Coconut Oil for Dog's Skin and Health

Story at-a-glance -

  • Coconut oil has antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial properties, and can have profound benefits for your dog's skin health, digestion, brain function, nutrient absorption and thyroid function
  • In this video, Dr. Becker is back in her kitchen at home to demonstrate how she performs coconut oil treatments on her elderly dog, Rosco.
  • Rosco, like almost all senior dogs (and senior humans), has issues with his skin and toenails. Part of the problem is Rosco’s Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism, but it’s also simply a fact that as pets and people age, the skin tends to get flaky and the nails tend to get funky.
  • Dr. Becker manages Rosco’s skin and nail issues with weekly baths followed by coconut oil treatments. Coconut oil helps reduce flaking and improves the integrity of the skin. It also supports the lipid barrier, which makes skin healthier and more resistant to pathogens.
  • The treatment is quite simple. Just scoop the oil from the container and apply it to your pet like a mask, insuring to coat every inch of skin and nails, especially problem areas. Allow the mask to absorb into the skin for five minutes or so, and feel free to let your pet lick the oil as you wait. After about five minutes, do a light application of shampoo, and another light rinse.
  • Coconut oil treatments leave Rosco’s “old man” skin incredibly soft and in a healthier condition, and we’re sure it will do the same for your pet!

By Dr. Becker

(Sadly, Rosco passed away in October 2014, nearly a year after I originally wrote and published this post. Nevertheless, this treatment has significantly helped alleviate Rosco's health issues, and helped kept him comfortable up until his final moments.

I highly recommend this to any pet parent who has a senior dog struggling with the same problems.)

Hello! I'm back in my kitchen at home this morning with my senior Boston Terrier, Rosco. Rosco will soon be 15 years old. He's deaf and can't see very well anymore. He also has Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism.

Today, I'm going to show you how I can improve Rosco's condition with one of the most extraordinary natural remedies that I'm sure a lot of you have in your kitchen cabinet: coconut oil.

The Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs (and Other Pets, Too!)

Before I go on to discuss Rosco's condition, I'd like to first give an overview on why coconut oil is such a boon to your pet's health.

Coconut oil is a concentrated source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may have positive effects on your pet's cognitive function. This oil is also a rich source of lauric acid, which is a powerful antimicrobial agent. Coconut oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties as well.

Dogster provides a list of reasons why coconut oil benefits your dogs,1 which include:

1. It improves skin health, and clears up conditions like flea allergies, eczema, itchy skin and contact dermatitis

2. It helps heal and relieve cuts, hot spots, wounds, stings and bites.

3. It moisturizes dry skin and gives your pet's coat a shiny gleam.

4. It reduces doggy odor and doggy breath.

5. It helps prevents yeast infections, particularly candida.

6. Dogs suffering from kennel cough may recover faster with coconut oil.

7. It improves nutrient absorption and digestion (It may cause loose stools, though, so moderation is still crucial).

8. It can help reduce your dog's risk of diabetes by regulating your pet's insulin levels. It may also moderate thyroid function and keep infections and heart disease at bay.

9. Coconut oil promotes motility in arthritic dogs and those with joint issues.

10. It can benefit brain health and may be helpful for senior dogs whose minds are starting to become "cloudy."

For Rosco, I'm using coconut oil specifically for his skin and nail issues – this is a common dilemma that is seen in senior dogs.

Two Things That Don't Age Well in People and Pets

To be completely honest, if pets and humans live long enough, two things on their bodies turn pretty gross -- fingernails/toenails, and skin. It's just a fact of life.

Even though Rosco has been a raw fed dog since we rescued him at about a year of age, and his dietary fatty acid profile is perfect, both the Cushing's and hypothyroidism affect the health of his skin.

But beyond that, Rosco is simply an old man, so his skin is flakey, and he also has age-related alopecia, which causes bald spots on his body. He has several thick, crusty spots that recur on his skin and make him a little itchy.

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How I Treat Rosco's 'Old Man' Skin and Nail Issues

In addition to bathing Rosco regularly to prevent any sort of skin infection (he gets a bath about once a week, which is more frequently than my other dogs), I've discovered that doing a coconut oil treatment on his skin is also very beneficial.

The treatments help reduce flaking and improve the integrity of his skin. They also support the lipid barrier, which makes his skin healthier and more resistant to pathogens like yeast and opportunistic bacteria.

(Please pardon my parrot who has decided to chime in from another room!)

I decided to film Rosco's coconut oil treatment this morning and share it with everyone here at Mercola Healthy Pets. I hope it comes in handy for those of you who also have a four-legged family member who could benefit from the treatment.

Rosco's Coconut Oil Skin Treatment, Step-by-Step

I've already bathed Rosco – it's important to do coconut oil treatments on clean skin. I use 100 percent organic, cold-pressed, human grade coconut oil, which I buy by the half-gallon tub because I use a lot of it.

As you can see, Rosco likes to lick the oil while I'm doing his treatment!

So I'm going to apply the coconut oil to his body like a mask. Those of you familiar with coconut oil know that below a certain temperature it's solid, and at warmer temps it becomes liquid. Right now at my house, it's kind of half-and-half.

I'm scooping out the coconut oil and applying it everywhere – from the tips of Rosco's ears right down to his toenails, which are flakey. He has one dystrophic nail, which means it's thick and curled under.

I've cultured the nail to check for fungus and there is none, but the nail is still kind of scary-looking and it irritates him. So I apply coconut oil to that nail in particular.

When I do this treatment with Rosco, he thinks I've turned him into a big sucker. He loves to lick himself during his treatment!

Now, I'm applying coconut oil to Rosco's front legs and chest and his unhealthy nail which you can see right here. I handle the nail very gently because Rosco doesn't like to have it touched.

This treatment not only keeps his skin soft, but also does a great job improving the natural defenses of the skin. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is a fabulous immune builder, both orally and topically.

For whatever reason, Rosco's armpits are excessively flakey, so I make sure I do a good job getting plenty of coconut oil under there. We spend just a few minutes – about five minutes -- letting the coconut oil absorb into Rosco's skin. I do one more bath after the five minutes is up, and a very light rinse. I don't lather him up too much. I just don't want him to be greasy, so I remove the excess oils with a light application of shampoo and another quick rinse.

The treatment leaves Rosco's skin not only incredibly soft, but also in a healthier condition. I do a coconut oil skin treatment on him about once a week and it has made a big difference in the health of Rosco's skin and nails.

+ Sources and References