HOW TO MAKE SURE HALLOWEEN ISN’T SPOOKY FOR YOUR PET

I don’t think we need to go through the obvious issues that can be dangerous for your pets during the Halloween season.  Obvious…don’t let your pets get into the candy.  Obvious… don’t let them hurt themselves on lit candles in the jack-o-lantern.  But there might be some more subtle tips this October you haven’t thought about.

There are so many things happening at this time that can simply stress your pet out.  This can be very stressful for your furry family members that are not used to it.  Even if your pet dog loves kids it is can be too much with the constant ring of the doorbell or knocking, the sheer number of visitors and the weird appearance of their human friends.  Get your pets into a safe room and maybe turn a TV or radio on before the night starts.  If your pet likes their crate this might be your best bet.  Do not leave your pets in the yard to avoid the front door traffic.  There will still be too much activity, not to mention there are many creatures that are nocturnal may be out at night.

I want to remind people that when dogs have stress or anxiety they get diarrhea.  People will often think…they didn’t eat anything out of the ordinary so why does my dog have diarrhea.  They wear their feelings in their stomach and stress is a very common cause of soft poo.

Halloween is second only to 4th of July for the number of pets that are “spooked” and wind up at the shelter.  So, no matter what make sure your pet has ID or is chipped.

Maybe you are not planning to host strangers to your home, but hosting some close friends for a small costume party?  Even if these are people your pet is familiar with costumes can look and smell different and it may catch your fur kids off guard.  Again, it is probably best to let them stay in a safe place.

Like we said…you know your pet can’t eat candy.  But also, be aware of those candy wrappers…the pup will eat those up too.  Foil or cellophane wrappers can cause dangerous obstructions.  The dangerous food you DON’T think about is raisins.  People hand them out as a healthy alternative to candy, but it is equally as dangerous to your pet.

Love to play dress up?  Well you have already read the articles about how your pet may not like dressing up as much as you like seeing them dressed up.  But the risk you probably have not thought about related to this are the “parts” of costumes that can be chewed off and ingested. This is something that ER Vet offices see this time of year.

When you have safely made it to November 1st don’t throw that pumpkin away.  First you should be starting with a whole organic pumpkin.  If you carved it and it sat on the porch it could be growing bacteria so pitch it.  But, if you have a whole pumpkin that is still fresh it can now be yummy post Halloween treats.  Both raw and cooked pumpkin is safe for pets. (If your dog or cat has diabetes or chronic kidney disease, always ask your vet first.)  The pumpkin seeds can be roasted and used as individual treats too!  Pumpkin actually has health benefits for your pet…we wrote about this previously  https://happytailsfromhusse.com/2016/11/02/pumpkin-for-dogs-and-cats-6-reasons-to-give-it-to-your-pet/

The best “present” you can give your pet

My favorite part of everyday is being outdoors walking or hiking with my dogs.  We get to enjoy each other and the beautiful surroundings…literally taking time to smell the flowers.  Something I witness all too often is a pet owner out with their dog walking with their head buried looking at their cell phone.

Really?  You have taken that precious time to walk your dog and you are still connected to your device?  The absolute best “present” you can give your pet is to be PRESENT.  Take time to really connect with them and give them your attention.  They live each day just to be with you, to please you, and to share that connection with you.

You have seen the stats on the how distracting our mobile devices are.  Data shows us that parents of human children will often be distracted by their phones during times that have traditionally been sacred family time.   A couple of eye opening stats from various studies for you:

-More than a third of children (11-18 years old) interviewed asked, would like their parents to stop checking their devices so frequently

-82% of kids interviewed thought that meal time should be device free.  14% of these kids said their parents spent time on their devices during meal time.  95% of those same parents when polled said they did not access their devices during meal time.

Many of us consider our pets our children.  Unfortunately, people have let these devices steal valuable time from these kids too!  If you are a busy parent and you are already trying to make time for your human children, your four-legged children may get pushed even further down the list.  If you are a working person you get maybe 5-6 waking hours at the end of each day to get everything in your home life taken care of and this includes giving true undivided attention to your loved ones.   We try to multi task just about everything in our lives but there are some things that are truly best to do without distractions.   Consider some boundaries that might benefit both of you.

