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Benefits of coconut oil for dogs

by Scott Marshall June 17, 2024 10 min read

Benefits of coconut oil for dogs

Coconut oil for dogs is often overshadowed by more traditional pet care products and supplements. Yet, it establishes its own niche with unmatched versatility and ease of use. This unique character elevates coconut oil, setting it apart in the vast world of pet health products, offering a distinct advantage that positions it as a staple in pet care.

Key benefits of coconut oil for dogs include improvements in skin and coat health, digestive well-being, and immune system support, each known for their significant impact on a dog’s quality of life. Coconut oil also stands out for its topical uses, serving as a moisturizer for dry skin, a healing balm for minor wounds, and a natural deodorizer. Delving deeper, each benefit of coconut oil presents its own set of advantages, application methods, and health implications.

The following sections will explore these benefits in detail, providing a comprehensive understanding of how coconut oil can be a valuable addition to your dog's health regimen. Through examining its multifaceted uses, from dietary inclusion to topical application, this guide aims to offer insights into how coconut oil can contribute to a happier, healthier life for your furry friend.

What is coconut oil?

Coconut oil is a natural oil extracted from the meat of mature coconuts, celebrated for its rich content of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These MCFAs are lauded for their health benefits, as they offer a quick source of energy and support various bodily functions in a way that's distinct from other fats. The oil is available in two main forms: unrefined (virgin) coconut oil and refined coconut oil.

Virgin coconut oil is especially favored for its minimal processing, which ensures the preservation of maximum nutrients and makes it free from chemical processing. This form is often recommended for dogs due to its higher nutritional value and purity. In essence, coconut oil's unique composition and processing methods make it a versatile and beneficial addition to a dog's diet and care routine, highlighting its importance in promoting overall health and well-being.

Why use coconut oil for dogs?

Incorporating coconut oil into a dog's care regimen brings a multitude of health benefits, making it a valuable addition for pet owners. Its antimicrobial properties bolster the immune system, offering a layer of protection against infections. For those furry friends struggling with dry, flaky skin or skin allergies, coconut oil acts as a soothing elixir, promoting the healing of irritated skin and fostering a stronger skin barrier.

The benefits extend to coat health as well, where coconut oil adds a lustrous shine and reduces shedding, enhancing the coat's natural beauty and health. From a nutritional standpoint, coconut oil aids in improving nutrient absorption and easing digestive issues, making it a supportive dietary supplement. Its versatility also shines in topical applications, where it can be used as a moisturizer for dry skin, a healing balm for minor cuts, and a natural deodorizer, addressing a wide array of grooming needs.

However, it's crucial to approach coconut oil use with balance, mindful of the potential for weight gain if overused and the possibility of allergic reactions in sensitive dogs. Tailoring the application and dosage to the individual dog's health needs and consulting with a vet can ensure the optimal benefits of coconut oil are realized without unintended consequences.

For skin health

  • Improves dry, flaky skin: Coconut oil acts as a natural moisturizer, providing relief and promoting healing for dogs experiencing dry and flaky skin. Testimonials from pet owners highlight its effectiveness in treating conditions like eczema and dermatitis, with visible improvements often noted within weeks of consistent application.
  • Reduces skin allergies: Its soothing properties help calm skin irritation and reduce allergic reactions, making it a gentle remedy for sensitive skin. Veterinary studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of coconut oil can significantly alleviate symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

For coat health

  • Enhances coat shine: Regular application of coconut oil leaves a dog's coat looking shinier and feeling softer, enhancing its natural luster. Before-and-after photos shared by dog owners often showcase a noticeable difference in coat quality following regular use.
  • Reduces shedding: By improving the overall health of the fur, coconut oil can significantly reduce the amount of shedding, making grooming easier. Research indicates that the lauric acid in coconut oil can penetrate the hair shaft, strengthening the coat and reducing hair loss.

For digestive health

  • Helps with nutrient absorption: Adding coconut oil to a dog's diet can enhance the absorption of nutrients from their food, ensuring they receive the full benefits of their meals. Nutritional experts note that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil can aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals, improving overall health.
  • Eases digestive upsets: It can help regulate the digestive system, providing relief from common issues such as constipation or diarrhea. Anecdotal evidence from pet owners and some veterinary advice suggests that coconut oil's anti-inflammatory properties can soothe the digestive tract.

For immune system support

  • Antimicrobial properties: The natural antimicrobial properties of coconut oil support the immune system in fighting off infections. Scientific research has identified that coconut oil contains compounds like lauric acid, which has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral activities.
  • Boosts overall immunity: By enhancing the body's ability to ward off disease, coconut oil plays a crucial role in maintaining and boosting a dog's overall immunity. Studies have suggested that regular inclusion of coconut oil in a dog's diet can lead to improved immune response and resilience against pathogens.

