As with many health foods and supplements, there's a lot of misinformation about coconut oil. This means that it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction.
In today's post, we'd like to clear up some of the confusion surrounding coconut oil and pets. In particular, we hope this post will be useful for pet owners who are concerned about feeding coconut oil to pets with certain health conditions. Keep reading for our top 3 myths about coconut oil and pets.
Myth # 1: Coconut oil may cause fatty liver disease in cats
Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) is a condition which is characterized by a buildup of fat in the liver. This happens when a cat, who is typically over-weight, loses weight rapidly because it has suddenly stopped eating.
When a cat stops eating, several things happen in its body. First, the body turns to reserves of fat for energy. Fat is then transported to the liver and needs bile to be broken down. Only then can it be used as energy. Unfortunately, when cats go without food, their liver cannot metabolize fat efficiently. This is what causes the liver to become "fatty". The rapid buildup of fat cells in the liver prevents it from functioning normally.
Now for the good news. Coconut oil is quickly and easily metabolized for energy because it doesn't need liver bile acids to be digested. When fed to cats that are not eating or anorexic, coconut oil provides a ready source of energy and prevents the body from turning to its reserves of fat. This means that far from causing fatty liver disease, coconut oil is actually very beneficial for cats that are in danger of developing the condition.
The following quote is from Dr. Daniel Watson, DVM., a Feline Specialist at College Station Cat Clinic in Wheaton, Illinois:
"Being carnivores, cats have an innate ability to digest proteins and fats. Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) may occur when a cat suddenly stops eating over a period of time. When the cat becomes undernourished, the body automatically moves fat from its reserves to the liver to be converted to energy. When the cat is in starvation mode, the liver is not efficient in processing fat, and much of the fat is stored in the liver cells, resulting in a fatty and low-functioning liver.
Simply giving a cat coconut oil, an MCT fat, will not give a cat a fatty liver. MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) do not need bile to be metabolized, and can be given to animals with biliary disease, which will provide a ready source of lipid energy."
If you'd like to read more about coconut oil and cats, please check out our previous post, Is Coconut Oil Good for Cats? The post contains a useful case study about CocoTherapy co-founder Charisa's experience feeding coconut oil to her Ragdoll cat, Montecore. Charisa found that coconut oil was a useful source of energy for Montecore when his appetite decreased in his senior years.
Myth # 2: Coconut oil is bad for animals with pancreatitis, or may cause pancreatitis in animals
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas – a gland located next to the stomach. The pancreas produces enzymes that aid the digestive process. When it becomes inflamed, digestive enzymes can leak into the abdominal area causing inflammation of internal organs, infection, and even death.
Pets with pancreatitis lack sufficient pancreatic enzymes to break down fats, and cannot absorb them efficiently. That's why most types of fats should be strictly limited in their diet. About two-thirds of the fats in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike other types of fats, MCTs do not require pancreatic enzymes for digestion. This means that coconut oil is well tolerated by pets with fat malabsorption issues.
CocoTherapy co-founder Carmina’s cat, Oliver is 16 and has chronic idiopathic pancreatitis. She feeds him a high protein, low fat diet, and coconut oil for lipid energy. Coconut oil provides calories needed for Oliver's body to produce energy. It also helps him absorb fat-soluble vitamins. This means that although Oliver needs to be on a low-fat diet, he can safely eat coconut oil because it does not need pancreatic lipase for digestion.
For more information about coconut oil and pancreatitis, please refer to Whole Dog Journal's comprehensive article, Dog Pancreatitis Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment.
Myth # 3: Coconut oil should never be given to animals with malabsorption disorders
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) do not require pancreatic enzymes for digestion. This means that they are well tolerated by pets with chronic pancreatitis, EPI, and other forms of malabsorption.
Because MCTs are efficiently converted into fuel for immediate use by the body, coconut oil can be added to the diet to replace lost calories and provide energy. The MCTs in the oil can also help your pet's body absorb essential vitamins and nutrients from food and supplements.
Protein losing enteropathy (PLE) is one example of a condition which is associated with malabsorption. The condition is characterized by excessive protein loss from the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms can include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss, and even death.
Pets with PLE are usually prescribed diets with minimal fat and a sufficient amount of high-quality protein to help treat the condition. But removal of fat from the diet can result in weight loss and malnourishment. In an article about lymphangiectasia, a disorder which can lead to PLE, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM., NMD., advocates the use of coconut oil for pets with malabsorption issues:
"I recommend patients consume medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), as these helpful fats are diffused across the GI wall with no digestion required. The natural form of MCTs I prefer for my patients is organic raw coconut oil."
CocoTherapy co-founder Charisa's pet Yorkie, Camilley suffered from lymphangiectasia which led to PLE. Coconut oil has proved very effective as an additional source of energy for Camilley, and it also soothes the mucosal lining of her gut.
It is important to remember that dogs and cats are carnivores. This means that they are biologically designed to process proteins and fats efficiently. By nature, our pets' bodies contain more good cholesterol than bad cholesterol, no matter what types of fats they eat. This protects them from conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, or coronary artery diseases.
Therapeutic-grade oil such as CocoTherapy coconut oil is a natural, saturated fat that is backed by science and has been successfully used to improve human and animal health for centuries. Saturated fat is a necessary part of the diet of pets and people, aiding many processes within the body.
Far from being a danger to health, coconut oil is actually one of the best sources of healthy saturated fat found in nature. As a rule of thumb, it is better to limit food ingredients such as grain, wheat, rice, and soy. Unlike fats, these foods can cause inflammation and do not provide any significant health benefits to animals.
We hope you enjoyed today's post and discovered more about amazing coconut oil. If you found this post useful, please share it with your friends!