-If you are a pet parent that does make time for a walk everyday…devote that time to your pet.  If you feel like you need to carry your cell phone with you as a safety precaution that is understandable; but leave it in the pocket and give your pup this time as your time together.

-Some people work in their home and think…well I’m home with them all day.  When we work from our home we are very focused on completing our work.  We are on our computers or talking on the phone, we are not generally giving our attention to our pet even if we are there in body.  It is important that you still take a few minutes to truly connect with them.  That might mean taking a 5-10-minute break to sit on the floor and play with the ball or just give your cat or pup belly rubs.

-Do you talk to your pet?  They are listening.  You might think I am just saying this because I am that crazy lady that talks to my own dog….maybe.  But there is some real research that says it matters.  A new study from the University of Sussex found that dogs process speech they recognize in a similar manner to humans, meaning that sounds they recognize are processed in their brain’s left hemisphere, while other sounds or unusual noises are processed in the right hemisphere. Because of the way the brain is “wired”, dogs will move their head to the opposite side of the side that’s doing the processing. Having speech and sound processed differently by the brain’s two hemispheres is very similar to how humans process speech.  According to the university, this means that dogs are paying attention to how we say things, who is talking and what we’re saying.

These simple things are good for you too.  Living in the moment and being present gives your mind and body a break that we all need.

In summary, just remember we have a big world with lots of moving parts that we live in each day.  Your cat or dog’s world is not as big; their life is centered around you and what interaction they get to have with you.  They give us their 100% the instant we ask for it, so it is the least we can do to take a little bit of time that is just for them.

Do you make special time each day for your pet?

 

Snake Bit

You probably saw the heart-breaking image of this brave pup that intervened when he encountered a snake on a hike with his Mom.  This is a real danger you and your pet need to be aware of this time of year.    Depending on what part of the country you live in there are different deadly snakes you could encounter.  Common deadly snakes in the Eastern US include Copperheads or Cottonmouth snakes.  The Western US is always weary of Rattlesnakes (Todd, the pup in the photo, was bitten by a rattlesnake in Arizona).

todd the dog

Lets first talk about prevention.  There are precautions you can take to lessen the odds of your having this issue come up.  Your dog or cat can be in danger of a snake even if you have not left your own yard.  Some precautions you can take around your house and yard include:

-Snakes like hiding places.  Keep debris cleaned up around your yard.  Brush should be cleared out around flowers and shrubs and walkways.  If you stack fire wood store it indoors.  Toys and tools etc. should be kept off the ground.

-Clean up and spilled food or even bird seed in your yard.  This attracts rodents and the rodents are prey for snakes, so your will inadvertently attract them.

-Some say that pouring white vinegar around the perimeter of your yard will discourage snakes.  Snakes absorb it through their skin, so they will not want to slither over it.

If you plan to be out hiking or walking with your pet, you need to be cautious.

-If you live in the Western US there is a vaccine that your can give your dog for rattlesnake bites.  There are mixed opinions on the vaccine so check with your vet for advice.  But the claim is that if your dog has been vaccinated it could reduce the pain and risk of long term affects if they are bitten.  The vaccine is only for Diamond Head Rattler’s; it provides no protection against venom from the Coral Snake, Water Moccasin, or the Mojave Rattlesnake.

-Basic and specialized training.  A dog has a natural curiosity that can be deadly.  Basic training such as a “leave it” command is essential if you are in the outdoors.  You must be able to discourage your dog from investigating of you see a snake or any other creature for that matter.  It is important to keep your dog on a leash so that you can see the threat as they see it and give them a command.  There are specialized training classes for rattlesnakes.  The training uses negative reinforcement to teach a dog to avoid the sound of the rattlesnake.  Again, this not for everybody but you can seek details from a professional and determine of it would be right for you and your pet.

If your pet is bitten-

If your pet is bitten by a snake it may be life threatening.  The most common place for your pet to be bitten is around the face or neck.  Regardless if it is venomous or non-venomous it will be painful.  Your dog will have severe pain if it is venomous though.  You may or may not see the puncture holes from the bite.  You will usually always see swelling, bruising or bleeding from the bite area.

