Will Coconut Oil Help My Dog Stop Itching? (Vet Explains)

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will coconut oil help my dog stop itching

You’ve probably heard about some of the benefits of coconut oil for skin issues people, but did you know it can also help your canine companion?

Naturally, in practice, I had my share of itchy dogs. When owners asked if there were any natural remedies they could use to help their pooch find relief from seasonal allergies or other causes of itching, one of my recommendations was coconut oil.

Coconut oil has some amazing properties that help it to fight microbial infections and inflammation. Below, we’ll discuss how coconut oil can help relieve itchy skin for your pooch. We’ll talk about how you can apply the oil to your dog and whether you should leave it on overnight.

Because some dogs may react to coconut, we’ll give you a list of alternatives to treat itchy skin in your dog. We’ll also explain which kind of coconut oil is best for your pooch and describe some of the other health benefits associated with coconut oil.

Let’s get started.

Will Coconut Oil Help My Dog’s Itchy Skin?

Coconut oil has several nutrients that help to support healthy skin and relieve itching. According to Dr. Edele Grey, Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) including lauric acid. It’s also a source of omega-6 fatty acids. 

The components of coconut oil have powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties.  They work together to heal various skin issues such as eczema, hot spots, flea allergies, contact dermatitis, and other causes of itchiness in dogs. 

Coconut oil contains omega-6 fatty acids and MCTs that provide anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. These qualities help to make the oil an effective remedy for itchy skin in dogs.

Is Coconut Oil Safe For My Dog’s Skin?

Coconut oil is both safe and beneficial for your dog. Containing about 90% saturated fats, this substance supports skin health. 

  • It helps lock moisture into the skin to prevent drying
  • It has anti-inflammatory effects that can control irritation
  • It fights bacteria, fungi, and viruses so it can overcome infections

You can apply it directly to the skin or feed it as a supplement.

Be aware that there are some risks associated with feeding coconut oil. This substance is 100% fat, and overdosing can be harmful to the pancreas and other systems. Potential side effects of giving your dog coconut oil include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Inappetance
  • Allergic reactions

When selecting coconut oil for your dog, we recommend unrefined, virgin coconut oil. That way, the product isn’t subjected to filtering and bleaching.

Summary: Coconut oil is safe for dogs, but there are some risks associated with feeding this substance as a dietary supplement. With 80-90% saturated fats, the oil supports skin health by locking in moisture, fighting inflammation, and fighting microbial infections. 

What Does Science Say About Coconut Oil?

There are multiple studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of coconut oil to treat skin conditions. Below are a few examples.

  •  A study in rats demonstrated that topical application of virgin coconut oil can improve healing in skin wounds. 
  • Using a double-blind study, researchers demonstrated that coconut oil is as effective as mineral oil in treating dry, itchy skin.
  • The oil contains lauric acid, and research reveals this substance has antibacterial and antifungal properties in vitro. 

Although these studies were not conducted on dogs, they suggest that coconut oil can effectively treat canine skin conditions that cause itching.

Studies on the effectiveness of coconut oil as a treatment for various skin conditions demonstrate it can help improve healing, soothe dry and itchy skin, and fight bacterial and fungal infections. These studies have not yet been performed on canines.

How Do I Apply Coconut Oil To My Dog’s Skin?

If your pooch has generalized redness and itching of the skin, you can apply some virgin coconut oil throughout the fur. 

  • Pour some of the oil into your hands and rub it over the coat with your palms. 
  • Lightly brush the coat to distribute the material throughout the body
  • Leave the oil in for 5-10 minutes
  •  Rinse your dog to remove excess oils if the hair is too greasy

For localized patches of irritation such as a bug bite or hot spot, you can use your fingers to rub some oil into the area. Another option is to pour a few drops onto the spot and gently massage the oil into the skin. 

For general itching, apply the oil throughout the body by using your hands and a brush to rub it into the coat. If you have a localized itchy area, you can rub the oil in with your fingers or pour some directly onto the spot and massage it in.

How Often Should I Apply Coconut Oil On My Dog’s Skin?

How frequently you apply coconut oil to your dog’s skin will depend on the severity of the skin condition and your pup’s response to therapy. If your furbaby responds well to the oil and shows marked improvement, you may only need to apply it about once a week to control itching. 

Dogs with severe cases may benefit from treatment with coconut oil two or three times per week. Do not apply the substance more than three times a week. The oil can be absorbed through the skin, and too much oil in the system can give your dog diarrhea. 

When you apply coconut oil to your dog, observe him closely. Some dogs can have allergic reactions to the substance. If you see any increased itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing, contact your veterinarian. 

Depending on the severity of the condition and your dog’s response to the treatment, you can apply coconut oil 1-3 times per week. Because the skin can absorb the oil, applying it too frequently may result in diarrhea.

Can I Leave Coconut Oil On My Dog Overnight?

When you apply coconut oil to your dog’s skin and coat, it’s best to rinse off any excess oil after about 5-10 minutes. The problem is the substance can clog your dog’s pores if you leave it on too long. 

For humans, coconut oil can exacerbate acne, and the same is true for our canine companions. Therefore, allowing the oil to stay on the skin overnight can do more harm than good. Particularly sensitive dogs may develop pimples or other skin reactions. 

