Coconut oil has become an increasingly popular ingredient for dogs over the past couple of years.
This is because coconut oil has been shown to provide many benefits to dogs. In some studies, coconut oil has been used to effectively reduce seizures in epileptic dogs[*] and counterbalance the effects of aging in older dogs[*].
With all of these benefits and different applications, of course we would want our dogs to take advantage of it. But is coconut oil safe for our dogs?
This science-backed article puts to rest the debate on whether or not coconut oil is safe for dogs
Coconut Oil: What's Inside of It?
Coconut oil is made up of almost 100% “good” fats. These fats are considered good because they pose no adverse effects on your dog's body and have various beneficial characteristics such as anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Some of these good fats are known as MCTs, or medium-chain triglycerides. Medium chain triglycerides differ from other fats because they have a lower carbon count than long-chain triglycerides (LCTs).
What does this mean for your dog? Well, a longer carbon count in a fatty acid means that it is more likely to be stored by the body as fat cells or adipose tissue rather than immediately utilized as energy[*].
This instant conversion into energy occurs because the smaller carbon chain of MCTs are processed differently in your dog's body. A medium chain triglyceride’s carbon chain doesn’t require enzymes or bile acids to be digested and absorbed like long chain triglycerides do[*].
This doesn’t necessarily mean that long-chain triglycerides are the enemy.
For instance, long-chain triglycerides such as the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA contained in fish oil and algae have been shown to be anti-inflammatory[*].
On the other hand, long-chain triglycerides such as the omega-6 arachidonic acid—found in soybean oil, corn and hydrogenated oil—has been shown to be inflammatory even in moderate doses[*].
Even though omega-6 fatty acids are relatively harmless in small doses, feeding your dog a cheap, highly processed food containing it may bring about inflammation. For dogs with low or no exercise, consuming too many long-chain triglycerides can raise their bad cholesterol too.
Coconut oil is relatively low in omega-6. It is also one of the most abundant sources of healthy medium-chain triglycerides available. In fact, more than 60% of coconut oil is exactly that.
Here's a breakdown of the main MCTs in coconut oil and some of their well-studied properties:
- Lauric acid (C12) - 49% of coconut oil; antibacterial, anti-fungal
- Capric acid (C10) - 7% of coconut oil; efficient fuel source
- Caprylic acid (C8) - 7% of coconut oil; antibacterial, anti-fungal
Studies have shown that coconut oil reduces inflammation[*]. These studies have also shown how it can increase antioxidant levels in your dog's body.
Antioxidants play a pivotal role in slowing down the oxidation rates of cells. When cells oxidize, they become inflamed and the cell eventually dies. Coconut oil has been shown to help reverse this incident.
While these benefits are generally accepted and documented by the scientific community, is coconut oil entirely safe for dogs given that it's high in saturated fat?
What About Its Saturated Fat Content?
Conventional wisdom and myths about saturated fats would lead many people to believe that they are unhealthy for our dogs. However, this is no longer the case as newer scientific studies have proven otherwise.
Studies from the 1970s vilified not only saturated fat, but most fats in general. These early studies were flawed because they did not take into account problematic overconsumption of unhealthy foods or hydrogenated oil consumption.
These studies pointed to a correlation between fat intake, higher cholesterol and heart disease. More recent research has shown coconut oil to actually have the opposite effect.
A comparative study by the National Institutes of Health showed that medium-chain saturated fats, such as lauric acid found in coconut oil, showed reduced rates of inflammation and fat storage[*].
Another study by the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that the saturated fat in coconut oil was linked to reduced cholesterol levels[*].
Scientists have also cited biological differences between humans and dogs in how they process saturated fats. Even though dogs today have an omnivorous diet like humans, by nature they are carnivores.
According to an article published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are stark differences between how dogs and humans process fats[*].
Dogs are biologically designed to process protein and fats more efficiently than humans. By default, dogs have more good LDL cholesterol than bad HDL cholesterol, no matter what types of fat they consume.
Coconut Oil: Do Studies Say It's Safe?
We have discussed many health benefits of coconut oil backed with scientific research. However, maybe you're still wondering if it is safe in high doses.
A study was done on this by the National Institutes of Health, and it found coconut oil to be completely safe for dogs even at high daily consumption levels[*].
In this study, dogs had specific amounts of coconut oil added to their food over the course of 90 days. The dogs were monitored and physically examined throughout this period, measuring any health variance that may have occurred due to feeding changes.
The scientists continuously measured the dogs' body weight, food consumption, an array of physical biomarkers, blood chemistry, and urine.
The purpose of this study was to assess the safety of medium-chain triglycerides when fed to dogs at levels of 0%, 5%, 10%, and 15% of their diet. At the end of the study, there were no significant changes noted between groups receiving the MCT oil and regular dog food, and no safety concerns were noted at any level.
The only reported difference was a palatability issue. Some of the dogs wouldn’t eat their food when dosed at 15%.
But even at the highest dosage level, there were no signs of toxic effects observed in any of the animals, and the animal viability was reported to be 100% at the end of the study.
Coconut Oil: A Beneficial Addition to Your Dog’s Diet
The benefits of coconut oil for dogs are numerous, with numerous studies recently completed to support it.
Some of the known uses and benefits for your dog include:
- Aiding in wound healing[*]
- Kills bad mouth bacteria[*]
- Can help reduce seizures[*]
- Good source of fats for a better metabolism[*]
- Aids in digestive health[*]
- Boosts Immune system[*]
- Supports a healthy coat[*]
Coconut oil may have only recently become popular as an ingredient for canine diets, but science confirms it provides substantial long-term health benefits. Many dog owners have anecdotally noticed improved health when coconut oil was introduced to their dog’s diet, and the research in this article provides support to those claims.
If you would like to add coconut oil to your dog’s diet, you can either feed it to them directly or buy a dog food that contains it. Here is a dog food with coconut oil that we recommend.
In conclusion, research has shown coconut oil to be safe for dogs even at high doses. Coconut oil is safe and healthy for dogs, and you can include it in your dog’s diet.