Every couple of years, a new type of food or product becomes hailed as the new “superfood,” often surrounded by a lot of hype and ambitious claims about the benefits of the product. Blueberries, pomegranate, green tea and kale have all had their day, and today, one of the most talked about so-called superfoods is coconut oil, which is being credited with all manner of benefits including killing bacteria and increasing the metabolism!
As is usually the case, when any “superfood” gains traction among a human audience, dog owners soon follow suit, and begin looking into the potential benefits of the product when it comes to caring for their dogs.
However, there are a lot of misleading and sometimes, downright false claims made about superfoods too, and coconut oil is no exception!
So, is coconut oil a good, worthwhile supplement for your dog, or is it just another fad? In this article, we will look at four of the main claims made about coconut oil for dogs, and the truth behind them. Read on to learn more!
Fans of coconut oil including the highly questionable TV physician Dr. Mehmet Oz claim that the fats in coconut oil are directly burned by the liver, and so do not add to metabolised body fat or calorie intake. Other claims include the benefits of the presence of ketones in coconut oil, and that these supress the appetite, leading to potential weight loss.
Coconut oil does not contain the right balance of fatty acids to support the metabolism of dogs, and in order to be converted into usable linoleic acid, the body needs to convert the oil into a usable fat, which is one of the least efficient ways of getting dietary fat. Coconut oil does not provide sufficient omega-3 or omega-6 to have any metabolic benefits for dogs at all, and not only does not support weight loss, but at over 100 calories per tablespoon, may actually contribute to making your dog fat!
One of the most widely respected claims made about coconut oil is that around half of the fat compounds present within it are of a type called lauric acids, and that lauric acid kills certain funguses, viruses and bacteria.
In laboratory experiments, pure lauric acid has been demonstrated to kill certain types of germs grown in culture dishes effectively, but there has been no research done at all to indicate that the lauric acid in coconut oil provides any such benefits, particularly when eaten as a supplement in small doses.
Proponents of coconut oil claim that it increases the level of HDL cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol in the blood, and that this can help to lower the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol in the people or dogs that take it.
Coconut oil does indeed raise the body’s HDL cholesterol levels; however, it also raises the levels of bad cholesterols as well, effectively cancelling out its positive effects!
This is not a big problem for dogs per se, as cholesterol is not a factor in canine heart disease, but it does of course mean that there is therefore no good reason to feed coconut oil to your dog to help with their cholesterol levels!
Memory loss and associated brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood by the scientific community, in either people or in dogs. However, they are thought to be caused by an age-related reduction in the brain’s ability to utilise glucose and turn it into energy to support healthy brain function. Coconut oil produces ketones from MCT, which the brain can use as a substitute for glucose, and so, increases mental function in elderly people and dogs.
Age-related loss of brain function such as dementia and Alzheimer’s do affect dogs in much the same way that they do people, but there has been absolutely no evidence or scientific study as to whether or not the ketones in coconut oil produce any improvements at all in either people or dogs.
Coconut oil simply adds calories to your pet’s diet, and if they are suffering from the effects of brain aging, supplementing their diet with coconut oil is unlikely to cause any improvement, and will simply provide your dog with a source of essentially empty calories that will do nothing positive for them!
While supplementing your dog’s diet with certain oils and other products can often help with problems like bad skin and a dull coat, particularly in breeds that are sensitive to such issues like the Bulldog and the Shar-pei, simply following the latest superfood fad is unlikely to help! Take advice from your vet if you wish to consider adding supplements to your dog’s diet, as they will be much better informed on what to suggest than unverified self-declared experts on the internet!