Can Coconut Oil Help a Dog’s Itchy Skin?

Coconut oil for a dog's itchy skin? Here’s how it cleared up one dog’s skin condition, thanks to its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Coconut oil for dogs has a myriad of other uses as well. It also tastes great, and we’ve got a dog-treat recipe to prove it!
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These days, most people have heard about the natural goodness of coconut oil. But up until a few years ago, I never realized I could use coconut oil for dogs, particularly that I could use coconut oil for a dog’s itchy skin. Sure, I knew plenty about the health advantages of products such as safflower and olive oils. But then coconut oil entered my life in a hugely helpful way, thanks to our rescue pup Maizy.

A Golden puppy itching and scratching.
Coconut oil for a dog’s itchy skin? Here’s how it works. Photography ©R.Tsubin | Getty Images.

Using coconut oil for a dog’s itchy skin — one success story

Due to her hound heritage, Maizy is what I like to call a serial sniffer. She dissects the dog parks every spring, following the scents of squirrels, rabbits, other canines, and who knows what else. Often, she gets so enthralled with this activity that she barely responds to her own name.

One day, Maizy’s investigations led her straight into an overgrown thicket of weeds and wildflowers … and that led to an angry-looking rash along her ears and neck. The medication used to treat her skin left it overly dry, and I guess overly itchy as well. Because she scratched, and scratched, and scratched. After several sleep-deprived weeks of this prickly, pervasive problem — and after trying a series of medicated ointments and shampoos, to no avail — we finally visited a holistic vet.

Related: The Benefits of Cinnamon For Dogs

His suggestion for using coconut oil for a dog’s itchy skin surprised me. Treat this issue from the inside out, he said. That meant easing up on carbs and grains to minimize the yeast on Maizy’s skin. It also meant feeding her a serving of pure, virgin coconut oil every single day, and rubbing some onto her skin and fur. We tried this for a few weeks, and WOW. Not only did Maizy lose that yeasty, bag-o-Fritos “doggie” smell, her skin cleared up and her coat looked glossier than ever. Of course, the moment our other rescue pup, Grant, smelled the coconut oil, he wanted in on the action. So now they both reap coconut oil’s tasty benefits on a regular basis.

Why coconut oil for dogs? And why coconut oil for a dog’s itchy skin?

So, what are the benefits of coconut oil for dogs, and coconut oil for a dog’s itchy skin? According to integrative pet care expert Dr. Karen Becker, natural virgin coconut oil has antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiprotozoal properties. That means it can reduce yeast and fungus on contact, both inside and out; and it’s also very healing for irritated skin, hot spots, abrasions and cracked paws. The “virgin” variety typically starts with fresh coconut meat, so it’s not subjected to chemical processes such as bleaching or filtering. This makes it safe for dogs, cats, and humans to ingest in appropriate amounts.

My vet cited Dr. Becker’s work, explaining that coconut oil is rich in a medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) called lauric acid. This substance is most commonly found in the milk of mother mammals, and one of its primary functions is to boost the immune system. That’s why coconut oil is so effective at helping to clear up bacterial and viral infections. Like pumpkin, it can also soothe digestion and upset stomachs. And just as the vet predicted, it’s given both my dogs super-soft fur.

Coconut Oil for a Dog's Itchy Skin
Now that we know that coconut oil could work to help a dog’s itchy skin, how do we give it to our dogs? Photography by Africa Studio / Shutterstock.

How to use coconut oil for a dog’s itchy skin — and other ailments

It’s always smart to start small when feeding your pup anything new — especially coconut oil, which my own dogs would gobble up without proper supervision. At my house, we began with about 1/4 teaspoon and increased gradually to 1/2 teaspoon per dog, once or twice per day.

You can also:

  1. Drizzle a bit over your pup’s food, because coconut oil liquefies easily at room temperature.
  2. Mold a small blob around pills or tablets your pet might be otherwise tempted to refuse.
  3. Rub a little between your palms, run it over your pet’s fur, and brush lightly. Work the rest into your own hands for serious skin-softening benefits.
Coconut Oil for a Dog's Itchy Skin
Nutty Nuggets. Photography by Marybeth Bittel.

Nutty Nuggets* — a treat featuring coconut oil for dogs

And here’s an easy recipe for a no-bake treat that’s a huge hit with Grant and Maizy because, naturally, it contains … coconut oil. You can refrigerate these yummy bites or freeze them and thaw as needed. They’re even safe for pet parents to sample. Ummm … not like I would know anything about that.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons organic pumpkin or applesauce
  • 2 to 2 3/4 cups oat, spelt, or quinoa flour
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Powdered peanut butter (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Place coconut oil, peanut butter, pumpkin/applesauce, honey, vanilla and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir until well-combined.
  2. Begin adding flour about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Keep adding until dough mixture is well-combined and pliable. If the mixture becomes too stiff to work with, add a little more pumpkin or applesauce.
  3. Spoon up the mixture in portions that are roughly the size of mini-meatballs. Shape these into a round or oblong pieces by rolling between your palms.
  4. If desired, finish by rolling each piece in dry, powdered peanut butter to coat.
  5. Arrange finished treats on a plate or pan lined with wax paper.
  6. Refrigerate for at least one full hour before serving.

