Is Coconut Oil Safe for Dogs? Does Research Say Stay Away?

Is Coconut Oil Safe for Dogs? Does Research Say Stay Away?

Is coconut oil good for dogs? If you’ve been tempted to give your dog coconut oil, but have heard conflicting information online about whether or not it's safe for dogs, this is a must read!

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Is coconut oil good for dogs? If you’ve been tempted to give your dog coconut oil for dogs itchy skin, dog yeast infections, canine cognitive dysfunction, or even cancer, but you’ve heard conflicting information online about whether or not coconut oil is safe for dogs, read on!

Coconut oil has long been a controversial fat, not only for pets, but for humans as well. Just do an online search on coconut oil safe for dogs, or coconut oil for dogs, and you’ll get a slew of contradictory information.

So, before you say no to coconut oil for dogs, or worry is coconut oil safe for dogs, let’s take a look at 11 of the most common myths or misconceptions about virgin coconut oil for dogs and look at what science says about coconut oil.

Is Coconut Oil Safe for Dogs? | Coconut Oil for Dogs

MYTH #1: Coconut Oil is bad for your dogs (and you), because it’s a saturated fat.

The problem with this statement is that it assumes that all saturated fats are the same. Scientific research now shows that the kind of saturated fat in coconut oil differs markedly from both dairy saturated fatty acids and beef saturated fatty acids, both of which are long chain fatty acids. However, coconut oil is mostly comprised of unique fats called medium chain fatty acids.

Saturated fats are divided into various types that are based on the number of carbon atoms in the molecule. Depending on length, they differ distinctly in their metabolism, absorption, and effects on lipid profiles.

Although coconut oil is primarily comprised of saturated fat, the saturated fatty acids (SFAs) in coconut oil are drastically different from other dietary sources of SFA. The medium-chain fatty acids like Lauric Acid are absorbed and metabolized very differently from long-chain fatty acids found in animal fat. Again, all saturated fats are not created equal.

That being said, veterinarians agree that dogs and cats are able to consume saturated fats in their diets without undue risk of coronary artery diseases and other lipid diseases that affect humans.

In contrast to humans, dogs and cats are physiologically resistant to the development of hypercholesterolemia, high triglyceride, or high blood pressure.

In his study, “Facilitative and Functional Fats in Diets of Cats and Dogs”, Dr. John Bauer, DVM explains it well:

"Although the concept of good and bad fats is appropriate for human health, dogs and cats are able to consume both types of fats in their diets without undue risk of coronary artery diseases, heart attacks, or strokes to which humans succumb. The simplified reason for this is that they have more good cholesterol (HDL) than bad cholesterol (LDL) to begin with, no matter what types of fat they consume. Second, in contrast to humans, dogs and cats typically are resistant to the development of hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis, even when they consume amounts of dietary fat that would typically turn human blood into sludge.

The fact that good cholesterol concentrations are higher than the concentrations of bad cholesterol is part of the mechanism that protects them from cardiac diseases that may affect humans. In addition, although saturated fats (and possibly trans fats) may cause modest increases in blood cholesterol concentrations in dogs, these dietary components do not appear to impart any increased risk of arterial diseases in dogs, which is in contrast to their effects in humans.

Thus, it is not advantageous to classify the various types of fats as good or bad in dogs or cats, although definitive data for cats (other than the fact that cats have high HDL cholesterol concentrations) have not been obtained. In view of these metabolic differences, it is proposed that the types of dietary fats for dogs and cats should be classified as functional or facilitative, rather than good or bad, respectively."

Facilitative and Functional Fats in Diets of Cats and Dogs” - Dr. John Bauer, DVM, PhD, DACVN.

MYTH #2: Lauric acid is not a medium-chain fatty acid, nor does it act like a MCFA when metabolized by the body.

If you search online about lauric acid, the predominant MCFA in coconut oil, you may find articles that state that lauric acid isn’t really a MCFA, but is a long chain fatty acid instead. They argue that lauric acid follows the same metabolic pathways as the long chain fats in animal saturated fats, and thus need pancreatic lipase, bile acids, and chylomicron transportation directly into the blood stream. Because of this, they claim lauric acid may increase blood lipid levels (causing hyperlipidemia) or harm dogs with pancreatitis.

