When it comes to coconut oil and dogs, less is more. 
a woman bends down to feed a large, tan dog in a kitchen
Credit: Inti St Clair / Getty Images

We use it plenty, but it turns out coconut oil for dogs can be beneficial, too. From using it on their skin to feeding it to them as part of their meal, there are many ways coconut oil can be used to improve your pup's health—as long as its consumed properly. 

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM and member of the Daily Paws review board, explained how coconut oil can help dogs, how to give it to our dogs safely, and how to mitigate any risks, specifically weight gain.

Is Coconut Oil Good for Dogs?

When given in proper amounts, coconut oil can be good for dogs, aiding energy levels and combating skin issues. Pendergrass says these benefits come from the high amount of good fat coconut oil contains.

These fats, technically called medium chain triglycerides, increase energy and purportedly contain antimicrobial properties for fighting bacteria and fungi, Pendergrass says. These fats are also good for mental function and can reduce inflammation. 

But before we go any further: Pendergrass says it's important to keep in mind that the benefits of coconut oil for dogs have not been scientifically proven, so it's always best to contact your veterinarian for advice before using it on your pup. 

Aside from feeding it to your pup, coconut oil can also benefit your dog's skin and coat when applied topically. Not only can coconut oil make your dog's coat look glossy and polished, but it can also help soothe irritated, itchy skin, Pendergrass says. 

Are There Any Risks Giving Your Dog Coconut Oil?

While the high amount of good fat is what makes coconut oil useful, it can also lead to weight gain. Pendergrass says this is especially important for overweight or obese dogs. Feeding them coconut oil could exacerbate those problems. 

Feeding your pooch too much coconut oil can also cause stomach upset. Pendergrass says if a dog is fed too much oil, it can lead to greasy stools and diarrhea. Again, talk with your veterinarian before starting a coconut oil regimen for your dog.

How To Use Coconut Oil for Dogs

There are two ways: You can put coconut oil on your dog topically or dogs can eat the coconut oil. Here's how you can do both safely. 

Coconut Oil for Dogs' Skin

Whether your dog's skin is irritated or you're just looking to add some more moisture to their coat, coconut oil can be an easy, affordable way to help. 

If you're applying coconut oil to your dog's fur, Pendergrass recommends spreading a small amount in your hands before rubbing it onto your dog's coat. Let it set for a few minutes and then rinse it off with water. Because water and oil don't mix, the coconut oil won't rinse completely out of your pup's fur—but it should help make them a little less greasy, Pendergrass says. If you balk at using straight coconut oil but still want its moisturizing benefits, Pendergrass says shampoos that contain coconut oil are an alternative. 

If your dog has a hot spot or an area of irritated skin, Pendergrass says you can use coconut oil to help soothe the itching and irritation. Simply rub a small amount of coconut oil in your hands and apply it to the hot spot. To prevent your dog from licking the oil off and causing further irritation, Pendergrass recommends covering the hot spot with a bandage. If the irritated skin does not show improvement within a day, it's time to call your veterinarian.

Dogs Eating Coconut Oil

When it comes to feeding your dog coconut oil, you don't want to overdo it. The amount of coconut oil to feed your pup depends on their size. If you have a small dog, Pendergrass recommends feeding 1/4 of a teaspoon daily. If you have a large dog, up to 1 tablespoon daily is typically safe. As with introducing any new food to your dog, start with small amounts and gradually increase over time if your dog is responding well to the coconut oil.

It's also important to feed your dog coconut oil with a meal, and monitor them for any signs of stomach upset, Pendergrass says.

If you notice your dog gaining weight after feeding them coconut oil, you might be giving them too much. Talk to your veterinarian to get a personalized recommendation on how much to feed your dog and if it's a good idea for them. If your dog has pancreatitis or some other health conditions, high-fat items, including coconut oil, are typically not recommended.

What Type of Coconut Oil Should I Give My Dog?

The type of coconut oil to feed your pup might come down to what they like. The two main types of coconut oil, unrefined (virgin) and refined, have varying levels of coconut flavor. Unrefined coconut oil typically has a stronger coconut taste, whereas refined coconut oil usually has less of a coconut flavor. 

The American Kennel Club recommends feeding unrefined coconut oil to your pup, but you may need to experiment to see what flavor your dog prefers.