Food Fact: Is Coconut Safe for Dogs & Cats?
We know how much you love sipping cool coconut water on a hot summer day. But should you be sharing the goodness of a coconut with your pet dog or cat?
The quick answer to that is YES. Coconuts are safe to be given to pets, in moderate amounts. Coconuts contain fats, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that make it a super-food for your pet. They are rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s) that give it a range of healing and rejuvenating properties. But these MCT’s can cause bloating and tummy aches in some cases. Hence, exercise caution while introducing your pet to this tropical delight. Let’s decode this wonder fruit to understand its benefits for doggos better.
So where do coconuts come from?
The origin of coconuts is debatable to this date. Most historians claim that the coconut was found natively in the Indian and Malay Peninsula. But a few European authors believe that the plant originated from Europe and North America. Fossil and other scientific data support the former opinion, though. They give weight to the conditions of soil, moisture, temperature and the use of coconut by tribes surrounding these regions.
What do coconuts contain?
Coconut flesh (white edible portion of the coconut) is highly nutritious and rich in fiber. The fiber helps keep constipation woes at bay for you and your pet. Apart from fiber, it contains important vitamins like Vitamin C, E, B3, B5, and B6. Vitamin C aids the formation of collagen, assists growth and repair functions. It also helps your pet maintain his soft coat. Vitamin E helps your doggo see clearly by keeping cataract woes in check. It also aids in curing pulmonary and respiratory infections, ulcers, skin disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) helps with your pet’s digestion, skin, and nervous system. Vitamin B5 aids in the conversion of carbs into energy and the breakdown of fats. And, Vitamin B6 helps with metabolism and functioning of the nervous system. It also aids skin and hair growth and improves your dog’s vision. Like all B vitamins, B3, B5, and B6 are water soluble. This means you need to give them to your pet from time to time because their body cannot store these.
But what about the Medium Chain Triglycerides you mentioned before?
Triglycerides are molecules that are derived from one glycerol and three fatty acid molecules. Triglycerides are the primary consituent of body fat in humans and animals, as well as most vegetable oils. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) usually have 2-3 medium-length fatty acids attached to them, compared to Long Chain Triglycerides (LCTs) or Very Long Chain Triglycerides (VLCTs) that have long or very-long chain fatty acids on their tails. This medium-sized structure makes MCT’s very easy to digest by the body. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the richest source of medium-chain fatty acids. Goat, sheep and cow milk consists of about 10-20% medium-chain fatty acids. LCTs and VLCTs make up for the majority of edible fats.
Coconut oil contains 4 main medium-chain fatty acids: Lauric Acid, Capric Acid, Caproic Acid, and Caprylic Acid. These MCTs help stimulate the body’s metabolism, promote fat oxidation, and thus help in weight loss by burning excess calories. Lauric acid has antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal properties. Capric acid has similar antimicrobial effects. They’re also good for the heart, brain, skin, immune system, and thyroid.
While LCT’s are difficult to break down and requires special enzymes for digestion in the body, MCT’s permeate cell membranes easily and don’t put additional stress on the digestive system. Long-chain fatty acids present in common fats put stain on the pancreas, liver and other organs and often get stored in the body as fat. Medium-chain fatty acids, such as in coconut, provide quick energy and do not settle in the arteries as cholesterol.
However, some pets may exhibit an allergic response to these MCTs. Problems such as an upset stomach, diarrhea, cramps, and nausea have come to light with pets that exhibit reactions to MCTs. Hence, it’s important to exercise caution while introducing your pet to coconut. Observe how your pet’s body reacts to a small quantity of coconut flesh before including it as a part of his/her mainstream diet.
So what is the ideal way to give coconut to my pet?
Coconut can be fed in many forms. Tender coconut water is a great way to hydrate your pet and charge him with electrolytes. Electrolytes protect your pet from renal failures. If your pet undergoes diarrhea, coconut water is the best source to replenish the lost electrolytes.
Fresh coconut flesh can also be given. Just remove all the brown fiber and cut the white meat into small portions so that it doesn’t become a choking hazard; better still, grind it into a thick paste.
What about Coconut Oil?
Coconut Oil is perhaps the safest oil for your pet. Many pet nutritionists insist on including coconut oil as a part of your pet’s diet for the MCTs that are present in it. Cold-pressed coconut oil is probably the richest source of Lauric Acid, that boosts the metabolism and immunity. It also contains Albumin which helps increase the production of RBCs in your pet. Other than that, it cures bad breath and speeds the healing of cuts and wounds. Not only can coconut oil be included as part of your pet’s diet, the oil can also be applied to your pet’s coat and fur for great results. The best part is that dogs love the smell and taste of coconut oil.
And what about Coconut Milk?
Freshly prepared coconut milk is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It hydrates your pet, as well as nourishes them with all the goodness of coconut. Besides, it doesn’t have any lactose content; thus, can be safely given to lactose intolerant pets too. Loaded with vitamins, it also reduces the chances of stone formation. But steer clear of processed or packaged coconut milk, as they may contain sweeteners, preservatives and fat stablizers for shelf-life. Fresh, homemade coconut milk is the best; leave the pulp in and it adds for a great source of dietary fiber.
Coconut is a complete win-win fruit! Got any coconut stories of your own? Share them in the comments below.
FOR INFORMATION ONLY – NOT VETERINARY CARE
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