Coconut is a popular snack as well as an ingredient commonly used in cooking and baking. As the popularity of coconut consumption increases worldwide, it is only natural that owners will question if it is a safe snack for their pooch. We love to share our food with our dogs and it is always nice to find a new treat that can be enjoyed together.
So are there any risks to feeding our dogs coconut? Is there a limit to how much that can be given? How should coconut be served to dogs? Do all of the many health claims stack up? Everything will be covered below…
Is Coconut Safe For Dogs To Consume?
Simply put, yes, dogs can safely eat coconut and it is classed as a non-toxic ingredient for them. Keep in mind though, that this doesn’t mean every dog will get on well with coconut. For those that don’t, it’s best to avoid feeding it.
While some people assume coconut is a tree nut, it is actually a drupe. It has a tough outer casing that is covered in thick, brown hairs. Inside, there is a meaty white flesh. In the middle of the coconut, is the coconut water. Coconut milk is made when we mix together the flesh and the water.
We can feed our dogs any of the parts of the coconut that is edible: So not the outer shell and husk. The meat can be fed chopped, minced, or grated while the water and milk can be given as a drink or added to a broth.
As coconut does contain fats (triglycerides) it should not be offered to those with ongoing gastrointestinal issues and/or dogs who are prone to pancreatitis. We should not let our dogs over-indulge, as the high-fat content of the coconut could lead to mild vomiting and diarrhea, even in a healthy adult dog.
What about puppies?
Puppies can also eat coconut but their stomachs may be more easily upset. Due to this, it is only advised to offer coconut in very small amounts and to monitor your puppy closely for a few days after.
Pups who have not yet developed all of their adult teeth (usually those who are six months of age are younger) may find it tricky to chew the tough coconut meat. Due to this, it should be grated or shredded when fed to them.
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What About Feeding Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is almost 100% saturated fat and is made by pressing fresh coconut meat. While the consumption of saturated fat isn’t quite as a concern for our pet dogs as it is for us, vets do not advise feeding coconut oil regularly or in significant amounts.
A small amount of coconut oil added to a meal every now and then is likely to be well tolerated by most. However, as it is so high in fat there is the potential for it to cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach ache, or even a bout of acute pancreatitis.
Those prone to pancreatitis should never be given coconut oil orally. This includes any dog who has previously suffered from pancreatitis, as well as those breeds naturally prone to it such as Poodles and Schnauzers.
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Does Coconut Oil Work For Fleas?
As is true in human medicine, in the doggy world coconut oil is often touted as a bit of a “miracle cure” by breeders and owners alike. While it is a healthy food with many benefits, it is by no means something that will solve all issues…
Coconut oil is sometimes advised as flea prevention or treatment. It is claimed that the lauric acid within coconut oil can repel fleas. Some sources advise it is fed, while others suggest applying it on the coat.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that this works and it is not a veterinary recommended solution to parasites.
It is very important that we use effective flea prevention as once a flea infestation becomes established, it can be very difficult to eradicate from the home and garden.
A much better alternative is to use prescription parasite prevention such as a spot-on or tablet issued by your dog’s veterinarian. As fleas can transmit diseases and tapeworms, as well as causing itchy skin disease, keeping them at bay is a must.
Additional Ways That Coconut Can Benefit Dogs
While coconut is not likely to be the miracle cure that some claim it to be, it is undoubtedly a nutritionally valuable food and can offer certain benefits to your pet. These include:
● Improving skin and coat health:
The natural fats within the coconut can contribute to a stronger skin barrier. This locks the moisture inside and prevents the skin and coat from drying out.
● Reduction of symptoms in itchy/allergic dogs:
Dogs who have atopic dermatitis may suffer from a ‘leaky’ or imperfect skin barrier. This allows allergens to enter and moisture to escape, resulting in dry and inflamed skin. Allergic dogs who can tolerate coconut may benefit from a small amount of coconut oil being added to their food. Smaller dogs can usually tolerate ½-1 teaspoons, while giant breeds should manage 1-2 teaspoons mixed into their meals.
Be aware that some dogs with food allergies can be allergic to coconut, so this should always be considered a possibility when offering coconut for the first time. If your dog is on an elimination diet or is trialing a hydrolyzed food, hold off on the coconut for now.
● Reduced inflammation:
The lauric acid within coconut is a medium-chain fatty acid that has been scientifically proven to fight off viral, bacterial, and fungal infections in lab conditions. It is unclear how this translates to real life. It is also thought that lauric acid can reduce the inflammation in joints that occurs during arthritis; an ailment that affects many of the geriatric dog population. Certainly, as an adjunctive to more traditional arthritis treatment (such as pain relief and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine), it is worth considering.
● A boost for the immune system:
Coconut is thought to bolster the immune system by potentially improving white blood cell counts in some patients.
● A good addition to a dry coat:
After a bath or as part of your dog’s regular grooming regime, you might wish to try combing a very small amount of coconut oil through their coat. Do not go overboard as your dog may lick it off and become unwell. Similarly, too much coconut oil will result in an unfashionable greasy look. A small amount of oil on the fur can help to trap in moisture and give the fur a lovely sheen. The smell isn’t too bad either and it is a nice and natural way of disguising any natural ‘musk’ your dog may be emitting.
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Should You Try Coconut With Your Dog?
If you think your dog may benefit from eating coconut or its derivatives and they are in good health, why not give it a go? There are many safe ways that you can incorporate it into their diet and lots of dogs enjoy the flavor.
Ways to incorporate coconut into your dog’s diet:
While you can add it to their meals without doing anything, there are lots of tasty coconut-based dog-safe recipes out there you could try. ‘Coconut balls’ are a favorite of my dog (and me!). You simply add coconut oil to oats and peanut butter, mixing them together and rolling into small balls. These balls can be refrigerated or frozen, depending on how your dog likes to eat them.
Coconut Banana Treats:
Another delicious idea is to mix coconut with mashed banana and freeze it into cubes in your ice tray. This is a refreshing treat for warmer days and can help to keep your dog nice and cool.
Coconut meat, water, and oil are versatile so can be incorporated in your dog’s food toys and puzzles that you are already using. For example, drizzle a little oil on the top of their regular snaffle mat or add some meaty coconut chunks to the middle of their Kong for them to try and get to.
Finally, use the hard coconut meat as a training treat or a ‘prize’ in a scenting game. You can scatter some chunks in the garden or hide them under cardboard boxes or plant pots. Dogs love to use their nose to forage for their food and they are rewarded with something yummy when they succeed. Not only is this a nice way of encouraging them to eat some healthy food, but it is also a good exercise and mentally stimulating activity that will help to boost their mood and lower anxiety levels.
Coconut is a tasty food that has several health benefits. It is an appropriate ingredient for many dogs but is not suitable for all. If your dog is prone to upset stomachs or pancreatitis, it is best to stay away from coconut.
Try not to believe the hype. While coconut is a nutritious food, it cannot be used to treat an established bacterial infection, cure allergies, or banish an existing flea infestation. It’s good, but it’s not that good!