Coconut Oil for Dogs

Barri J. Morrison, DVM
By Barri J. Morrison, DVM on Feb. 26, 2024
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In This Article

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil has become quite the craze in recent years as a popular supplement for people, touted for a wide variety of possible benefits. Coconut oil can be consumed orally, directly placed on food, applied to the skin topically, or contained in supplement form.

But is it also OK to give coconut oil to dogs?

While in very small amounts coconut oil is not likely to cause an issue for your dog, regular use in dogs is not recommended.

Key Takeaways

  • Regular use of coconut oil in dogs is not recommended.
  • Always consult with a veterinarian before adding coconut oil to your dog’s routine.
  • While coconut oil offers potential benefits for dogs, it also poses risks such as stomach upset, pancreatitis, and allergic reactions.

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil comes from the white flesh of the coconut fruit, part of the coconut palm tree. This oil is extracted and is categorized into two types—refined coconut oil and unrefined coconut oil.

Unrefined coconut oil, sometimes called virgin coconut oil, is minimally processed and retains its flavor; the meat of the coconut is pressed to produce the oil. Refined coconut oil has only a mild flavor but can be used at high temperatures, such as when used for cooking. These oils are then made into preparations for the skin or for oral ingestion.

Unrefined coconut oil is best for supplementation in dogs, particularly if it’s organic and cold-pressed.

Is Coconut Oil Safe for Dogs?

In small quantities, coconut oil can be given to dogs for a variety of reasons, but mainly for its medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) as a source of saturated fat, also known as “the good fat.”

MCTs are also found in dairy products and palm oil. Coconut oil should be given under the guidance of your veterinarian and gradually introduced into your pup’s diet. Too much too fast can cause significant stomach upset, and a little bit goes a long way. As with any food, watch for signs of an allergic reaction such as hives or itchy skin.

Coconut oil can be given to dogs in pure form, added to the food or as an oral supplement. It can also be made into a topical preparation for skin issues.  

Cold water fish oils provide an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Their propensity to cause stomach upset in dogs is also a lot lower than that of coconut oil.

Can You Use Coconut Oil for a Dog’s Skin?

Veterinarians typically do not recommend using coconut oil for your dog’s skin because the risk often outweighs the benefits.

Coconut oil is often used to hydrate a dog’s skin, reduce inflammation, and provide both antibacterial and antifungal properties. However, this remains anecdotal in dogs.

While there are studies in people, there is no scientific evidence supporting the benefits of coconut oil for use on dog skin.

Applying anything to a dog’s skin should be done with caution, as dogs tend to lick themselves often and will ingest the substances.

While coconut oil can be ingested, if too much is ingested or it’s in a form that is not meant to be ingested, significant stomach upset and pancreatitis will develop. Coconut oil applied to the skin can also cause an allergic reaction, making any current skin condition or itching worse.

Can You Use Coconut Oil for a Constipated Dog?

Coconut oil is not helpful for dogs with constipation, as large quantities ingested will cause painful stomach upset and pancreatitis. Even in small quantities, this painful condition can still occur, along with a possible allergic reaction.  

In humans, coconut oil is used because MCTs are more easily digested than long-chain fatty acids (LCTs) to help with conditions that cause decreased absorption or maldigestion of fats. Coconut oil is rapidly absorbed by the intestinal tract; therefore, it will not be effective as a laxative in constipated dogs.

Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs

Some possible benefits of using coconut oil in dogs are extrapolated from its successful use in humans. They are:

  • Rich in fatty acids (MCTs)

  • Lowers cholesterol

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Exhibits antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties

  • Acts as an antioxidant

  • Aids digestion

  • Supports heart and brain function

  • Assists with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) by reducing gut inflammation

  • Aids cognitive function

  • Decreases seizure activity in epileptic dogs

Claims of use in dogs that lack credible studies, even in people, include:

  • Anti-cancer properties

  • Facilitating weight loss

  • Helping regulate thyroid function

  • Assisting in breaking down dental tartar and preventing periodontal disease

Risks of Coconut Oil for Dogs

Using coconut oil on dogs, whether through ingestion or topical use, carries the following risks to their health:

While coconut oil offers potential benefits for dogs, including skin health, digestion support, and support for other organ functions, it also poses risks such as stomach upset, pancreatitis, and allergic reactions.

Always consult with a veterinarian before adding coconut oil to your dog’s routine, to ensure its appropriateness for their individual health needs.

Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri Morrison was born and raised and currently resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She went to University of Florida for her...

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