Olive oil, the delicious cooking oil with a ton of other uses, is a liquid fat that is extracted from the savory olive fruit.
Olive oil contains linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that needs to be consumed by humans on a daily basis. Other sources of linoleic acid include grains, fruits, vegetables, other plant oils (such as sunflower oil and safflower oil), nuts, meats, and eggs.
This tasty oil is a staple of our own at-home cooking, but is olive oil safe for dogs? Read on to find out more.
Is Olive Oil Safe for Dogs?
In general, yes, olive oil is generally safe to give to your dog in small amounts and/or as directed by your veterinarian.
Olive oil isn’t toxic or poisonous to dogs when given in larger quantities, but it may contribute to creating a pro-inflammatory environment (an environment capable of producing inflammation) in a dog’s body if not properly balanced with other oils.
It’s also important to note that the excess fat from olive oil can cause stomach upset or pancreatitis if too much is consumed by dogs.
The key is giving olive oil in the right quantity and in the correct proportion. Many commercial dog foods already have olive oil as an ingredient. Check out your dog’s food packaging and you may already see that it’s included on the ingredient list.
Benefits of Olive Oil for Dogs
Adding olive oil to your dog’s food (or giving to your dog orally) contributes to your dog’s overall omega-6 fatty acid intake. The easiest way to include olive oil in your dog’s food is to find a complete and balanced dog food that already contains olive oil.
If you are home cooking your dog’s food, make sure you have a source of both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids included. The easiest way to ensure the right balance is to have your homemade diet checked by a veterinary nutritionist or a veterinarian trained in balancing dog food diets.
There is some evidence that olive oil can be used in cases of gallbladder stasis. This is a condition where the gallbladder is unable to deliver bile acids to the intestinal tract properly. Olive oil will not take the place of any prescribed medications, but may be given to help continue to move the bile after the prescription medication has started working.
You may hear or read anecdotal accounts of olive oil being used successfully topically for dry skin or to help with wound healing in dogs. Although olive oil may have some wound healing benefits, it also has a negative effect on the outermost layer of the skin as well as the integrity of the skin barrier (1). This is because olive oil is quite high in another fatty acid called oleic acid. The oleic acid part of olive oil has the ability to disrupt a dog’s skin barrier and allow anything else present in the olive oil into the skin layer.
So although olive oil may contain antioxidants that may help in inflammatory conditions and in wound healing, it is likely not the best option for non-inflammatory skin conditions.
Is Olive Oil or Coconut Oil Better for Dogs?
Both olive oil and coconut oil for dogs have benefits and drawbacks, and choosing the right type of oil for your dog depends on what you are trying to accomplish. There isn’t just one oil that is overall better for health.
When applied topically, coconut oil does not have the anti-inflammatory or antioxidant properties that olive oil has. But since coconut oil is often used to make soap, it may offer a cleansing effect that olive oil does not.
When given orally, coconut oil, in small quantities, may have positive effects for an upset or unbalanced intestinal tract where olive oil does not have a comparable effect. In cases of both coconut oil and olive oil, giving too much can cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea or pancreatitis.
Olive Oil Risks for Dogs: What You Should Know
There hasn’t been significant research on the dangers of olive oil in dogs. We do know, based on the makeup and high fat level of olive oil, that it can present some gastrointestinal problems for dogs if given in large amounts.
These problems include:
Since adding olive oil will add calories to your pet’s diet, you will have to cut back on treats or cut back on meal food to avoid weight gain.
As discussed above, there is no evidence that olive oil used topically will help with a dog’s dry skin.
Olive oil should also never be used in a dog’s ears because it can trap moisture in the ear creating an ideal environment for bacteria or yeast infections to blossom. Olive oil is not an effective treatment for ear mites and should not be used in that capacity either.
How to Give Your Dog Olive Oil
If you have decided to give your dog olive oil with the above risks in mind, talk to your veterinarian first and then try giving 1/4 tsp to 1 tsp daily mixed with your dog’s food.
Be mindful of possible gastrointestinal upset or weight gain resulting from giving olive oil and monitor your dog closely. If any of these adverse effects are seen, discontinue giving to your dog and speak with your veterinarian about an alternative therapy for what you are trying to achieve.
As previously mentioned, topical olive oil won’t help your dog’s skin and will leave your pet’s coat oily. For this reason, topical application of olive oil is not recommended.