Venomous snake bite symptoms could be:

  • Shaking and tremors
  • Excessive salivation
  • Panting, shallow breath
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness or even paralysis
  • Loss of bodily function or incontinence

You must get your pet to an emergency vet either way.  Even if it is a non-venomous bite your vet will probably want to prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or antihistamines.  If it is a venomous bite your vet may administer an anti-venom.  Symptoms do not always happen immediately so don’t be fooled into thinking they may be fine and it will just run its course.  A minor bite may improve within a couple of days with medication, but poisonous bites can be take weeks of recovery and can result in dead tissue, organ damage, loss of blood pressure or death.

Snake bites are nothing to mess around with.  It is better safe than sorry in this instance.

Oils, diffusers oh my!

It seems the hot new thing is using a diffuser with various essential oils to take people away from their busy stress filled lives.  If you are thinking about one…consider your pets.  I have very nosey pets, so I do not even burn candles in my house but have considered a relaxing diffuser.  I have read some horror stories about animals losing their lives because of their pet parent using toxic oils.  I thought this topic deserved a deeper look.

The answer is not completely black and white.  As with many things; something in a large quantity can be dangerous but in a smaller quantity is perfectly safe.  We are often surprised when something natural can be toxic, but it absolutely can be.

I will first share with you the “PRO” side.  As I researched this topic there were two sources that I sourced for feedback.  The book  Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals and I interviewed Melissa Cash with “Young Living” who carries an animal specific line of oils.  Both sources provide some useful tips in how make the use of oils safe for your pets.  Before trying aromatherapy at home with your pets, keep these safety tips in mind—and be sure to check with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

Dogs and cats are more sensitive to essential oils than we are, so even if you’re familiar with them for yourself, remember that it’s a different story with your pet.

  • Essential oils should always be diluted before use, even if just inhaling. Melissa says dilute, dilute, dilute!  Start small.
  • Do not add essential oils to your pet’s food or drinking water.
  • Avoid using essential oils with animals under 10 weeks of age.
  • Check with a holistic vet before using any essential oils on pregnant animals. Do not use stimulating oils (e.g. peppermint, rosemary, tea tree) on pregnant pets.
  • Do not use oils on animals with any history of epileptic symptoms. Some oils, such as rosemary, may trigger seizures (in humans too).
  • Do not use oils in or close to the eyes, in the ears, directly on or close to the nose, on mucous membranes, or in the anal or genital areas.
  • Also, never lock your animal in a room with the diffuser is going, it is important to allow your pet to move to another room if they are not enjoying the scent.
  • The Most important thing is to NEVER use low quality or adulterated/synthetic essential oils on or around animals (as it can be dangerous and toxic).

The five most common used oils with pets and the reported benefit:

  • Lavender:Universal oil, can use pure or diluted. Useful in conditioning patients to a safe space. May help allergies, burns, ulcers, insomnia, car ride anxiety and car sickness, to name a few.
  • Cardamom:Diuretic, anti-bacterial, normalizes appetite, colic, coughs, heartburn and nausea.
  • Chamomile:Anti-inflammatory, non-toxic, gentle and safe to use. Good for skin irritations, allergic reactions, burns.
  • Spearmint:Helps to reduce weight. Good for colic, diarrhea, nausea. Helps balance metabolism, stimulates gallbladder. Not for use with cats.
  • ThymePain relief, good for arthritis and rheumatism. Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, excellent for infections and other skin issues.

Now let’s look at the cautionary side. The first resource I need to source is the ASPCA animal poison control info center and hotline.  This is their official advice on essential oils:

Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils, and effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in significant quantities. Inhalation of the oils could lead to aspiration pneumonia. There are significant variations in toxicity among specific oils. Based on this, we would not recommend using essential oils in areas where your pets have access, unless pets are supervised, or the use of the oil is approved by your veterinarian. 

There are multiple vets that have authored info on this subject; we’ll look at a couple.  According to Dr. Wismer, “The most common symptoms for cats and dogs exposed to diffused essential oils are drooling, vomiting, coughing, and sneezing. Diffusing oils can be fatal to cats and dogs that have asthma or other respiratory issues.”

She said that any essential oil could be harmful to pets, depending on how much they’re exposed to and how. But the especially toxic oils, where pets are concerned, include wintergreen, d-limonene (citrus), pine, cinnamon, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, and tea tree.

