In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk around the benefits and dangers of coconut oil. Some say it’s a healthy source of fats, others say it can cause heart problems.
The truth, as it often happens, is in the middle: coconut oil has many benefits for humans and dogs, but also some risks. If your dog ate coconut oil in large quantities they could experience digestive discomfort and may need a medical check-up.
What should you do if your dog eats coconut oil?
If you suspect that your dog ate a lot of coconut oil at once, play it safe and call your veterinarian to get professional advice.
In most cases, there is not much to do when a dog eats coconut oil, except to wait for it to come out. Unfortunately, coconut oil causes diarrhea in dogs, so you may have a few rough hours of cleaning ahead.
Diarrhea can easily cause dehydration in dogs, however, it may not be possible to make your dog drink if they can’t keep down food or water at this time. To help your dog go through this uncomfortable situation, follow these steps:
- Withhold food and water for 8-12 hours and keep them inside so they don’t eat grass or leaves outside;
- After 8-12 hours, provide a small amount of water (1-2 teaspoons) every hour for a few hours;
- If your veterinarian suggested the use of any medications, do follow their instructions carefully;
- If your dog has stopped vomiting, offer plain canned pumpkin or a bland diet of boneless boiled chicken and white rice, one tablespoon hourly for a few hours to see if they can keep it down. If it works, you can slowly increase the amount given;
- The bland diet should help stop the vomiting and make the stools harder, thus preventing dehydration. Keep your dog on a bland diet for a few days, then slowly re-introduce their normal diet;
- If the above steps don’t work and your dog keeps vomiting and having diarrhea, it’s time to bring them to the veterinarian.
The biggest concern with coconut oil is actually pancreatitis. If your dog has a history of gastrointestinal problems, make sure they don’t eat coconut oil at all. If they happen to eat it, bring them to the vet.
Is coconut oil bad for dogs?
Coconut oil is not toxic or poisonous to dogs, however, it has a high-fat content (80%) and dogs cannot digest fats properly.
Feeding dogs coconut oil is not always a good idea. First of all, your dog’s diet should be well-balanced and they may not need the extra-fat coconut oil provides.
Too much fat in their diet can make dogs overweight, with all the health complications that this entails.
If you feel like your dog’s diet lacks something or your dog looks for nutrients elsewhere, getting into unhealthy habits like eating inedible objects, then you should consult an expert before making additions to their diet on your own.
Besides that, coconut oil doesn’t provide dogs with the kind of fat content they need, because it lacks omega-3 and omega-6 acids, so a dog eating coconut oil is basically just eating free fat that will do nothing but make them overweight.
Some dogs can also be allergic to coconut oil and the symptoms may be very similar to those of gastrointestinal discomfort, like vomiting and diarrhea, so if your dog reacts badly to coconut oil once, do not try your luck again.
The biggest risk with coconut oil is that it could lead to the development of pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas.
The causes of this condition are not yet fully explained, it usually occurs in older dogs or overweight dogs and some breeds are more prone to it than others. It can also be caused by extremely fatty meals, which is why it’s important for your dog to have a healthy diet.
The pancreas is fundamental because it regulates the digestion and the sugar levels in the blood. Diseases affecting the pancreas can lead to lifelong conditions like diabetes mellitus, which greatly impacts the quality and expectancy of your dog’s life.
Pancreatitis can be acute (one episode) or chronic (recurring episodes). Common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include:
- Lack of appetite
- Fever or low temperature
- Stiff abdomen
- Abdominal swelling and/or pain
- Low energy levels
- Heavy breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
If your dog shows one or more of these symptoms for longer than a day, or if these symptoms keep coming and going, they will need a medical examination. These symptoms are common in many conditions, so it may not be pancreatitis but something else.
In order to make a proper diagnosis of pancreatitis, the veterinarian will do blood tests and sometimes an ultrasound to see what’s happening inside the body.
Mild cases of pancreatitis are easily treated by identifying and removing whatever it was that made your dog sick in the first place (some medications may also be the cause of pancreatitis).
However, if the cause is unknown, your veterinarian may suggest withholding food for a day to allow the pancreas to rest.
Pancreatitis should not be underestimated because severe cases can sometimes lead to death.
Dehydration can be a symptom of pancreatitis or simply a consequence of prolonged diarrhea and vomiting. When your dog has recurring episodes of diarrhea, they’re losing all of their liquids.
Dehydration is dangerous because it provokes an electrolyte imbalance in the body, which won’t allow the main organs to function properly. Severe dehydration can lead to shock and even death.
Symptoms of dehydration in dogs include:
- Heavy breathing
- Dry mouth, eyes, nose, skin
- Bright red gums
Dehydration is usually a medical emergency because your dog will need to be rehydrated through IV fluids before it’s too late.
If your dog shows early symptoms of dehydration, make sure they drink enough to balance the liquids they lose with diarrhea. If your dog doesn’t want to drink, you could try soaking their food in water or bring them to the vet for IV treatment.
Benefits of coconut oil for dogs.
Even if coconut oil can have many unpleasant effects on dogs, when given with regulations and in small amounts, it also has many benefits for our dogs.
In fact, some pet parents regularly feed coconut oil to their furry friends for a variety of reasons, such as:
– Skin/coat care: applying a small amount of coconut oil on your dog’s can do wonders for their coat and skin. You can either feed them a teaspoon of coconut oil (¼ with small dogs) or rub it on their skin. After a while, you will notice that their coat seems healthier and shinier, and it can also help with skin problems like eczema;
– Thyroid regulation: coconut oil can help to some degree to keep thyroid levels in balance and a healthy thyroid means more energy and a better mood for your dog;
– Weight loss: coconut oil aids digestion in dogs and makes it faster. Faster digestion has been correlated with increased weight loss. While overweight dogs should not eat fatty food, you can consult your veterinarian to see if a small amount of coconut oil given regularly to your dog can be of any help in losing weight;
– Overall health: coconut oil improves the immune system, helps prevent diabetes by balancing insulin, and can be a valid help for the health of your dog’s joints;
– Fighting itchiness: applying coconut oil on bee stings, flea, or spider bites can reduce irritation and make your dog less likely to scratch their skin, thus preventing wounds.
Every dog is unique so it’s impossible to say what kind of benefits they might get from coconut oil, or what risks they may encounter.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t replace therapies with coconut oil or other medications without consulting your veterinarian.
Can dogs eat coconut oil?
Dogs can eat coconut oil in small amounts and only if the administration of coconut oil is strictly regulated. That means your dog shouldn’t be able to go through a jar of coconut oil when you’re not looking.
Coconut oil in large quantities can be very dangerous for your dog, because it may cause pancreatitis, a condition that could provoke other diseases or even death if left untreated.
In most cases, your dog will only experience mild stomach discomfort and a few hours of vomiting and diarrhea after eating coconut oil, so make sure to crate them inside an area that it’s easy to clean and don’t let them outside during this time, because they may eat something else that would make the condition worse.
Coconut oil, when given safely and in the right amounts, has many benefits for your dog, for example, it makes their coat healthy and shiny and can help with thyroid and insulin regulation.
If you’re thinking of starting your dog on a coconut oil diet, please make sure to consult your veterinarian first.