There is an ongoing discussion in the dog food community about coconut oil and its potential benefits for dogs. While some say you should add coconut oil and MCTs to your dog’s diet, others say you shouldn’t do it. This article looks at the research that’s been done with this ingredient on dogs to settle the issue once and for all — with science.
But before we dive into benefits of this powerful superfood, it’s helpful to understand what coconut oil actually is more deeply.
Coconut Oil Properties
First, let’s delve into the scientific properties of coconut oil. Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of coconuts and consists of at least 90% saturated fats, most of which are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs).
There's a reason MCTs are used to treat epilepsy or support a low carb homemade diabetic dog food diet.
MCTs make up more than 50% of the fat in coconut oil, and they are more easily digested by dogs than longer-chain fatty acids found in many other foods. This means MCTs provide energy to your dog more quickly.
Coconut oil contains four types of MCTs:
- Caproic acid (C6) : ~1% of coconut oil
- Caprylic acid (C8): ~7% of coconut oil; anti-fungal
- Capric acid (C10): ~7% of coconut oil; anti-fungal
- Lauric acid (C12): ~49% of coconut oil; antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral
Aside from MCTs, coconut oil also contains numerous other polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, which science suggests can enhance our dogs’ daily lives.
Now that you know the basics, let’s continue to delve into the 5 science-based benefits of coconut oil for dogs.
#1: Coconut Oil Improves Dental Health
Award winning doggie smile, fresh doggie breath, less plaque, and less gingivitis… What is the common denominator between all of these benefits? The answer is simple: coconut oil.
Remember that wonderful long word Medium Chain Triglycerides? Well, studies show its antibacterial properties can help reduce gingivitis in dogs[*].
According to the National Institutes of Health, coconut oil may be effective in decreasing plaque formation and plaque-induced gingivitis. That’s because the lauric acid in coconut oil kills the bacteria that causes tooth decay and bad breath in your dog’s mouth.
Feeding your dog coconut oil could be a treatment and preventative measure in keeping your dog’s mouth happy and healthy.
#2: Coconut Oil Improves Dogs’ Metabolism
A study by the NIH found that dogs whose diets were supplemented with MCTs had increased mitochondrial function as well as improved energy metabolism[*].
Metabolism plays a critical role in aging and longevity. That is to say, higher metabolism has a positive correlation with your dog living longer.
Scientists believe the enhanced mitochondrial function they observed in dogs may have been due to a decrease in oxidative damage. This means MCTs in coconut oil may have actually prevented cells from being destroyed by free radicals, which are molecules that tear cells apart and contribute to aging.
The benefits of coconut oil for dogs seem to only improve as they age.
#3: Coconut Oil May Enhance Your Dog’s Intelligence
According to another study by the National Institutes of Health, aging dogs who had their diets supplemented with MCTs for over 8 months experienced “significantly improved” cognition[*].
What was the reason for this surprising outcome? One word: ketones.
The results of this study showed that long-term daily dosages of MCT can improve cognition in dogs due to the increase in circulating ketones in dogs’ brains.
Ketones are created when fats break down in the body, and they play a role in brain health across many species. When the MCTs in coconut oil are converted into ketones, they can be used by the brain as an alternative fuel. It’s like your dog is running on two types of energy.
This study’s results proved that dogs can experience higher brain function by eating coconut oil.
#4: Coconut Oil Can Slow Aging in Dogs
Could coconut oil keep your dog biologically younger? The evidence on this is clear and positive.
In another study by the National Institutes of Health, healthy dogs who had their diets supplemented with MCTs for 6+ months showed signs of reduced aging[*]. This result was displayed across several biomarkers that were tested.
Why did this happen? As dogs age, they tend to lose anti-inflammatory fatty acids normally available in their bloodstream. When that happens, inflammation can rise, and it’s a primary cause of cell death and organ dysfunction in many diseases.
Adding anti-inflammatory compounds like MCTs[*] to a dog’s diet while this process is happening helps offset their natural loss of anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Adding coconut oil to a dog’s diet provides MCTs that may slow their biological aging process.
#5: Coconut Oil Can Reduce Seizures in Dogs with Epilepsy
Having a pet with epilepsy is heartbreaking to watch, even for the strongest of people. If this describes your situation, coconut oil may be to help ease your dog’s seizures.
In another NIH study, dogs with epilepsy were fed coconut oil daily with their food, for a three month period, and the results were astonishing[*].
The dogs they studied had fewer seizures, and two of the dogs became seizure-free. These are some pretty spectacular results.
Although scientists are still researching the exact reason why ketone production reduces seizures, these results have been repeated across many studies[*][*]. It is believed that epileptic dogs benefit from the alternative energy pathways used by ketones that circumvent malfunctioning behavior of glucose energy pathways.
Is Coconut Oil Safe for My Dog?
Yes. Despite debate around this topic, coconut oil’s safety for dogs has been overwhelmingly proven with science. While some common foods like chocolate and onions can be harmful to dogs, coconut oil for dogs is 100% safe and healthy.
In a recent study, scientists fed dogs coconut oil in increments of 5% to 15% of their daily food intake over a 90-day period. When the study concluded, a biomarker called “animal viability” was tested and showed a result of 100%[*]. Coconut oil was proven to be safe even when eaten in high quantities over extended periods.
Coconut Oil: A Superfood That Supports Dogs Long Term
These are just a handful of studies that have been conducted regarding the benefits of coconut oil for dogs. The results are clear. Dogs might be natural carnivores, but supplementing their diet with coconut oil has proven, positive effects.
One way to make sure your dog gets enough MCTs is to look for dog food that contains coconut oil. Here’s a dog food with coconut oil we highly recommend.
The bottom line is that coconut oil can help dogs maintain cleaner teeth, reduce epilepsy, slow aging, experience higher brain function, and increase their longevity.