According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut (cocos nucifera) oil has been used in humans to treat everything from abscesses, asthma, baldness, bronchitis, bruises, burns, colds, constipation, cough, dropsy, dysentery, earache, fever, flu, gingivitis, gonorrhea, irregular or painful menstruation, jaundice, kidney stones, lice, malnutrition, nausea, rash, scabies, scurvy, skin infections, sore throat, swelling, syphilis, toothache, tuberculosis, tumors, typhoid, ulcers, upset stomach, weakness and wounds. Often nutritional substances that offer health benefits to humans will offer similar health benefits to pets.
Coconut oil is reported to be:
- Anti-bacterial – Can help kill harmful bacteria that can cause numerous health problems ranging from gum disease to stomach ulcers.
- Anti-viral – Can help kill harmful viruses that can cause bladder infections, influenza, hepatitis, measles and other viruses.
- Anti-fungal – Can help eliminate ringworm, athlete’s foot, diaper rash, candidiasis and yeast infections.
- Anti-parasitic – Can help kill tapeworms, lice, giardia and other parasites.
Coconut oil is reported to increase immunity and help fight off many illnesses ranging from cancer to dental cavities. It may provide relief from kidney problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and osteoporosis.
Coconut oil for weight loss
Lower in calories than other saturated fats, coconut oil also helps promote healthy weight by increasing energy, promoting healthy thyroid function and metabolic rate. In Asian Pacific countries where large amounts of coconut oil are consumed, the population is typically very lean and enjoys a high metabolic rate.
Different types of fatty acids are metabolized in the body differently. There are long chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids and short chain fatty acids. Coconut oil is made of mostly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). The MCFAs in coconut oil are what cause it to have so many health benefits. Among other differences, MCFAs are more prone to create energy instead of turning to fat when metabolized, which may make them helpful toward accomplishing weight loss. Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, a rare medium-chain fatty acid found in human breast milk. It makes up about 50% of coconut oil. Lauric acid supports healthy metabolism.
Coconut oil for heart disease and diabetes
Coconut oil is believed to help promote healthy arteries, prevent heart disease and control diabetes by supporting the pancreas and improving insulin secretion and glucose tolerance. It helps fight against osteoporosis by improving calcium and magnesium absorption, which are crucial to healthy bones and teeth. Coconut oil is beneficial to proper digestion by increasing absorption of valuable nutrients and helps with digestive disorders such as colitis and stomach ulcers.
Taken internally, coconut oil may help promote healthy bones and joints, a healthy metabolism and weight, healthy thyroid function and support against fungi, viruses, bacteria and parasites in dogs, cats and other animals. Coconut oil will also promote healthy skin and a beautiful, lush coat.
Start slow and increase gradually
Giving coconut to your pet is an excellent health decision and can improve your pet’s quality of life, but there is a right way and wrong way to start supplementing your dog or cat’s diet with coconut oil.
When beginning to supplement your pet’s diet, start slow and increase gradually. Giving too much coconut oil too soon can cause digestive and detox issues.
Because coconut oil kills bacteria, viruses, parasites, yeasts and fungi, your pet may respond negatively to the detox aspect of taking coconut oil. Signs of detoxing too rapidly may include lethargy, headaches, flu-like symptoms, fatigue and diarrhea.
Large amounts of coconut oil given to a dog can cause diarrhea or greasy stools while his body adjusts to the change in diet. Start with small amounts, such as ¼ teaspoon per day for small dogs or puppies and 1 teaspoon for large dogs, or even just a dab if your dog’s constitution is sensitive. If your dog seems tired or uncomfortable or has diarrhea, just cut back the amount temporarily. Gradually increase the amount every few days. It may also be helpful to give small amounts of coconut oil in divided doses throughout the day.
Coconut oil is best given with food. Solid or liquid coconut oil can be added to food at any meal. Solid coconut oil can easily be melted quickly in hot water.
A general guideline for the optimal dose for dogs is about 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight daily or about 1 tablespoon per 30 pounds, but don’t start with these amounts in the beginning! Most dogs like the taste of coconut oil so you won’t have trouble feeding it to them.
Most cats also love the taste of coconut oil and will eat it without a problem. As with many similar supplements, if your cat won’t eat it in her food, just put a dab of coconut oil on her paw before or after meals. She’ll lick it off and get it that way. If you cook your own pet food, coconut oil would be an excellent addition to the recipe.
Different brands of coconut oil will have different tastes ranging from a bland taste, to a strong coconut taste, to a more buttery taste. You can experiment with the oil your pet finds most pleasing.
Coconut oil for pet skin problems
If you apply coconut oil topically to treat a rash, wound or dry skin, but your pet tries to lick it off, try wrapping the skin in a rag or towel for a few minutes to let the oil soak in before they get a chance to lick it off.
Resources and recommended reading: coconut-info.com; mercola.com; coconutoil.com; The Coconut Oil Miracle, by Bruce Fife, ND; Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconut, by Bruce Fife, ND; and Crazy About Coconut Oil by CJ Puotinen.