If your dog doesn’t suffer from sensitive skin, you may be able to leave virgin coconut oil on overnight. This form is unrefined and less likely to clog the pores. However, you should clean the remaining oil from the skin in the morning.

Generally, you should not leave coconut oil on your dog’s skin overnight. The residue can clog pores and irritate sensitive skin. However, virgin coconut oil may be left on the skin if your dog doesn’t suffer from sensitive skin.

What else can I do to relieve my dog’s itching?

Coconut oil is not the only topical substance you can use to relieve itching in your dog. Some other options include:

  • Aloe vera gel – Aloe vera helps to heal and protect the skin. It’s an excellent option to treat hot spots and other localized itchy areas. This material is full of minerals and has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Jojoba oil – This oil is hypoallergenic and moisturizes dry skin. Rubbing a few drops into the skin can help ease itchiness and heal the skin.
  • Baking soda – When applied to the skin, baking soda exerts anti-inflammatory effects. You can sprinkle it on the coat and massage it in, create a 50/50 water, baking soda paste, or make a spray solution with 2 tablespoons of the powder dissolved in 1 cup of water. 
  • Colloidal oatmeal – With a mixture of finely ground oats and water, you can help soothe itching and irritation in your dog’s skin. Colloidal oatmeal contains phenols and saponins that have anti-inflammatory effects and help to gently cleanse the skin.
  • Tea soaks/bags – Green tea and some herbal blends like chamomile contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce itching in your pooch. You can either steep tea in a bath or use steeped tea bags to treat irritated skin in your dog. Make sure the tea bath or bags are cool before you use them on your dog.
  • Apple cider vinegar – As an acid, vinegar has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. You can treat dry, itchy skin by creating a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water. Store the mixture in a spray bottle and apply it topically as needed.
  • Anti-itch shampoo – There are several over-the-counter and medicated shampoos available to treat itching in dogs.

In addition to topical treatments, you can also use supplements that support skin health, try feeding your dog a hypoallergenic diet, and investigate Fido’s environment to see if any recent changes triggered the itching.

There are a variety of topical applications you can try to help relieve your dog’s itching. You can also make dietary and environmental changes if you suspect that the inflammation is due to a sensitivity or allergic reaction.

What kind of coconut oil should I get for my dog?

There are two kinds of coconut oil: refined and unrefined, also known as virgin or cold-pressed oil.

  • Refined oil goes through heating and bleaching as part of the extraction process. As a result of the process, this oil may not have the same nutritional value. Some refined oils may also have partially-hydrogenated fats added to reduce the price and give them a longer shelf life. 
  • Unrefined oil is not cooked during the extraction process. It is cold-pressed to remove the oil without harming the nutrients. There is also no bleaching. Because the nutrients are intact, this oil tends to have greater anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects than refined coconut oil. It does cost more and has a shorter shelf life.

When choosing coconut oil for your dog, you should look for virgin(unrefined) or cold-pressed coconut oil. As compared to refined oil, virgin products have higher nutritional content and better anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Are there other benefits of coconut oil for dogs?

In addition to helping with itchy skin, coconut oil has many other health benefits for dogs. Consisting of 90% saturated fats, most of which are MCTs, it qualifies as a superfood that offers an excellent source of energy for your pooch. Additionally, various MCTs exert antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral effects so they can help your pooch fight microbial infections.

Some other potential benefits of coconut oil for dogs include:

  • Boosting brain function – Because MCTs provide an energy source for the brain, they can help slow the decline of your dog’s cognitive functions.
  • Repelling fleas and ticks – Although the results are mostly anecdotal, some people believe coconut oil may serve as an effective flea and tick repellant.
  • Treating epilepsy – Some studies suggest that using coconut oil as part of a dietary management plan may help reduce epileptic seizures in dogs.
  • Treating intestinal parasites – Your dog’s digestive system can convert some MCTs into substances that kill tapeworms and other intestinal parasites.
  • Aiding digestion – With its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, feeding small quantities of coconut oil to your pooch can help manage digestive disturbances like inflammatory bowel disease. It also helps the body with nutrient absorption. 
  • Cleaning your dog’s teeth – You can use coconut oil to clean your dog’s teeth. Due to coconut’s antimicrobial properties, brushing Fido’s teeth with a soft brush that’s dipped in coconut oil can help prevent tooth decay. It may also help to neutralize bad breath.

The above list of health benefits is not exhaustive. However, you can see that coconut oil is an excellent resource to have on hand for your pooch.

Coconut oil can provide your pooch with several health benefits beyond relieving itchy skin. For example, this substance may benefit your pup’s brain function and reduce epileptic seizures. It can also help fight internal and external parasites and much more.

Final Woof

With omega-6 fatty acids and MCTs, coconut oil has nutrients that can help relieve itchy skin and more. 

This substance is safe to apply topically on your dog to help address general inflammation or localized issues. You can also use it sparingly as a food supplement as long as you don’t overdo it.

You can apply coconut oil to your dog’s coat or on localized itchy spots 1-3 times a week depending on the severity of your pup’s skin condition and how he responds to treatment.

While coconut oil is highly effective to treat itchy skin in many dogs, there are other natural options you can try to help your pooch find relief. Due to the natural properties of MCTs and omega fatty acids, coconut offers several other benefits beyond relieving itchiness.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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