Should I Use Coconut Oil for Dog Shedding Problems?
Coconut oil has become the beloved cure-all home remedy for external and internal dog ailments. It smells great and feels nice on dry skin, but can it really cure disease? And what’s the story on coconut oil for dog shedding issues?
Coconut oil is extracted from the ripe fruit of a coconut tree. It is edible for humans and dogs containing 100% fat. This tropical oil contains 8 different fatty acids and has a mild anti-microbial action.
There is no scientific evidence that coconut oil reduces hair shedding in dogs. At this time, there is no oral or topical supplement proven to have any effect on shedding in dogs.
Why Does Your Dog Shed So Much?
The natural life cycle of hair in a dog involves a growth phase, a resting phase and a shedding phase. This is normal.
All dogs shed some hair and it may increase, depending on the season. Since many dogs live indoors with electric lights, seasonal shedding isn’t as noticeable for them. Instead, they have a low level of shedding year-round and may have a slight increase in the spring and fall.
Some breeds have a natural tendency to shed a lot even when they’re healthy. A few that come to mind are Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes and Pugs.
Dogs with endocrine diseases like hypothyroidism and adrenal disease shed hair and it doesn’t grow back. Dogs with skin allergies shed excessively but usually have other symptoms including itchy skin, scabs and sores.
Thanks to modern commercial dog food, very few dogs have excessive shedding due to nutritional deficiencies. Dogs eating an unbalanced diet could have a poor coat and excessive shedding.
If your dog’s skin looks normal, he’s not scratching or licking a lot and there are no hair loss resulting in thinning or bald areas-the shedding is probably normal. If in doubt, ask your vet to take a look!
Is Coconut Oil Safe for Dogs’ Skin?
It is pretty safe to apply coconut oil to a dog’s skin, over small areas. Keep in mind your dog will probably lick the oil off and ingesting a lot of fat can do a serious number on their GI tract and pancreas. So resist the urge to coat your dog in a layer of coconut oil!
A few dogs also have a contact allergic reaction to coconut oil. If you notice skin irritation, redness or pain where you applied it, wash it off and don’t repeat the treatment.
Is Coconut Oil Good for Dog Shedding?
There is no scientific evidence to support the use of coconut oil to decrease excess shedding in dogs. It does not contain significant essential fatty acids required by dogs. It does contain a lot of calories and can cause GI upset, diarrhea and pancreatitis when ingested by sensitive dogs.
Coconut Oil Fatty Acid Composition (7)
|Fatty Acid||Percentage of Total|
There are certain fatty acids dogs must get from their diet. They can’t synthesize these fatty acids from other components:
Dog Essential Fatty Acids (5)
- Linoleic acid
- Alpha-Linolenic acid
- Gamma linoleic acid
- Arachidonic acid
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (probably essential)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (probably essential)
The only dog essential fatty acid contained in coconut oil is linoleic acid. It is present in small amounts (2%)-not enough to be a real source of dietary linoleic acid for a dog. Corn oil (59-62% linoleic acid (4)) and canola oil (19% linoleic acid (3)) are much more efficient dietary sources of linoleic acid for dogs.
How to Apply Coconut Oil to Your Dog
If you’d like to use coconut oil on your dog’s skin, I suggest applying a teaspoon or less on a local area as you would a lotion. You can also warm this small amount in your hands and rub it over your dog’s coat after a bath with shampoo to soften the fur (like a conditioner). Avoid applying significant amounts to the skin because it will end up in your dog’s stomach and might cause problems that way.
What Oil Is Best for Dog Shedding?
If your dog has a nutritional deficiency of fatty acids, correcting the deficiency could improve skin health and shedding secondarily. Make sure you’re feeding your pup a complete and balanced diet.
Major brands of dog food from Mars, Purina, Hills, Iams, Nutro, etc. are great places to start looking for balanced dog food. Just look at the label and you should find a statement that the “food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles…” Make sure the food is appropriate for your dog’s life stage-maintenance, growth, large breed growth or reproduction/lactation.
Beyond balanced nutrition and providing all your dog’s essential fatty acids with food, you might see some improvement with an extra dose of omega-3 fatty acid. The easiest way for a dog owner to give omega-3 fatty acid supplements is with fish oil liquid or capsules.
Dogs with skin allergies can have an improvement in skin lesions including excessive shedding when they take fish oil supplements. (1,6) Healthy skin usually leads to a more normal level of shedding.
Palm, coconut and olive oil are not especially beneficial to dogs who are eating a balanced diet. They don’t contain enough essential fatty acids to be beneficial and the extra calories from pure fats lead to obesity quickly.
Canola, corn, hemp seed and flaxseed oil do contain essential fatty acids dogs need. If you’re making homemade food, one of these oils might be recommended by a veterinary nutritionist to balance your recipe. But giving them in addition to an already balanced diet is not necessary nor recommended.
Summary: Coconut Oil for Dog Shedding
The fad to recommend coconut oil to decrease shedding in dogs is unfounded. There is no evidence that feeding coconut oil to a dog or applying it topically has any effect on shedding. Coconut oil is safe to apply in small amounts to a dog’s coat and skin as a moisturizer.
If you want to maximize your dog’s chances of having a healthy coat, feed a nutritionally complete and balanced diet. You may supplement with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement if you suspect your dog has a mild allergic skin condition. Buy a fish oil product made specifically for dogs and follow the dosing instructions on the label.
Save the virgin coconut oil for working on your tan next time you go to the beach!
- Bauer, J. E. (2011). Therapeutic use of fish oils in companion animals. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 239(11), 1441-1451.
- Boateng, L., Ansong, R., Owusu, W., & Steiner-Asiedu, M. (2016). Coconut oil and palm oil’s role in nutrition, health and national development: A review. Ghana medical journal, 50(3), 189-196.
- Fat Chart & Nutritional Analysis: Canola oil. good for every body! Canola Info. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2022, from https://www.canolainfo.org/health/fat-chart-and-nutritional-analysis.php
- Ghazani, S. M., & Marangoni, A. G. (2016). Nutrition and food grains in Encyclopedia of Food Grains.
- Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, Roudebush P, eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed. Marceline, MO: Mark Morris Institute; 2000:725–881.
- Saevik, B. K., Bergvall, K., Holm, B. R., SAIJONMAA‐KOULUMIES, L. E., HEDHAMMAR, Å., Larsen, S., & Kristensen, F. (2004). A randomized, controlled study
- Gervajio, G. C. (2005). Fatty acids and derivatives from coconut oil. Bailey’s industrial oil and fat products, 6(6).