*A word of caution: Always check with your vet before feeding your pooch anything new. This is especially true if your dog already struggles with health issues such as kidney problems or pancreatitis. While natural and healthy, these Nutty Nuggets are high in fat and should be given as very occasional treats. They aren’t meant to replace your pet’s regular diet.

Plus, have you heard about using coconut oil for memory loss? Find out how coconut oil may help Alzheimer’s patients stay active longer >>

Thumbnail: Photography Placebo365/ Getty Images.

This piece was originally published in 2015. 

35 thoughts on “Can Coconut Oil Help a Dog’s Itchy Skin?”

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  3. Typical poisonous concoctions used on pets for flea control shorten a pet’s life considerably and cause all manner of medical reactions bad for the pets and owner’s pocketbook in related costs. However, when used properly, coconut oils repel and kill fleas even more effectively than any of the poisons that also harm the pet. The oil is a bit messy but the greater health of the pet is well worth it.

  4. On a couple situations, we’ve our dogs skin very irritated, and we just put some coconut oil on it and boom! Almost worked miracles, within a couple days it relieved the symptoms. Highly recommend. Anyway great article, keep it up!

  5. On a couple situations, we’ve our dogs skin very irritated, and we just put some coconut oil on it and boom! Almost worked miracles, within a couple days it relieved the symptoms. Highly recommend. Anyway great article, keep it up!

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  10. Can giving coconut oil help with a reoccuring ear infection? If so how much would you feed to my 15kg Tibetan terrier please?

  11. Great article! I loooove coconut oil. Anyone interested in this stuff should definitely check out the book Everyday Roots. It teaches you how to replace all the toxic chemicals in your life with healthy organic alternatives. Its completely changed my life and how I feel everyday! 🙂

    Keep up the great content!

  12. I just read one of Dr Backers articals on Krill oil. I’ve been giving my dog coconut oil with his food to help with his allergies. He’s still itchy. Wondering if I should switch to krill oil and use the coconut oil topically.
    Just bathed him with coconut oil but couldn’t get it all out. Fur is a bit greasy! Did cut down on the itching!

    1. My Maltese had bad itchy skin likely due to allergies and we use Bixbi skin and coat powder added to wet food. After about a week (during which we applied a home-made mix of coconut oil, aloe and baking soda – which worked but was messy and labor intensive as needed about every 3 hours) he was totally cured. We keep it up and don’t have any itch problems. You might give it a try.

  13. It has been about a year since my dog has been suffering from skin fungus, I have tried a lot of remedies but none of them had worked well, I really hope that this guide will help me out.

    1. My Maltese had bad itchy skin likely due to allergies and we use Bixbi skin and coat powder added to wet food. After about a week (during which we applied a home-made mix of coconut oil, aloe and baking soda – which worked but was messy and labor intensive as needed about every 3 hours) he was totally cured. We keep it up and don’t have any itch problems. You might give it a try.

  14. Hi, this information helps me a lot to get rid of this skin problem for my dog and I have been very thankful to you for providing this solution. Keep updating thankyou.

  15. We have a Rottweiler female,about 2 years ago her body hair went all brittle,& from black to brown,from a tip from a friend we started giving her Coconut oil in her food in the morning.It took about 6 months & her coat was back to a lustrous black,even the tan bits on her rump & paws,eyes went a deeper tan,amazing when the vets we saw never mentioned it.

  16. You should monitor your dogs cholesterol if feeding coconut oil. Mine have been on it for years, two of my dogs ended up with high cholesterol with Tablespoon twice a day, they are big 65 lb Golden’s. I decreased to 1/2 tablespoon in their breakfast. The benefits in the oil are also in coconut meat and coconut milk and water. So they all get finely shredded (macaroon) in their meals and coconut milk in their dinner. Cholesterol levels are good, added benefit is the added fiber (they eat grain free and raw). Also on really hot days or after lots of exercise they get coconut water as a refresher, loaded with electrolytes.

  17. Why call for powdered peanut butter? I haven’t used it, but know it’s considerably more expensive than regular peanut butter. Would pulverized peanuts ground up in a blender or processor also work?

    1. Hi Margaret — We asked the author and she said:
      The main advantage of powdered peanut butter (over regular peanut butter, or plain ground peanuts) is that most of the oil has been pressed out before grinding. That means it’s got less fat than the other varieties — often, up to 85% less. This makes it a nice option for treat recipes, because sneaking in those occasional between-meal tidbits won’t be as likely to promote pet obesity. Here’s an article with some interesting insights: https://www.consumerreports.org/healthy-snacks/is-powdered-peanut-butter-good-for-you/

      1. I’m wondering if you might happen to know the breed of the first photo you show of that puppy?
        Looks exactly like my terrier/colorful dad that must look like that first picture in this article…..

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