.
Other reports involve itchy skin, cuts, wounds, rashes, lesions, skin tags, warts, and hot spots. Dogs with flea allergies, contact dermatitis, or other allergic reactions typically stop scratching soon after coconut oil is added to their food, and dogs treated topically for bites, stings (including bee stings), ear mites, or ear infections recover more quickly.
An easy way to improve a dog’s gums and breath is to rub the teeth with coconut oil once or twice a day or simply give the dog a small amount on a spoon.
Dr. Fife has collected coconut oil stories for years, and one of his favorites, mentioned in his book Coconut Cures, is from a man whose dog developed a lump next to her eye.
“The veterinarian said it looked like a tumor,” the owner reported, “and he recommended immediate surgery. I figured that if coconut oil is good for humans, it should be good for animals as well, so I began applying it to the lump on my dog’s forehead. As time passed, the lump grew smaller and smaller and eventually disappeared. It never returned. We avoided the surgery.
“Some time later my other dog developed sores just above his upper lip. The vet gave him an antibiotic, but it didn’t seem to do any good. After a week I stopped the medication and began applying coconut oil to the sores. They got worse for a few days and then began to heal. He recovered without a problem.”
How To Use Coconut Oil
For convenient application, store coconut oil in both a glass eyedropper bottle and a small jar. During cold weather, these containers are easy to warm in hot water so that the oil quickly melts.
Use the eyedropper to apply coconut oil to ears, cuts, wounds, mouth sores, and other targeted areas, including your dog’s toothbrush.
Use the small jar to apply coconut oil to larger areas, such as cracked paw pads. Coconut oil is not fast-drying, so use a towel or tissue to remove excess oil as needed. The main challenge with coconut oil’s topical application is that most dogs love the taste and immediately lick it off. To give coconut oil a chance to disinfect wounds and speed healing, cover the wound with a towel for a few minutes, or distract the dog long enough for at least some of the oil to be absorbed.
In addition to lubricating the skin and joints, coconut oil acts as a natural preservative, is exceptionally stable, has a long shelf life, and does not require refrigeration.
Solid or liquid coconut oil can be added to food at any meal or given between meals. The optimum dose for dogs is about 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight daily, or 1 tablespoon per 30 pounds. These are general guidelines, as some dogs need less and others more.
But don’t start with these amounts. Instead, introduce coconut oil a little at a time in divided doses. Because coconut oil kills harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, yeasts, and fungi, the burden of removing dead organisms can trigger symptoms of detoxification. Headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms are common in humans who consume too much too fast, and similar symptoms can occur in dogs.
Even in healthy dogs, large amounts of coconut oil can cause diarrhea or greasy stools while the body adjusts. Start with small amounts, such as 1/4 teaspoon per day for small dogs or puppies and 1 teaspoon for large dogs. Gradually increase the amount every few days. If your dog seems tired or uncomfortable or has diarrhea, reduce the amount temporarily.
Coconut oil isn’t the only coconut product that’s good for dogs. Fresh and dried coconut are excellent sources of dietary fiber, and dogs enjoy and benefit from the same coconut flakes, coconut chips, coconut cream, coconut milk, shredded coconut, and coconut spreads used by their human companions. Just be sure the products are unsweetened and free from chemical preservatives.
Some dog lovers report that fresh coconuts, which are widely sold in supermarkets and health food stores, can keep a dog busy for hours. Choose coconuts with a hard brown shell and shake them to be sure they’re full of coconut water. If you’re not used to opening coconuts, look online for instructions. Remove the coconut water, which your dog will enjoy; then split the coconut in half or into multiple pieces with a hammer or other tool, and let your dog go to work. Chewing on the shell to get every morsel will help clean her teeth, and coconut’s nutritional benefits make this a doubly rewarding treat.CJ Puotinen, author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care and other books, is a frequent contributor to WDJ. She and her husband live in Montana with Chloe (black Lab), Seamus (Cairn Terrier), and a red tabby cat.