Coconut oil, used in human food and beauty products, also has many beneficial offerings for canines. These range from weight control to mental function improvement, thanks to its (good) saturated fatty acid content, known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). But is it safe to leave this edible oil on your dog overnight?
You can leave coconut oil on most dog breeds overnight, as long as it’s virgin oil (the unrefined kind) because it doesn’t contain harmful additives. This oil makes skin healthier and coats glossier, but should be washed off the next day, as it can clog pores if left on too long.
Read on to discover coconut oil’s healthful offerings and its proper application on your pet.
How to Apply Coconut Oil on Your Dog
If you’re introducing coconut oil to your dog for the first time, test it on a small area first. Wait for 24 hours to confirm there’s no allergic reaction. Consult your vet if there is.
If you don’t have a garden or enough space in your yard:
- Place your dog in the tub (or a basin big enough to accommodate it with room to spare).
- Wash your dog with warm water and skin conditioning dog-friendly shampoo for dry skin.
- Rub half a teaspoon to one teaspoon of coconut oil on your hands and spread a thick coat all over your dog’s body. Your dog may need more, depending on its size.
- Focus on dry spots and irritated areas on the skin, paws, and nails.
- Let the skin absorb the oil for about five minutes, then rinse off.
- Apply a second round of shampoo if the coat is excessively greasy.
This procedure can be done once a week.
The longer the oil stays on, the better it works. If you choose to leave the oil on longer, put a sweater on your dog or a cone around its neck to prevent it from licking off the oil. If your dog doesn’t like the coconut smell, mix a few drops of lavender or lemon essential oil with the coconut oil.
It is recommended to apply the oil to dry fur to adhere to it better, although it also works as a leave-in conditioner.
To prevent fabric stains or a ruined carpet, you may want to place a washable rubber or plastic mat underneath your oil-slicked dog at sleep time.
A Note on Leaving Coconut Oil on Too Long
Coconut oil has a comedogenic rating of level four for humans, meaning it has a tendency to clog pores. (The rating system ranges from zero to five, with zero as the non-comedogenic level.) So it’s not advisable to leave this oil on too long on dogs with sensitive skin and puppies.
The oil is tasty to dogs, so they may want to lick it off. You may want to use an alternative for skin conditions that are constantly scratched or picked, as these need to heal quickly.
It can get messy if you leave the oil on for longer periods. If you’re okay with this, be prepared for dirt, hair, and other debris sticking to your dog’s coat.
Can I Apply Coconut Oil on My Dog’s Nose?
According to The Dog Visitor, an online resource for dog owners, it is okay to put coconut oil on your dog’s nose. However, they recommend Snout Soother because it is specially formulated for dog noses. It soothes dryness, reduces coughing, helps eliminate hairballs, and heals hyperkeratosis (thickening of the skin’s outer layer) of the nose.
Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs
According to the American Kennel Club, some holistic and naturopathic veterinarians believe coconut oil resolves many types of canine conditions.
May Be Used as Medicine
Virgin coconut oil reduces inflammation, soothes irritated skin (including eczema), prevents infection (especially the yeast kind), and minimizes allergic reactions. It eliminates bad odor and heals spots, infections, and cracked paws.
Advocates say it fortifies immunity, reduces cancer risks, improves thyroid efficiency, speeds up torpid metabolic functions, and prevents arthritis due to its high lauric acid content.
Medical groups still haven’t given a 100% thumbs-up for coconut oil as a medicine, but ancient cultures have been using it for thousands of years. Only recently did some allopathic doctors, alternative health practitioners, and proponents of organic living add it to their healing arsenal.
May Make Drug Administration Easier and More Palatable
Use coconut oil to mask the bitter taste of pet medicine in liquid form or as a coating on tablets or pills. This helps your dog take medicine more willingly.
May Be Used as a Food Supplement
Adding coconut oil to your dog’s diet (with the vet’s permission) has many advantages, especially nutrient absorption. As it is directly absorbed into the liver, it helps treat gastrointestinal disorders, such as indigestion, colitis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Studies have shown that it balances thyroid functions, so it can be used to give an energy boost to sluggish dogs. Some owners of overweight dogs use it as an aid in weight management because many manufacturers claim it decreases fat deposits.
That said, coconut oil has to be used carefully, as its high fat content can also cause weight gain when ingested indiscriminately. Vets do not recommend it for breeds prone to kidney problems, inflammation of the pancreas, or those that cannot metabolize fat efficiently.
Coconut oil can be given to dogs once or twice daily with meals. The dosage depends on the size of the dog: a quarter teaspoon for smaller dogs and a tablespoon for larger ones. If in doubt, use one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight.
Higher doses can bring on side effects like diarrhea or greasy stools, so begin with small amounts, then gradually build up the dosage, depending on your dog’s reaction to it.
For extra nutrients, mix organic virgin coconut oil with anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric to your dog’s food. Monitor your dog for allergic reactions or stomach upsets upon ingestion. If your dog reacts negatively to coconut oil, use flaxseed oil or salmon oil instead.
Both make good alternatives, as they offer similar health benefits. And, like most fish oils, they are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
You can give both coconut and fish oils orally to your dog, provided it likes their taste and reacts positively to them. Take note that various oils have different smells and tastes, ranging from bland to buttery to nutty. Experiment to know what your dog prefers.
May Be Used as a Moisturizer
Shampoos and paw balms containing coconut oil reduce allergens and rejuvenate damaged skin. Coconut oil hydrates and deodorizes skin, increases its lipid levels, clears up rashes, prevents flaking, eliminates dog dandruff, and promotes a glossier coat. It relieves itches, dry patches, and bumpy skin.
May Be Used for Wound Management
Integrative pet care expert Dr. Karen Becker says virgin coconut oil is antiviral, antibacterial, antiprotozoal, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. It kills yeast and fungi on contact. Use it as an antibiotic to heal abrasions, sores, bites, stings, cuts, scrapes, hot spots, and wounds. It also acts as a natural topical salve to soothe cracked pads, chewed-on paws, and scratched ears—indicative of seasonal allergies.
May Be Used for Dental Management
Coconut oil makes a delicious natural toothpaste substitute for brushing your dog’s teeth. Since most dogs love the taste of this oil, it’s great for fussy dogs who don’t like canine toothpaste. The antimicrobial properties of this oil destroy bacteria and prevent the formation of plaque that causes dental disease. So it can be applied to gums. It also improves doggy breath.
May Be Used as a Flea and Tick Deterrent
The MCTs in organic virgin coconut oil repel fleas, ticks, and mites without chemicals or pesticides. It’s safer to use on pets than topical preparations containing DEET*. Chemical insecticides enter your dog’s bloodstream, killing pests after they’ve sucked pet blood.
Therapeutic, non-toxic coconut oil kills insects on contact without harmful side effects. Apply the oil liberally on your dog’s coat, belly, armpits, footpads, between the toes, and around and inside the ears.
Skepticism from the scientific community about the medical benefits of coconut oil rages on, citing the lack of studies proving its efficacy. Since both humans and animals can use it externally or internally, you have a choice.
If you’re wary of ingesting it and concerned about its effects on internal organs, then just use it on the outside. If there is no adverse reaction on you and your dog—and you see clearing up of medical conditions, then continue using it (with your vet’s blessing) and join the millions of coconut oil advocates worldwide.
*DEET (N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the most common active ingredient in commercial insect repellents. It is considered the gold standard, but with reported human health issues, particularly for infants and pregnant women.