It is important to note that some of the best natural grooming products contain tea tree oil. This is one of those instances when the amount of the ingredient makes a world of difference.  The amount used in well respected grooming products is completely safe.

Dr. Melissa Shelton, DVM is a multiple cat owner herself and does seem that there are even more reasons to be cautious around your cat.  She says; “Cats are well known for being deficient in a liver enzyme that most all other animals have which helps them process things efficiently (cytochrome p450). So, that means a cat’s liver doesn’t metabolize items in the same manner or efficiency as other animals or humans. This is true even for foods and traditional medicines…not just essential oils. Everything, synthetic and natural contains a therapeutic/toxic profile. This means that even good things in nature when taken in excess can be toxic.”

Everybody agrees on one thing…caution is completely necessary.  If you decide to try a diffuser in your home or any use of essential oils be very aware of your pet.  What might be relaxing for you could be deadly for your pet.  Watch for absolutely any change in behavior and consult with your vet.

Symptoms of essential oil poisoning have included:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Low body temperature
  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive pawing at mouth or face
  • Drooling

Do you use oils for yourself?  Have you used them around your pets?

 

Understanding Feline Leukemia

If you’re a cat owner a diagnosis of feline leukemia virus (FeLV) would likely devastate you.

This is a disease that’s second only to trauma in the death of cats.  But the prevalence has decreased over the last 25 years because more reliable testing exists, as well as a vaccine that’s about 85% effective.

A feline leukemia diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death sentence.  To understand why, you first need to understand the illness.

What is FeLV?

FeLV is a disease that suppresses a cat’s immune system putting them at risk for other infections and illnesses.  Those secondary conditions can be fatal.  And feline leukemia is the most common cause of cancer in cats.

This virus only affects cats… dogs, people and other animals are safe.  The disease is passed from one cat to another through bodily fluids like blood, saliva, urine and feces. Grooming and fighting are the most likely means of transmission.

But once the virus leaves your cat’s body, it doesn’t live long.  Only a few hours.  And 70% of cats that come in contact with FeLV resist the infection or fight it off with no symptoms.

Kittens can contract feline leukemia in utero or through an infected mother’s milk.  And younger cats between 1 and 6 years of age are at the greatest risk of getting it.  As cats age, their resistance to the virus seems to improve.

This condition affects all breeds of cats and males are more likely than females to get FeLV.

The troubling thing about the spread of this disease is that a cat can carry and transmit it to another cat without showing signs of infection.

Indoor cats have little risk of acquiring FeLV.  But if you’re bringing a new cat into the house, test kitty first. Multi-cat households are at greater risk especially if the cats share water/food bowls and litter boxes.

What are the signs of feline leukemia?

A cat can test positive for FeLV but have no symptoms at all while they’re fighting it off.  But a cat that is symptomatic may show signs similar to so many other illnesses, like:

Diarrhea

Difficulty breathing

Wobbling

Mouth/gum inflammation

Pale gums

Skin and/or ear infections

Skin abscesses

Whites of eyes are yellow

Enlarged lymph nodes

Bladder or respiratory infections

Weight loss

Loss of appetite

Poor coat condition

Weakness

Lethargy

Fever

Inflammation of the nose, cornea or surrounding eye tissue

If you notice any of these signs, see your vet.  Quick intervention is essential to maintaining your cat’s health.

How is this condition diagnosed?

Your vet will do a full exam along with history and blood work.  Two blood tests are used to diagnose the disease.

The ELISA blood test identifies FeLV proteins in the blood.  This is a sensitive test able to detect the virus early on. A cat that’s positive with this test while it’s trying to clear the virus may test negative in a few months.

Your vet will use the IFA blood test to confirm a positive ELISA test.  This test detects virus in the white blood cells indicating the cat is in the later stages of infection.  Cats that test positive with this test are unlikely to clear the virus and the prognosis is poor.

Your vet may also suggest a bone marrow biopsy to find out if the infection has affected the bone marrow… also a later stage scenario.

What’s the treatment?

If your cat has feline leukemia, their quality of life can be good.  Although no cure exists, regular check ups and preventive care to head off any secondary infections can keep your cat feeling well for many years.

