Coconuts and dogs have been in the news in recent years. Have you wondered whether dogs can eat coconut? You might be surprised to learn that coconut can be good for dogs. And many people swear by coconut oil and its benefits for dogs.
Here’s a closer look at coconut and dogs.
Coconut is considered to be highly nutritious. It is made up of 3 percent protein, 79 percent fats, and 18 percent carbohydrates. It’s very low in cholesterol and sodium. And it’s a very good source of manganese. It also has a good amount of some other minerals such as iron and copper.
In humans, eating coconut has been shown to help increase HDL or the “good” cholesterol, so it may help heart health. Coconut’s high fiber may also give a feeling of fullness which could help with weight loss.
The manganese and antioxidants in coconut may help reduce inflammation. Coconut contains lots of lauric acid, a medium-chain triglyceride. Lauric acid appears to naturally help fight off harmful microbes, including some fungi and viruses. It’s anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and potentially even anti-cancer.
The anti-inflammatory properties of lauric acid could also make coconut beneficial for dogs with arthritis. It won’t cure arthritis but it could help manage the pain.
The lauric acid in coconut is also believed to help boost the immune system, helping to fight off problems such as ringworm, giardia, and even influenza.
A large amount of the carbohydrates in coconut function as dietary fiber. Most of this fiber is insoluble. It helps move food through the digestive system and improves digestive tract health.
The manganese in coconut supports the body’s fat metabolism and enzyme function. Copper is an important mineral for heart health and bone formation. Iron is necessary for blood production.
Coconut meat, of course, is not really meat but this is the term used to describe the white interior of the coconut. Coconut is high in calories. One cup of fresh, shredded coconut contains about 283 calories.
Most of the fats in coconut are medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), like lauric acid. They are absorbed whole in the body’s small intestine. The body uses them to produce energy. Recent research has found that MCTs have other important benefits for canine nutrition.
Researchers from Purina found that medium-chain triglycerides (including the fats from coconut) used as a dietary supplement and later added to dog food could improve cognitive function in aging dogs. Building on this research, medium-chain triglycerides have also been shown to help manage epileptic seizures in some dogs.
There are also some less desirable health issues associated with coconut. Coconut is high in saturated fat which may increase the risk of heart disease. Because of coconut’s high calories, weight gain is a concern.
Coconuts are loosely identified as nuts but they are more accurately described as a fibrous one-seeded drupe, similar to a peach, with several different layers. Even though it’s not a true nut, some people who are allergic to nuts can also be allergic to coconuts.
Can I Give My Dog Coconut?
Yes, dogs can eat the white meat from coconuts. You can shred it for your dog or cut it into small, bite-size pieces.
As described above, there are some good health reasons to give your dog some coconut if he likes it.
You can sprinkle shredded coconut on your dog’s meal or mix it with a little yogurt for a cool treat. Coconut also makes a good addition to homemade dog cookies.
Are There Risks with Giving Your Dog Coconut?
There is a remote possibility that a dog could have an allergic reaction to eating coconut. If your dog is allergic to other nuts (not peanuts which are legumes), use caution when you give your dog coconut. But it’s very unlikely that a dog would be allergic to coconut.
Coconut is very high in calories so keep an eye on your dog’s weight if you give him coconut often.
Some sources suggest that too much coconut can lead to stomach discomfort or bloating. Dogs that eat too much of anything can have stomach discomfort. Adding coconut oil (or other MCT oils) to the dog’s diet can lead to stomach discomfort or bloating because of the presence of long-chain triglycerides. Outside the laboratory setting, the exact amount of MCTs and LCTs can’t always be controlled. Many products, including coconut oil products, have this problem. However, this does not apply to coconut meat given to dogs. Even Purina, with researchers that have pioneered MCT research for dogs, makes this point.
Many people give their dogs a small amount of coconut oil. It’s unclear if coconut oil really produces all of the benefits that are claimed for it. Do be careful about how much coconut oil you give your dog because of the calories.
Do NOT give your dog the outer husks of the coconut to chew. The husk isn’t toxic and your dog can probably pass these fibers in small quantities but the coconut fiber or coir is very water-absorbent. You really don’t want coconut fibers to expand in your dog’s gut which would almost certainly lead to surgery if your dog ate enough of them. We also discourage you from letting your dog play with coconut shells. The shells are hard and your dog could break teeth on them. If your dog manages to crack the shell, it could leave jagged pieces which would be a risk for choking or intestinal puncture.
How Much Coconut Can You Give Your Dog?
At 283 calories per cup of fresh, shredded coconut, it’s best to limit how much coconut you give your dog. If my 40-lb dog needs about 1100 calories per day, he could have about 110 calories in treats/snacks. Don’t give your dog more than about 10 percent of his daily calories in treats.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Coconut?
Since coconut won’t harm your dog and it does have some good health benefits, you can give a small amount to your dog every day if your dog likes it. Just remember to watch the calories.
Coconut has become a food of great interest for dogs due to its medium-chain triglycerides. Virtually all dogs can enjoy coconut (in moderation) but if you have a senior dog or a dog with seizures, talk to your veterinarian about some of the recent research. These dogs can especially benefit from coconut.