The truth is, lauric acid (also known as dodecanoic acid) is a saturated fat with a 12-carbon atom chain. Lipids classified as a MCFA, has many properties of medium-chain fatty acids and the body metabolizes lauric acid as a MCFA. The most abundant natural source of lauric acid is virgin coconut oil (which has an average of 50% lauric acid). The only other abundant source found in nature is human breast milk.

A 2014 study published in the Philippine Journal of Science sheds further light on the unique properties of lauric acid. According to lead researcher Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit,

"Based on biochemical and nutritional evidences, lauric acid (C12) has distinctive properties that are not shared with longer-chain saturated fatty acids: myristic acid (C14), palmitic acid (C16), and stearic acid (C18)." The study goes on to explain that, "lauric acid makes up approximately half of the fatty acids in coconut oil; likewise, medium-chain triglycerides which contain lauric acid account for approximately half of all triacylglycerides in coconut oil."

For these reasons, Dr. Dayrit concludes that coconut oil should be classified as a medium-chain vegetable oil. He also points out that there is no link between lauric acid and high cholesterol.

The American Oil Chemist Society and chemistry databases (ChEBI, PubChem, ChemSpider) all classify lauric acid as a MCFA, based not only on its chemical structure, but how it is predominately metabolized by the body as well. Read more and see studies that explain why lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA).

MYTH #3: Coconut oil is inflammatory, can cause leaky gut in dogs, or can cause metabolic endotoxemia.

Another misconception is that coconut oil is inflammatory and is not good for dogs, causing inflammation. Several online articles about coconut oil for dogs question whether or not coconut oil safe for dogs, and claim that it’s best to “just say no” to coconut oil.

However, there are many scientific studies on coconut oil and inflammation that prove otherwise. Unlike polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils, such as corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower oils), the saturated fats in coconut oil do not have any missing hydrogen atoms or double-bonded carbons. This means coconut oil is not vulnerable to oxidation and free-radical formation, making coconut oil an effective anti-inflammatory fat, protecting the body from oxidative stress from free-radicals.

Studies show that virgin coconut oil has natural anti-inflammatory properties that help heal injuries in the digestive tract and prevent chronic inflammation. Coconut oil is especially effective at healing injuries in the mucosal lining of your pet's intestine that can lead to leaky gut syndrome. In her article on leaky gut in dogs, Julie Ann Lee, DCH RCSHom, recommends giving coconut oil to dogs to supply beneficial medium chain fatty acids. And as we know, MCFA are easier to digest than fish oils without the risk of rancidity.

Coconut oil's antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties also promote healthy digestion, and the medium-chain fatty acids in the oil prevent undue strain on the digestive tract. Furthermore, coconut oil does not cause metabolic endotoxemia (a condition where high levels of endotoxins circulate in the blood). On the contrary, coconut oil has been shown to kill gram-negative bacteria in the gut and favor beneficial gut bacteria, supporting gastrointestinal health.

The bottom line is, benefits of coconut oil for dogs is well-known as coconut oil is a unique medium chain saturated fat. Many holistic veterinarians know that coconut oil is a valuable fat for supporting animals who have lipid disorders or can’t digest fats.

When supplementing your pet's diet with coconut oil for dogs, make sure to choose a high-quality oil such as CocoTherapy Virgin Coconut Oil, which contains high levels of MCFAs such as lauric acid – the healthy fats that promote digestive health.

Myth #4: The benefits of coconut oil are overhyped; it doesn't really help with canine health.

Many believe the benefits of coconut oil for dogs are exaggerated and question its efficacy in promoting canine health. However, scientific studies and recommendations from holistic veterinarians suggest otherwise. Coconut oil has been identified for its multiple health benefits for dogs, including enhancing brain and cognitive function, supporting digestive health, and bolstering the immune system.

These findings are based on research and clinical observations that illustrate coconut oil's positive effects on a dog's well-being. For instance, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are known to aid in managing cognitive dysfunction in dogs.

