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Oils for Dogs: 4 Options for Canine Wellness

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If you’re interested in natural solutions for boosting health, you’ve probably already considered adding more olive oil, coconut oil, and fish oil to your life. But could your dog’s wellness routine benefit from certain oils as well? 

There are a variety of supplements, shampoos, creams, and lotions containing health-promoting oils on the market for pet parents and dogs alike. Whether or not they’ll benefit your pup depends on a variety of factors including the product type and dosage as well as your dog’s age, personal health profile, dietary needs, and more. 

To sort out which oils are worth investing in, we asked two holistic veterinarians to share their insight and provide some recommendations. Here, learn everything you need to know about oils for dogs and peruse a list of veterinarian-approved products to consider adding to your cart. 

Oils for Dogs: Ones to Consider 

While more research is needed on the potential health benefits of some oils for dogs, these ones get the stamp of approval from canine health pros. 

Some mild side effects and interactions with medications and supplements are possible. For these reasons, always consult with your veterinarian for the best dosage and form of application for your dog’s needs before you give any oils for dogs a try. 

Coconut Oil 

Coconut Oil with coconut on table

Coconut oil is safe for dogs when eaten in small amounts or applied to the skin. “It may help improve digestion, reduce inflammation, help control certain parasites, increase cognitive function, support skin health, and more,” says Dr. Trina Hazzah, a Los Angeles-based veterinarian specializing in oncology and complementary and alternative medicine. 

How, exactly? Coconut oil contains “good” saturated fats known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. 

While few studies have been done on dogs specifically, research shows coconut oil can help hydrate itchy, dry skin and may improve hair health (1, 2). For your pup, that could mean relief from common skin woes like hot spots and a shinier coat. 

Give your dog a bath with coconut oil shampoo and you can also help ward off pests like fleas, ticks, and mites and support healing from parasite bites (though parasite preventative medications are still a must), per a 2013 study (3). 

When ingested, side effects like greasy diarrhea are possible, and if your dog is overweight, has pancreatitis, or metabolizes fat poorly, it’s best to only apply coconut oil to his skin or in very small doses. 

MCT Oil 

MCT oil for dogs

Like coconut oil, MCT oil for dogs may help support their overall health thanks to the presence of healthy fats which boost cognitive performance. 

In particular, emerging studies suggest MCT oil for dogs could help decrease symptoms of epilepsy (4), making it a potential alternative treatment for pups with drug-resistant seizures, notes Dr. Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian based in New Jersey. 

MCT oil also shows promise in dialing down symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction (5), possibly because it serves as an alternative fuel source for the aging brain. 

Use with caution in animals with significant liver disease.

Make sure to store it in a cool, dry place according to the label instructions. 

Hemp Oil 

Woman holding hemp oil bottle

With the legalization of cannabis in many states, the CBD craze is in full swing. “Hemp oil with CBD for dogs is great,” says Dr. Morgan. Because it contains CBD (a.k.a. cannabidiol, a compound found in hemp and cannabis), it could help with a multitude of health problems for dogs. According to anecdotal reports, these include pain and osteoarthritis, anxiety, seizures, and more.

While there’s no conclusive data on the possible pros and cons of hemp oil for dogs, early studies are promising (6) and your veterinarian might suggest giving it a try for a natural anxiety supplement. 

For your dog’s safety, look for products that are organic and come with a certificate of analysis (which indicates that the product has been evaluated by a laboratory for potency, ingredients, and the presence of contaminants). 

CBD/hemp products do not contain THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana.

Fish Oil 

Fish oil on table

Fish oil—like salmon oil, sardine oil, and cod liver oil—is one of the most beneficial oils for dogs because it is rich in “good” fats known as omega-3 fatty acids. These include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 

“These act as anti-inflammatory agents and therefore may be beneficial in a variety of different inflammatory conditions in dogs such as skin allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, and more,” says Dr. Hazzah. Since DHA is key for brain health, fish oil for dogs may also help support puppies’ developing brains or reduce symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction in senior dogs. 

Keep in mind that fish oil can interact with drugs such as anticoagulants, doxorubicin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It’s best to talk with your veterinarian before considering use in dogs with diarrhea, diabetes, or pancreatitis. 

Since fish oil can become rancid when exposed to air or light, shop for capsules or oil stored in glass bottles and follow the label’s storage instructions, suggests Dr. Morgan. 

Unsafe or Ineffective Oils for Dogs: Ones to Avoid 

Neem oil on table

While natural, oils can be highly potent and some aren’t safe or effective for dogs. Here’s what you need to know about popular oils that aren’t so dog-friendly or may not be worth the cost. 

Krill Oil

Although krill oil contains healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, humans need twice as much of it compared to regular fish oil to reap the health benefits, and it’s not clear if these benefits extend to dogs. On top of this, some environmental groups say the krill fishing industry poses a serious threat to food chains in the Antarctic.  

Flaxseed Oil

Also known as flax oil, flaxseed oil contains high levels of an omega-3 known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which can help fight inflammation. However, dogs don’t metabolize it efficiently, so it’s not worth giving to them compared to other oils with similar effects like fish oil, says Dr. Hazzah. 

Neem Oil

While it’s used by traditional Ayurvedic medicine practitioners and may help repel certain intruders, neem oil isn’t strong enough to protect pets from parasites, has an unpleasant garlic-like scent, and may be unsafe for dogs if ingested. 

Many Essential Oils 

Essential oils such as oil of tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, wintergreen, and ylang ylang are toxic to dogs when ingested or applied to the skin. You shouldn’t use essential oils on your dog without direct instructions for diluting them and applying them from your vet. 

If your dog is exposed to them, avoid inducing vomiting and call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 for help.