While the benefits of fish oils and Omega-3 fatty acids have been long established for dogs and cats, more people are becoming increasingly familiar with the numerous health benefits offered by a unique group of fats found in coconut oil.

Coconut oil is packed with antioxidants like Vitamin E and is one of only a few vegetable sources of saturated medium chain fatty acids, which can benefit pets when used either as an internal health supplement (when used alone or rotated with fish oils) or a topical aid applied directly to the skin, paws, ears, nose or mouth.

Coconut oil contains about 64% medium chain fatty acids (or MCFA's), the most abundant of which is lauric acid. The other well-known natural source of lauric acid is breast milk, which is effective in nourishing and building the immune system by protecting infants against illnesses and infection. Pet parents who add coconut oil to their dog or cat's diet have reported a notable increase in overall skin and coat quality, and a reduction in "doggy" smell. There is also evidence that MCFA's support immune system, circulatory system, and metabolic (thyroid/weight maintenance) health when ingested.  Importantly, medium chain saturated fatty acids derived from coconut oil are easily broken down for energy production, are linked with decreased cholesterol levels, and do not lead to a greater risk of heart disease like saturated animal fats.

Most pets love the taste of coconut oil, so giving it to them as a dietary supplement is usually quite easy!  Just spoon some onto their meal or let them lick it off your fingers.  Recommended dosing starts at 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight or 1 tablespoon per 30 pounds of body weight daily. Start slowly (about a quarter of the recommended amount) and increase gradually to avoid diarrhea or greasy stools while the body adjusts to the oil.

When used as a topical aid, coconut oil can help soothe and heal hotspots, dry skin, and cracked paws or noses.  Beyond its moisturizing benefits, the MCFA's in coconut oil have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties that can help speed wound healing and prevent infection.  Use your fingers to massage the oil into the skin or a dropper to apply to the ears, mouth sores, or even onto your pet's toothbrush!

Not all coconut oils are created equal. Virgin coconut oil is an excellent source of medium chain fatty acids that provide the health benefits described above.  Our favorite at Northwest Pets is CocoTherapy Organic Virgin Coconut Oil sourced from the Philippines. Virgin oil retains most of the nutrients found in fresh coconut, is not hydrogenated, and is very stable under room temperature storage.

By the way, Dr. Oz and a number of human physicians are catching on to the benefits of coconut oil for people, too.  You just might want to start sharing some with your pets!