Coconut Oil - Cure or Croc?

Posted by Dr Claire Jenkins on Oct 4, 2016 10:05:31 AM
Dr Claire Jenkins

So what do we know about coconut oil?

It’s a source of fat that is rich in medium chain fatty acids. It’s well known to have properties that are:

  1. anti-inflammatory
  2. antibacterial
  3. antiviral, and
  4. antifungal

What do we know about coconut oil use in cats and dogs?

Unfortunately, we actually know very little.
Use by Veterinarians tends to be anecdotal and based on our own or others personal experience. It can be applied topically to the skin and it can be given orally in food but there is no known effective dosage amount. Generally the doses used are small and certainly not by the tablespoon, it’s commonly about 1/8th of a teaspoon daily for a small dog and up to 1 teaspoon or a little more daily for a large breed dog.

Potential uses

  1. Dry Skin- it is moisturising, it can be sparsely used topically on dry skin or a dry nose.
  2. Itchy Skin - it’s claimed it can help with itch and allergies, and even reduce incidence of secondary infections (thanks to the antibacterial and anti fungal properties).
  3. Minor Skin Infections- it may speed healing when used topically on very minor skin infections.
  4. Arthritis - possibly, but we know that other oils- such as Fish Oils, are a much better choice for this.
  5. Brain Health - it’s medium chain fatty acids are great food for the brain (and a good alternative to glucose as fuel when the brain may not be able to utilise glucose as well), so it can be used as part of an overall management plan for Cognitive Dysfunction (CD) in dogs. CD includes many behavioural changes secondary to abnormal brain function in senior dogs, it can only be diagnosed after your veterinarian has ruled out other conditions that can cause these signs.
  6. Intestinal Disease- it may be easily absorbed and healing for the gut lining, however see below as it can also cause diarrhoea.

Potential problems

These are mostly due to the fact that there’s a lot of fat in coconut oil! Around 14g in 1 tablespoon.

  1. Diarrhoea- especially if large amounts given.
  2. Pancreatitis- we know that pancreatitis can be triggered by a high fatty intake (amongst others), so this a possible sequelae.
  3. Weight Gain.
  4. Food Aversion in Cats- generally speaking, cats don’t like the taste of it, so when it’s mixed in their food they may avoid the food all together, which can result in weight loss.

My thoughts?

I do think that this food fad is definitely not the panacea, but just because it doesn’t cure-all doesn’t mean it isn’t good for some things! This could be good for certain conditions in dogs, provided the potential benefits outweighed the potential problems for that individual. I wouldn’t be giving this to cats because of the potential food aversion as they dislike it's taste. Veterinary advice absolutely be should be sought first before deciding on supplementation with coconut oil for your best mate.

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Topics: coconut oil, Diet, Health