Your vet will probably recommend twice-yearly exams, regular lab tests and parasite control to identify problems early and prevent complications.

When secondary infections arise, early intervention is the best course of action.

Certain symptoms like diarrhea, kidney disease or muscle loss may require a diet change.

Keep your FeLV-positive cat indoors and away from other cats.  If they aren’t already, neuter them too.

What’s the prognosis?

If the disease impacts the bone marrow or results in cancer, the prognosis is not good.

But many cats that test positive in the early stages can fight it off.  Kittens are more likely to have a harder time than an adult cat once the disease takes hold.  But preventing and managing secondary infections can prolong your cat’s life.

Can you prevent feline leukemia?

The best prevention is keeping your cat indoors and away from infected (or potentially infected) cats.

There is a vaccine, but it’s not 100% effective.  It is still wise though to vaccinate your cat if they are at high-risk. Shelter cats, outdoor cats and cats that spend time at a cattery should get the vaccine but only if they test negative for the disease.

Test any kittens over 8 weeks of age before bringing them into a home with other cats.  And if your cat is FeLV-positive, don’t bring another cat into your home even if it’s vaccinated.  Not only will you be exposing that cat to the disease, it also may cause undo stress on the sick cat.

Although this disease is awful, in some instances you can manage the condition in a way that enables your cat to be happy and live a full life.

Does your cat have feline leukemia?  How has the disease progressed?  Share your experience at the top of the page.

 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)…  6 Things To Know

The new year is underway!  Maybe you’re thinking about starting it off with a new pet.   A kitty perhaps.  If you will rescue this cat and don’t know their background, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is particularly important to understand.

If you already own a cat, do you know about FIV?  Here are 6 things to be aware of.

1) What is FIV?

Feline immunodeficiency virus is like HIV in humans.  It attacks the immune system making a cat that has the virus vulnerable to other infections.

A cat that has FIV can appear normal for years.  But like HIV in humans, it progresses.  Eventually normal harmless bacteria found in the environment become a danger to an infected cat, making them seriously ill.  At that point, your cat will have feline AIDS.

Unlike HIV, humans can’t contract FIV.  It’s only transmitted cat to cat.

2) How does a cat get it?

A deep bite wound is the most common method of FIV transmission.  Aggressive, intact, male cats that roam and like to fight are most often infected.

Indoor cats are at minimal risk unless you bring an infected cat into your home and the cats fight. Casual contact between cats doesn’t seem to be an effective method of transmission.

Sometimes a mother can pass the virus to her babies in the birth canal, or through her infected milk.

Sexual contact is not a common method of spreading the disease either.

3) What are the signs?

When a feline is first infected there may be few noticeable symptoms.  Initially the lymph nodes carry the virus.  So you may notice the’re swollen.  And the cat may run a fever.

Because these initial symptoms are subtle, they often go unnoticed.

It can be years later before signs of immunodeficiency appear.  The cat’s health may deteriorate progressively.  Or the cat may experience periods of bad health and periods of good health.

Here’s what you may see:

Poor coat condition

Persistent fever with loss of appetite

Inflammation of gums and mouth

Abnormal appearance of the eyes

Wounds that don’t heal

Persistent diarrhea

Seizures

Behavior changes

Slow, progressive weight loss

Severe wasting (in later stages)

Change in urination habits

Several types of cancer are more common in cats with FIV as well.

4) How is it diagnosed?

Your vet will do blood work to diagnose feline immunodeficiency virus.  A blood test will detect FIV antibodies.

However, it takes 8 to 12 weeks for the antibodies to be detectable in the bloodstream.  So if your cat comes home with a deep bite wound, your vet will likely wait to test for this virus.

If you are adopting a kitten, having them tested before they’re 6 months old may not be useful. This is because kittens born to an infected mother will carry the antibodies from the mom until they’re 6 months old.  As a result, they’ll test positive even though they don’t have the virus.

And a cat that has been vaccinated against FIV will test positive even though they don’t have FIV. If you rescue a cat and don’t know their vaccination status, you might get a false positive on a blood test.

5) Can it be prevented?

It’s not likely your indoor cat will get FIV.  But if you’re concerned about an outdoor cat, keep them inside.

