Have you heard of all the magic associated with the addition of coconut oil to your pet’s food? We know that many people are looking for alternative options to process pet foods. Unfortunately, much of the hype and misinformation you hear and read will lead you to a diet that is not nutritionally balanced.
Let’s talk about the hype regarding coconut oil. Television celebrity Dr. Oz has been cheerleading the wonders of coconut oil. Remember the green coffee bean debacle? Not everything he promotes is true. According to Dr. Ken Tudor of PetMD, Dr. Oz claims coconut oil “cures bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, promotes weight loss, promotes ‘good cholesterol,’ and improves the mental skills of Alzheimer’s patients. He stops short of coconut oil getting rid of unwanted facial hair and unwanted house guests, but the implication is that anything is possible.”
Does it sound too good to be true? You bet. We recommend that coconut oil not be used as the sole source of fat in a pet’s homemade dog food diets or added to commercial dog food. Why?
Separating fact from fiction about the wonders of coconut oil
Does not provide daily fat requirements for dogs
According to Dr. Tudor, “To meet the daily fat needs of dogs, every 1,000 calories (kilocalories, actually) needs to contain 2,700 mg of the omega-6 fat called linoleic acid, and 107 mg of the omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid. Coconut oil contains only 243 mg of an undifferentiated form of linoleic acid (omega 6).” Dogs and cats are not capable of efficiently converting omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids. In other words, coconut oil as a sole source of fat in your dog’s diet will be deficient in what he/she needs in regards to essential fatty acids.
Does not protect against bacteria,viruses, or fungi.
Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which has been shown to kill some bacteria, viruses, and fungi in laboratory experiments. However, the amount needed to kill germs in laboratory culture dishes is greater than can be consumed. Research has NOT shown that coconut oil protects humans or animals from infection at normal amounts of consumption.
It also raises the blood levels of “bad cholesterol.”
In addition to raising the levels of HDLs, or “good cholesterol,” in the blood, coconut oil also increases the blood levels of LDLs, or “bad cholesterol.” Fortunately this is not a problem for pets since cholesterol is not a factor in their heart disease.
Does not improve congnitive function
According to Dr. Tudor, “Geriatric cognitive disorders, or dementia, are very similar to Alzheimer’s and are real disorders in pets. That cat that howls for no reason at night or the dog that stares at the wall and seems confused are suffering from an Alzheimer’s-like brain change.” Some human Alzheimer’s patients have shown improved mental function after adding coconut oil to their diets. However, there are no evidence-based studies that show that coconut oil positively impacts degenerative brain function in pets.
The bottom line is that coconut oil adds 120 calories for every tablespoon without adding any appreciable nutritional value. Adding it to a commercial diet is adding unneeded fat calories, much like an unnecessary treat. And it is certainly a recipe for fat malnutrition for those using it exclusively in their pets’ homemade diets.