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Everyone’s favorite oil has amazing health, skin, and cooking benefits. But did you know it’s a handy ingredient to have on hand for your dog or cat, too? Here’s why.
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Those in the know use coconut oil, aware of how it can heal skin ailments, improve digestive health, and boost the immune system. And it’s not just for humans. Pet owners have found that a little coconut oil does wonders for dogs and cats. (Of course, as with any supplement, check with your veterinarian before giving it to your pet.) Here’s how it can help and how to use it.
Add coconut oil to your pet’s food to help improve digestion, reduce or eliminate body odor and bad breath, and lessen symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
“Coconut oil has a myriad of awesome qualities,” said Krista Kehoe, an integrative nutrition health coach who shares her home outside of Chicago with her family, which includes Australian Shepherds Lily and Karma. “Growing up, I always thought fat was ‘bad.’ We’re finding out so much about nutrition and the necessity of healthy fats in our diets and the diets of our beloved pups.”
Particularly beneficial are medium-chain fatty acids, like those found in coconut oil. “They do things like support a healthy immune response,” Krista said. “They can also support healthy digestion and a beautiful coat. Increased energy, better digestion, and a reduction in overall inflammation — including a reduction in allergies — are some of the other cool things that coconut oil has been linked with.”
Krista partially attributes using coconut oil in her dogs’ diets to their outstanding health.
“Neither of my dogs have ever had any serious health issues,” Krista said. “I sup- pose you could say that this isn’t a con- trolled study, since I give them both plenty of healthy options and care, but I have to say, they both have amazing coats, and their energy levels are high. Their digestion is regular, and they stay healthy. Another thing — they don’t have doggy odor!”
If your pet has never eaten coconut oil before, give him a small portion (1⁄4 teaspoon per day) for three to four weeks.Then build up to a typical portion. For dogs, that’s up to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds; for cats, up to 1⁄2 teaspoon per 5 pounds. Feed as a treat, or mix it into food daily.
“My No. 1 tip — from experience — is start slowly!” Krista said.“If you add fats, even healthy fats, too quickly to your dogs’ diets, they could experience digestive upset. I worked up to 1 tablespoon once a day, and my dogs love it. In fact, I don’t mix it into their food; they lick it right off the spoon!”
If your pet is overweight, coconut oil is not a great option, as it can cause weight gain if fed too often. Another side effect can be soft stool. If you notice any side effects, stop or reduce the amount you give him.
“The last thing you want to do is upset your puppy’s tummy and have to clean up!” Krista said. “Take a couple of weeks to work up from zero to the dose you think is best. If stomach upset happens, cut way back, and hang out there.”
You can also apply coconut oil to your pet’s skin. It might minimize red, itchy, and dry skin; help with eczema; reduce skin allergies; prevent yeast and fungal infections; clear up contact dermatitis; and aid in healing wounds.
Coconut oil is a fantastic natural moisturizer, making the skin smooth and the coat soft and shiny. Apply a small dab onto your pet’s skin as needed. If your pet has dry paw pads or nails, apply it to the paws. You can also use coconut oil as a mask during bath time. First, wash your pet, and rinse well. Next, coat your pet’s entire body in a generous amount of coconut oil. Let it stand for five minutes, then shampoo again and rinse well. Your pet’s fur will be soft and luxurious!
Nicole Sipe writes from her home in Indiana, where she and her husband raise their two young sons.
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