Introducing coconut oil to a dog's diet

Integrating coconut oil into your dog's diet should be done with care to avoid any digestive discomfort. It's important to start with small amounts and gradually increase based on your dog's reaction. Below is a detailed table to guide you through this process:

Amount to Start

Dog Size

Duration Before Increase

Signs of Positive Adjustment

Signs of Negative Reaction

1/4 teaspoon

Small (<20 lbs)

1 week

Improved coat, energy levels

Diarrhea, vomiting

1/2 teaspoon

Medium (20-40 lbs)

1 week

Better digestion, skin health

Gastrointestinal upset

1 teaspoon

Large (>40 lbs)

1 week

Increased vitality, appetite

Allergic reactions (itchiness, rash)

Note: These starting amounts are general guidelines. Adjustments may be necessary based on your dog's specific health conditions and dietary needs. Always observe your dog's reaction to the oil and consult with a veterinarian before making any significant changes to their diet.

Gradually to avoid digestive upset

To minimize the risk of digestive upset, introduce coconut oil into your dog's diet gradually. Start with the smallest amount recommended for your dog's size and closely monitor their reaction. Positive signs of adjustment include improved skin and coat health, increased energy, and better digestion.

If any negative reactions occur, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or signs of an allergic reaction (e.g., itchiness, rash), discontinue use and consult a veterinarian.

Start with small amounts, like a teaspoon

Begin with a small amount of coconut oil, adjusting the quantity based on your dog's size. The table above outlines the recommended starting doses. Maintain this initial amount for at least one week to allow your dog's digestive system to adapt.

If your dog shows positive signs of adjustment without any adverse effects, you may consider slowly increasing the dosage. However, it's crucial to proceed with caution and consult a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate dosage for your dog's ongoing health and wellness.

Topical uses of coconut oil for dogs

Beyond its benefits when ingested, coconut oil shines as a multi-purpose topical remedy for dogs. Its hydrating effect makes it an ideal moisturizer for dry, itchy skin, offering soothing relief and fostering healthier skin conditions. Additionally, its antimicrobial properties enable coconut oil to serve as a healing balm for minor cuts and wounds, aiding in prevention against infection.

It's also a natural deodorizer, capable of neutralizing unpleasant doggy odors in a gentle, chemical-free manner. These topical applications not only address specific skin and coat concerns but also enhance the overall health and well-being of dogs, leveraging a purely natural approach.

Use Case

Application Method



Moisturizer for dry, itchy skin

Apply directly to the affected area, gently massaging into the skin.

1-2 times daily

A pea-sized amount for small areas, adjust based on the dog's size and affected area.

Healing balm for minor cuts and wounds

Clean the wound with mild soap and water, then apply a thin layer of coconut oil.

Apply 2-3 times daily until the wound shows signs of improvement.

Use just enough to cover the wound without excess.

Natural deodorizer for doggy odor

Rub a small amount between your hands and gently apply to your dog's coat, avoiding the face.

As needed, typically no more than once a week.

A dime-sized amount for small dogs, adjust based on the dog's size and coat length.

Risks of coconut oil for dogs

While the benefits of coconut oil for dogs are plentiful, it's imperative to acknowledge its potential risks. A notable concern is the risk of weight gain; given its high caloric content, overuse of coconut oil can contribute to obesity in dogs. Furthermore, some dogs might exhibit sensitivities or allergies to coconut oil, which could lead to gastrointestinal upset stomach for dogs or skin irritations.

Hence, introducing coconut oil gradually and in moderation is key to monitoring your dog's reaction. Seeking advice from a veterinarian is also advisable to ensure the safe and beneficial use of coconut oil, tailoring its application to suit your dog's specific health needs and prevent adverse effects.

Risk Factor


Signs to Monitor

Recommended Action

Weight Gain if Overused

Coconut oil is high in calories, and excessive use can lead to obesity.

Increased body weight, difficulty in physical activity, visible fat deposits.

Use in moderation, adjust the diet to balance overall caloric intake, and consult a veterinarian for a tailored dietary plan.

Potential for Allergic Reactions

Some dogs may be sensitive or allergic to coconut oil, leading to adverse reactions.

Skin irritations (redness, itching, rash), gastrointestinal disturbances (diarrhea, vomiting).

Introduce coconut oil gradually, monitor for any adverse reactions, and discontinue use if signs of allergy appear. Consult a veterinarian for alternative options and treatment.

