Can Dogs Eat Coconut Safely?

Here’s what to know about dogs and coconut 🥥

dog jumping with coconuts

Coconut’s a refreshing and yummy treat that also has lots of health benefits for people. But is it good for dogs, too?

We spoke to Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian with Paramount Pet Health, and Dr. Chyrle Bonk, a veterinarian with Hepper, to find out the answer to the question: Can dogs eat coconut?

Is coconut healthy for dogs?

Coconut’s nontoxic for dogs, and it can actually be a healthy snack for your pup.

Coconut does contain a lot of fat, though, which can lead to stomach upset or weight gain. Healthy dogs should only eat coconut as an occasional treat, and you shouldn't give it to your dog if he’s already overweight.

“Due to high fat content, dogs may develop gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, increased flatulence and lethargy, from consuming coconut meat, coconut oil or coconut milk,” Dr. Burch told The Dodo. “Obesity and [weight gain] may occur due to the high calorie content.”

Too much fat in your dog’s diet can also increase his risk of developing pancreatitis, so it’s important to make sure you’re not feeding too much coconut to your pup.

Benefits of coconut for dogs

When given every now and then, coconut has many health benefits for dogs.

  • Decreases inflammation — “Coconut has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help decrease chronic inflammation in the joints as well as the skin,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo.
  • Supports the immune system — Coconut contains a lot of antioxidants that support the immune system.
  • Promotes brain function — “Dogs may benefit from coconuts for decreasing inflammation and providing an excellent energy source for the brain from the medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in abundance in the fruit,” Dr. Burch said.
  • Helps fight infections and viruses — Coconut contains a fatty acid called lauric acid, which has anti-viral, antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Can dogs eat coconut oil?

Coconut oil is safe for dogs to eat in moderation, and you can even put it on your dog’s fur or skin, too.

Anecdotally, there are benefits to giving your dog coconut oil or using it on his body, but there’s not a lot of scientific evidence to support the benefits.

“When administered to dogs, coconut oil does not have any scientific evidence to improve conditions such as osteoarthritis inflammation, skin inflammation or skin allergies,” Dr. Burch said.

But since it’s not toxic, you can safely try out coconut oil for your dog to see if you notice any benefits.

“Coconut oil can be fed to dogs or applied topically to their skin,” Dr. Bonk said. “For dogs with hot spots, skin infections or chronically itchy skin, coconut oil can help soothe and reduce the inflammation.”

Try this Zesty Paws coconut oil supplement for dogs from Chewy for $20.97

Coconut oil’s high in calories, though, so you should only feed it to your dog occasionally.

“Coconut oil is high in calories, leading to unwanted weight gain or making weight loss for your pet difficult,” Dr. Burch said.

Can dogs have coconut water and coconut milk?

Dogs can have coconut water and coconut milk, too.

“Pure coconut water is nontoxic to dogs and can be consumed in small amounts every day,” Dr. Burch said.

Coconut milk is safe for dogs to have, but you should only give your pup a little bit since it’s high in fat, and it can include other ingredients that might give your dog an upset stomach.

“Coconut milk also typically has additives like sugar that can be harmful, so you’ll want to keep the amounts low,” Dr. Bonk said.

How to feed your dog coconut

If you want to feed your dog coconut as a treat, talk to your vet first to make sure it’s OK and find out what the right amount is.

“Consult with your veterinarian before feeding coconut or any coconut products to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to have it and to get an idea of how much you can feed,” Dr. Bonk said.

When feeding your pup coconut, be sure to remove the shell and give him small pieces of the coconut meat so he can’t choke on them. If you’re giving your dog coconut flakes, make sure you don’t give him any that are flavored or have added sugar.

You can also drizzle coconut oil on top of your dog’s food, and you can try using it to make homemade dog treats.

“Coconut oil may also be used in small amounts when baking dog-friendly biscuits,” Dr. Burch said.

You shouldn’t give your dog any types of human candy that contain coconut, though, especially if they also contain chocolate or xylitol, which are poisonous to dogs.

According to Dr. Bonk, your vet can let you know how much your pup can have, but typically treats should only make up around 10 percent of your dog’s diet. “The amount will vary based on their size, health condition and what you’re wanting to use it for,” Dr. Bonk said.

If you want to feed your dog coconut, you can give him a little bit as a healthy snack once in a while. Just be sure to ask your vet if it’s OK and how much is safe.

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