Being the owner of an allergy-prone, highly sensitive French Bulldog, it takes a lot of hard work to make sure he stays in good health. Oral medication and topical creams prescribed by vets always seemed to help for a little while, but then they either stop working or result in unpleasant side effects. I'm also always extremely worried whenever I give my dog oral medication, as I'm not thrilled with the idea of continuously feeding him all sorts of chemicals that, in the long term, may not be the best for his kidneys and liver and could still do him serious harm.
This is why I turned to virgin coconut oil. I use it myself in my skin care regimen (often mentioned on my other blog, Salubrious Exclamation) as a natural alternative to commercially made products, and sometimes even add it to my diet as a supplement. I did extensive research and found out that virgin coconut oil is not harmful to dogs, and is in fact good for them for most of the same reasons it's good for people. So I began adding just a little bit to my dogs diet every day, and gradually, day by day, began to see improvements in the condition of his skin, as well as a significant reduction in the itchiness in his paws. Although his coat is already very healthy (due to my strict regimen of washing him with baking soda and apple cider vinegar), the coconut oil in his diet helped bring out an even more brilliant shine — so much that people on the street have even stopped to compliment the luster of his fur!
It is, however, important to remember that if you want to incorporate coconut oil into your dog's diet, you must make sure that it is virgin coconut oil, and not refined. Virgin coconut oil retains all the good properties that are good for your dog, while anything processed further will lose their beneficial characteristics, and may even contain extra unwanted additives.
Having personally experienced the benefits of virgin coconut oil, and having seen how it has helped my dog with his health problems once I added it to his diet, I am a huge advocate of this particular oil. If you're interested, I've included some more in depth information about virgin coconut oil below, including how its made, its beneficial properties, and how to incorporate it into your dog's life.
What is virgin coconut oil?
Virgin coconut oil is oil extracted from coconuts in its purest, or close to purest, form. Often you will see labels that say "cold-pressed," which means the same thing. It means the oil was derived without adding any or too much heat to the process, which can change the molecular structure of the oil. Arguably, coconut oil that has been processed further and mixed with additional additives could be cheaper, but it may also contain a bunch of extra additives that you don't, and may have lost many of its beneficial properties in the refining process.
If you're confused by the label, you can determine whether you have virgin coconut oil when the oil is white and of a solid consistency at room temperature, and becomes liquid and clearer in color at higher temperatures.
What's the difference between virgin and extra virgin coconut oil?
"Extra virgin" would imply that the coconut oil is even purer than simply "virgin" coconut oil. However, I have not been able to find any official standard for a difference between "virgin" and "extra virgin" coconut oil.
What are the characteristics of virgin coconut oil?
Virgin coconut oil is said to have antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it a great oil to use internally as well as topically. It is also supposedly loaded with lauric acid, which, when ingested, is converted into a compound that has antiviral and antimicrobial properties that combats fungus, bacteria and viruses that could harm the body.
Virgin coconut oil also contains fat, but the good kind of fat. Specifically, saturated fatty acids, most of which are medium-chain fatty acids. Medium-chain fatty acids are beneficial because they increase the body's metabolism while also supplying with good cholesterol.
There is also vitamin E in virgin coconut oil, which as most people know, is great for skin and hair.
What canine ailments does virgin coconut oil help with?
There are a multitude of testimonials about the positive effects of virgin coconut oil from people who have incorporated it into their dogs' diets. Among them are claims that virgin coconut oil has helped with canine allergies, skin conditions and infections. There are also owners who say their dogs' have more energy and reduced pain from arthritis from taking virgin coconut oil. Generally, virgin coconut seems to help boost immunity, so no matter what ailment a dog is suffering from, at least his/her immune system will be made stronger, which would help him/her fight their sickness.
How do I use virgin coconut oil on my dog?
I couldn't find a scientific standard for how much virgin coconut oil is appropriate to add in a dog's diet, but I did read somewhere that 1 tablespoon for every 4.5 kilograms (10lbs) is appropriate. I personally add only 1 teaspoon to my each of my dog's meals (twice a day), and he weighs 12-13kg. However, when I first started out, I only allowed him half a teaspoon a day, and gradually increased this amount each day. This is because you probably shouldn't introduce too much coconut oil into your dog's diet all at once, as it could affect his/her digestion. Generally, most dogs seem to really enjoy coconut oil, and won't mind its strong smell and taste.
Virgin coconut oil can also be used on dogs topically to treat rashes, dry skin and scabbing. I have personally used it to treat yeast infections in my dog's paws and around his tail, and it significantly reduced his itching and discomfort.