Coconut oil is understood to have various beneficial uses for dogs.
It may have some positive effects on a dog’s overall health, such as boosting fat loss, heart health, and brain function because of its unique fatty acid profile. Some say it can also aid in digestion.
So can coconut oil be used to help treat constipation in dogs?
Dogs are a lot like their human counterparts. While we share many traits, we sometimes can share the same health problems.
One of these common yet frustrating problems for dogs is constipation. This can occur when your pet has issues with their bowel movements.
Having coconut oil in your dog’s food may help. This article explores how we can use coconut oil to improve our dog’s digestion.
First, let’s take a look at its causes.
Constipation: Why It Happens
Dogs are a lot like us. Sometimes they eat what they’re not supposed to, which can lead to various digestion problems.
Constipation occurs when your pet has issues passing digested or semi-digested food. More commonly, constipation stems from a lack of fiber, or an overconsumption of binding foods (such as white rice or bananas) and other potassium rich foods.
In other cases, undigestible items like bone matter in cheaper dog food can end up causing blockages, or at least slow down a dog’s digestive system. Substances such as “chicken meal” or “beef meal” listed on dog food labels contains bone matter, which can bring your dog’s digestive system to a halt over time.
Another possible cause of constipation in dogs is stress. A dog in a high-stress environment may not efficiently digest all of its food, and might refrain from going to the bathroom altogether.
This can cause a larger percentage of the food intake to be expelled as waste. The excess of under-digested food can cause a blockage in a dog's intestines, which causes constipation.
When this happens, a dog’s bowel movements might be sparse, or even absent. If your dog is having difficulties with regularity or is passing infrequent hard stools, then this may indicate they are suffering from constipation.
A dog with a healthy digestive system should “go to the bathroom” a couple of times per day. If a dog isn’t having regular bowel movements, it can cause tremendous physical distress in a dog, and is a sign that something is wrong.
Some signs of constipation in dogs include:
- Loss of energy
- No appetite
- Prolonged time going to the bathroom
If these symptoms are noticed, they must be treated right away. But how can we fix this?
Coconut Oil: A Digestive Aid
Coconut oil has various uses, and one of them is aiding in digestion. This is because coconut oil may have a unique and beneficial effect on our dog’s gut microbiome, thereby easing their constipation.
There are many different microorganisms that live inside our dog’s intestines, such as bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms interact with each other and with our dog’s intestinal lining.
When a dog eats something out of the ordinary, the nerves in the intestinal walls can become inflamed when these microorganisms react with one another and multiply.
This can disrupt proper nutrient absorption and cause digestive stressors. Some of these symptoms in your dog may include:
- Bloated Stomach
So how can coconut oil help dogs with constipation?
There are a couple of reasons coconut oil in your dog’s food may help treat and alleviate these symptoms.
Some anecdotal evidence points to coconut oil lubricating the intestine, preventing constipation. While there are no well-known scientific studies done on this, it is said that increasing coconut oil intake has been known to help loosen impacted stool.
Some studies have shown that coconut oil may aid in digestion by killing off the harmful overabundance of certain types of bacteria and fungi[*].
Coconut oil as a whole may act as an anti-bacterial and anti-microbial, and a main reason for this is its high medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) content. Coconut oil happens to be the largest natural source of MCTs in the world.
Some medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil and their properties are:
- 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
According to another study by the National Institutes of Health, the fatty acids in coconut oil have been shown to have a disruptive effect on harmful bacteria[*]. Coconut oil’s anti-microbial properties activate once the MCT’s are converted into free fatty acids in the digestive tract.
This can help stop harmful bacteria and fungi, helping dogs maintain a healthy gut microbiome that promotes normal digestion.
Coconut Oil: The Anti-Inflammatory
The healthy fats contained in coconut oil have been documented to have an anti-inflammatory effect, as well.
When a dog eats something inflammatory, it can inflame the intestinal wall. The unfortunate reality is that sometimes our dogs will eat things that are indigestible, such as hair and bones, leading to constipation and inflammation.
These objects are difficult for the digestive system to pass because they are not digestible by nature.
Coconut oil may help ease the inflammation. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, coconut oil has been shown to enhance the anti-inflammatory properties of cells[*].
This property of coconut oil may help reduce bloating when a dog is constipated.
Can Coconut Oil Treat Dogs with Constipation?
Because of coconut oil’s smoothing of the digestive tract, and its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, coconut oil is considered beneficial for dogs with constipation.
If your dog has constipation, achieving optimal gut health in your dog may be possible by including coconut oil in their diet. Here is a dog food with coconut oil that we recommend.
You should always consult with a veterinarian if you believe your has digestive pain. However, the scientific research to date positively indicates coconut oil may ease and prevent constipation in dogs.