This provides a direct pathway for enhancing brain function and cognitive health in aging pets. Furthermore, its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties help support the digestive system and combat yeast infections. Including coconut oil in a dog's diet can contribute significantly to their overall health, debunking the myth that its benefits are overstated.

Myth #5: Coconut oil can be harmful to dogs with specific health conditions like pancreatitis or liver disease.

Some people worry that giving coconut oil to dogs with pancreatitis or liver disease might make their condition worse. However, when used correctly and under veterinary guidance, coconut oil can support liver health and benefit dogs with these conditions.

Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the liver can easily process. This means it can provide a quick energy source for dogs with liver disease without putting extra strain on their liver.

For dogs with pancreatitis, the fact that coconut oil is easily digestible makes it an excellent dietary addition. It can help to reduce the workload on the pancreas by providing a more efficient energy source.

Myth #6: There's no real evidence that coconut oil helps dogs' skin and coat.

Coconut oil does more than just make a dog's coat look good. Studies show that coconut oil can significantly improve skin health in dogs. It fights against skin allergies and reduces itchy, dry skin. Dogs suffering from hotspots or flea allergies also see relief after coconut oil is applied to their skin.

This is because coconut oil has natural anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the skin. Plus, when added to a dog's diet, it can enhance the shine and softness of their coat from the inside out.

So, don't listen to those who say coconut oil has no real benefits for a dog's skin and coat - the evidence speaks for itself. Give your furry friend some coconut oil for dogs and watch their coat become healthier and more lustrous.

Myth #7: Coconut oil is not suitable for senior dogs.

Many people mistakenly believe that coconut oil is not a good choice for senior dogs. They think that older dogs might not digest it well or that it could cause other health issues. This is not true. Coconut oil can be a helpful part of a senior dog's diet. It's packed with nutrients that support their health as they age.

Coconut oil supports cognitive function in older dogs. This helps to keep their minds sharp and alert. Additionally, the anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil can help ease joint pain and provide senior support.

Plus, coconut oil is easy to digest, making it a safe choice for older dogs who may have trouble with digestion.

Myth #8: Dogs on a ketogenic diet shouldn't consume coconut oil due to its fat content.

Putting dogs on a ketogenic diet is becoming popular among pet owners looking for an alternative to traditional dog food. A ketogenic diet is high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. This diet can help dogs lose weight, manage diabetes, or improve brain function.

However, some people believe that coconut oil's high-fat content makes it unsuitable for dogs on this type of diet. This myth should be debunked because coconut oil is an essential component of a ketogenic diet for dogs, providing necessary fats to maintain energy levels and prevent spikes in blood sugar.

Coconut oil is a natural source of MCTs, which are easily converted into fuel for the body. This makes it an ideal choice for dogs on a keto diet because it provides the necessary energy while stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Myth #9: Coconut oil will worsen acid reflux and digestive issues in dogs.

Acid reflux is common among dogs that can cause discomfort and disrupt their digestive system. There is a misconception that feeding coconut oil to dogs with acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or colitis will make these conditions worse. However, the opposite is true.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the GI tract and alleviate symptoms of these digestive issues. It also helps to balance gut bacteria, promoting a healthy digestive system for dogs.

Myth #10: Coconut oil does nothing for dogs suffering from lethargy or lack of appetite.

The idea that coconut oil for dogs does not address issues like lethargy or poor appetite is unfounded. In reality, coconut oil can be a game-changer for dogs facing these challenges. Its rich nutrient profile not only boosts energy levels but also stimulates appetite.

Adding coconut oil to a dog's diet can make a noticeable difference in their vitality and eagerness to eat. This is because the body efficiently metabolizes the MCTs in coconut oil, leading to a natural increase in energy levels.

Myth #11: Coconut oil causes hairballs in dogs.

Contrary to the myth, coconut oil plays a positive role in preventing dog hairballs. Because it improves the health and shine of a dog's coat, regularly including coconut oil in a dog's diet can reduce shedding and make grooming more effective. Fewer loose hairs mean fewer chances for hairballs to form.

Coconut oil for dogs also aids in the digestive process, helping ingested hair pass through the digestive system more smoothly. This reduces the likelihood of hairballs becoming a problem for dogs, especially those with longer fur.