Coconut is a delicious snack, and its flavour manages to find its way into many drinks, desserts and sweets, alongside being super tasty just to eat by itself. Coconut is a really healthy snack for us humans, but can our hounds enjoy it too?
And if dogs can eat coconut, is it good for them and should we be feeding them it as an extra snack alongside their dinners? We’re here to give you the answers to all those questions and more, so keep reading to find out.
Yes, dogs can eat coconut and it’s a snack that’s sure to get their tail wagging!
In contrast to its name, coconut is not actually a nut at all, it’s actually classed as a special subcategory of fruit called a drupe, which are defined as fruits with an inside flesh and a seed that’s encased in a tough shell. Other fruits in this category include apricots, mangoes and cherries.
Coconut and its oils are filled with nutrition, such as good fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibre. It’s also super hydrating, perfect for those warm summer days where your dog might be needing that extra bit of hydration.
However, coconut should be fed in moderation to ensure that your pup’s tummy can tolerate it without any upset. Also, never feed sweetened coconut, which is often used in baking, as this is way too high in sugar for our furry friends.
Coconut has tonnes of health benefits that your dog can enjoy, as it’s packed with antioxidants that help to boost your pooch’s immune system and speed up how quickly the body can repair damage. As a result, the body can form a good defence system against strange bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. This means it’s a brilliant snack for a pooch who is feeling a little poorly, providing a great boost of immunity and strength.
The coconut ‘meat’ as it’s called is also high in a substance called lauric acid, which is a medium-chain fatty acid. Essentially, these can be used as a direct energy source for your dog, and lauric acid is known to be excellent at fighting off viruses, utilised in the treatment of yeast infections, a giardia infection, influenza and a ringworm infection.
Not only that, but coconut is also an anti-inflammatory, which can help to reduce pain and swelling. This is especially useful if your dog is suffering from degenerative joint issues such as arthritis and hip dysplasia, in which anti-inflammatories are paramount in helping those achy joints feel a little more at ease. These anti-inflammatory effects will also help with the healing of any cuts, scrapes and wounds that your mischievous mutt might encounter during their day-to-day doggy activities.
As we know, coconut is packed with many, many nutrients, one of them being manganese, which is a mineral that supports the metabolism and promotes good bone health.
So, overall, coconut is really good for dogs and humans alike, making it a brilliant choice of snack if you’re wanting to give your pup an extra special treat. However, too much coconut can be an issue, so you need to make sure it’s always fed in moderation. It’s pretty high in calories and fat, so if too much is consumed it can lead to unwelcome weight gain, stomach problems and the risk of pancreatic flare ups if your dog suffers with pancreatitis.
It also contains medium-chain triglycerides, which can trigger bloat and stomach upset for those with super sensitive tums. Therefore, it’s always best to try your dog with a tiny bit of coconut at first to see how their body reacts to the fruit.
Every dog has their own personal preferences (maybe not if you own a Labrador, they’ll scoff just about anything), so we can’t say for sure if they’ll go crazy for coconut. However, we do know that coconut is delicious and sweet, so it’s likely to be a winner in your dog’s books.
No, never give your dog any of the coconut shell to chew on. Although it isn’t toxic and is unlikely to cause any problems if your furry friend does manage to steal some from the kitchen side, it’s best to always keep it out of reach.
The coconut shell is hard, tough and pretty much impossible for your pooch to digest, so it poses the risk of causing internal blockages and obstructions. Also, the shell is covered in hairs, and these fibres may gather in the intestines and create problems for your dog’s bowel movements, so it’s always best to avoid coconut shells.
Yes, dogs can eat coconut oil and it’s widely known to have various health benefits for our hounds, whether it’s used externally or eaten. Coconut oil can help with dermatitis, itchy skin, flea allergies, hot spots, yeast infections and digestion.
It also has lots of antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects, so it really is a great addition to your dog’s dinners. The oils can even be used topically, straight onto your dog’s skin, working to add moisture to the skin, promote wound healing, soothe inflamed skin and promote a glossy, soft coat.
However, as with coconut meat, make sure to monitor your dog’s intake of coconut oil as it’s high in fat and studies have shown that it can increase your dog’s cholesterol if too much is consumed.
Coconut milk is non-toxic to dogs, and can even have a few health benefits such as boosting immunity, freshening that dreaded doggy breath and promoting a shiny coat, however, we’d still advise against giving your canine any coconut milk.
Too much coconut milk is likely to cause diarrhoea and some of the ones you find in the shops might contain extra additives that you wouldn’t find normally in the coconut flesh, so it’s always best to stay clear. However, as stated, it is non-toxic so it’s unlikely to have any long-term impacts, just a short episode of loose stools.
Coconut water is rich in various nutrients, alongside being packed full of electrolytes to give your pooch an extra pep in their step and keep them hydrated.
Similarly to coconut milk, watch out for shop-bought coconut water as it could contain added chemicals, additives and sugars that won’t be very healthy for your hound.
As you’re browsing through the supermarket, you might notice lots of things that are coconut-flavoured, such as chocolates, yoghurts and puddings. And although these might look like a tempting treat for us humans, we’d always say to stay well away from giving any of these sweet treats to your canine companion.
It’s likely that the coconut flavouring in these products is artificial, and accompanied by lots of other ingredients, chemicals, additives and sugars that our dogs should stay well away from. Therefore, we’d always say no to your dog eating anything coconut-flavoured.
Before giving your dog any coconut, make sure to remove all the shell as this isn’t suitable for canine consumption. Give your pooch a little chunk of coconut (make sure to ask them to do a little trick beforehand!) and then see if it goes down well and that they don’t have a bad reaction.
From here, you can make various tasty dog treats out of coconut, such as dog-friendly smoothies with other fruits that can be frozen onto a lickimat, alongside freezing coconut oil and frozen fruit into an ice cube tray. This makes a perfect sweet snack for a warm day if your dog needs cooling down.
Here at Pure, we include a tiny bit of coconut into some of our complete and balanced dog food recipes, ensuring that your dog gets all the nutritional benefits of coconut in every meal at the exact right proportions. We include lots of real fruit and veggies in Pure, which ensures that their food always leaves their belly full, body healthy and tail waggy.
Overall, coconut is an excellent snack to feed your pet, alongside being a great ingredient in healthy, natural dog foods. Therefore, we’d definitely recommend giving your dog a little taster of this fantastic fruit to see what they think.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.