Employing moderation and close observation when introducing coconut oil into your dog's diet or care regimen is crucial. Adjustments based on the dog's individual reaction and consultation with a veterinarian can help mitigate these risks, ensuring a healthy and beneficial use of coconut oil for your dog.

Optimal frequency of use

Determining the optimal frequency of coconut oil use in dogs hinges on their individual health, dietary habits, and specific needs. While a daily dose or application may be beneficial for some, others might thrive with less frequent use. The key is to start small and closely monitor your dog's reaction, allowing for adjustments to frequency based on their response.

Consultation with a veterinarian is crucial, as it ensures the use of coconut oil is tailored to benefit your dog's health without excess. This customized approach ensures a balanced regimen that aligns with your dog's unique health profile, promoting their overall well-being.

Factor to Consider



Dog's Size/Weight

Smaller dogs may need less coconut oil compared to larger breeds.

Start with a teaspoon for small dogs and a tablespoon for larger dogs.

Activity Level

More active dogs might metabolize coconut oil differently than less active ones.

Adjust dosage based on energy expenditure.

Current Diet

Dogs on a high-fat diet might require less coconut oil.

Consider the overall fat content in your dog's diet.

Health Conditions

Dogs with specific health issues may need tailored dosages.

Consult with a vet for conditions like obesity or pancreatitis.

Reaction to Coconut Oil

Monitor your dog's reaction for any adverse effects.

Adjust or discontinue use based on your dog's tolerance.

Varies with individual dog's health and diet

The appropriate frequency for incorporating coconut oil into your dog's regimen varies based on their unique health status and dietary requirements. Adjustments should be personalized for optimal benefits. Use the table above as a guideline to start and adjust as necessary, always considering your dog's specific needs and reactions.

Consultation with a vet is recommended

To ensure the safe and effective use of coconut oil, consulting with a veterinarian is highly recommended. They can provide tailored advice that aligns with specific health needs and dietary solution for dogs. Bring information about your dog's size, weight, activity level, current diet, and any health conditions to the consultation for the most personalized advice.

Best types of coconut oil for dogs

When selecting coconut oil for your canine companion, the best types to consider are unrefined (virgin) coconut oil and cold-pressed coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil is highly recommended due to its minimal processing, ensuring that the oil retains its full nutritional profile and remains free from chemical additives. Similarly, cold-pressed coconut oil is extracted in a manner that preserves the integrity of its beneficial properties, avoiding the use of heat or chemicals.

Both these types offer superior quality and are most effective for enhancing your dog's health, whether used in their diet or applied topically. Opting for these forms of coconut oil can provide your pet with the maximum health benefits, supporting their overall well-being in a natural and wholesome way.

Unrefined (virgin) coconut oil for maximum nutrients

Choosing unrefined (virgin) coconut oil ensures your dog benefits from the maximum nutrients available, due to its minimal processing which keeps its natural goodness intact. This type of coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid, which are beneficial for the immune system, skin health, and metabolic function.

Cold-pressed coconut oil to avoid chemical processing

Cold-pressed coconut oil is ideal for maintaining the oil's purity and effectiveness, as this method avoids chemical processing, preserving the oil's beneficial properties. This extraction method ensures that the fatty acids remain intact and the oil's natural antioxidants are preserved, offering a potent source of vitamin E, vitamin K, and iron.

Detailed Comparison Table


Unrefined (Virgin) Coconut Oil

Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil


Minimal; extracted from fresh coconut meat, ensuring maximum nutrient retention.

Extracted without the use of high heat or chemicals, preserving natural properties.

Nutrient Content

High in lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid; rich in antioxidants and vitamins.

Retains essential fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin K, and iron.

Benefits for Dogs

Supports immune system, improves skin and coat health, aids in metabolic function.

Offers potent antioxidant properties, supports skin health, and provides a quick energy source.

Recommended Use

Ideal for dietary inclusion due to its nutrient density. Also beneficial for topical application.

Suitable for both dietary and topical use, especially for dogs with sensitive skin or digestive systems.


Ensure it is truly unrefined and free from additives.

Choose reputable brands to ensure the oil is genuinely cold-pressed.

By selecting the appropriate type of coconut oil and using it correctly, you can significantly enhance your dog's health and well-being, leveraging the natural benefits of this versatile oil.

Scott Marshall
Scott Marshall

Scott has been feeding a raw dog food diet for over 13 years. He lives in Utah with his wife Arianne, his 11.5 year old german shepherd Wolken, and his 2.5 year old labradoodle Montu. Scott has been teaching others about raw feeding since 2013, started Raw Feeding 101 in 2017, and has been solely focused on simplifying the process of pet parents meeting their dogs’ daily nutrient requirements since 2018.

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