If your cat has FIV, keeping them in will protect other cats from getting the virus.  And it will minimize the risk to your cat of picking up other infections that will make them sick.

An infected cat is not likely to give an uninfected cat in your home the virus unless they are fighters.  Keep fighters apart.  And be sure to spay or neuter the infected cat to minimize the chances of passing FIV on.

Any adopted cat should be tested before bringing them into your home.  But remember if they’re younger than 6 months you may get a false positive.  Talk to your vet if you’re considering adopting a cat, especially if you have a kitty at home already.

If you bring a healthy cat into your home with an infected cat in it, that cat may expose the healthy cat to other serious infections.  Be sure to thoroughly clean the environment. Keep the sick cat’s food, water, litter boxes, toys and bedding away from the healthy cat.

Vaccinate against any other infectious diseases any new cat or kitten you bring into your home with an FIV cat in it.

Since I mentioned an FIV vaccine, you might think your cat should get it.  Although an FIV vaccine exists, it’s not effective and most vets don’t recommend it.

If your cat spends time in a cattery or another home with felines, be sure those cats don’t have FIV.

6) Is there a treatment?

There is no cure for FIV.  Therapy will consist of treating the infections.  Most cats with it can live normal lives for years.  But you must manage their health.

You can extend the asymptomatic period by feeding your cat a well-balanced nutritionally complete diet like Husse to keep their immune system functioning as long as possible.

Never feed a cat with FIV a raw diet.  Uncooked meats carry the risk of food-borne infection, a risk a healthy cat may handle but not one that’s immune compromised.

Your vet will want to see your cat every 6 months to maintain continued good health. But once an infected cat has had one or more severe infections, the outlook is not good.

Keep watch for any changes no matter how subtle and call the vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary.  Early intervention in managing infections is essential to maintaining your felines quality of life.

Does your cat have FIV?  How have you managed it?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top.

Coconut Oil… The Risks And Benefits To Our Pets

If you’re keeping up with the latest human health trends, you may feel like I do…  every wellness recommendation includes coconut oil.  It seems to be the panacea of the 2010s.

Many animal health sites tout the benefits of coconut oil too.  I was with a friend recently who told me her holistic vet prescribed it for several of her dog’s ailments.

That got me thinking… is coconut oil everything it’s cracked up to be?  Are there benefits to using this oil with our pets?  And are there risks?

Well, there are some definite benefits to using coconut oil.  But also many unfounded claims about its effectiveness. And there can be risks.

The truth

Coconut oil comes from mature coconuts.  It is edible, so it’s used in food.  And these days you can find coconut oil in many beauty products.

This oil is high in saturated fat and is made up mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). That’s where the supposed health benefits are.

The fatty acids that make up MCTs travel directly to the liver.  The liver absorbs those fatty acids and uses them for energy.  They’re not stored in the body.

MCTs contain lauric acid, which is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral.  They also contain capric and caprylic acids, which are antifungal.

So how can coconut oil help your pet?  It can be very beneficial when used topically.

If your pet has dry, itchy skin, cracked paw pads or a dry nose, you can rub coconut oil into the skin. It’s great for elbow calluses too.   Here’s a link to a recipe for paw balm you can make yourself.

But you don’t have to get fancy.  You can use the oil straight up with no additions.  If you’re using it on dry flaky skin, rub the oil directly into the skin.

You can also use it for a shinier coat.  Take a small amount of oil in your hands.  Rub them together and pat the coat.  Run your fingers through the fur.  Not only will coconut oil improve the look and feel of your pet’s coat, some say it will also help if your pet smells.

Coconut oil is often touted for its antibacterial use on sores and minor cuts.  Be careful with this one.  If your dog has hotspots, using coconut oil can make the problem worse.  Hotspots are self-inflicted when a dog licks obsessively.  If they like the taste of coconut oil, using it on their skin can exacerbate the licking and worsen the hotspots.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that coconut oil has antibacterial benefits but no studies have yet been done on animals.

If your pet has a skin problem, be sure to talk with your vet before using coconut oil to be certain you’re treating the underlying problem.  They may recommend you use the oil as part of a treatment plan that includes other medications.

Coconut oil may be helpful as a parasite repellent.  A small study in 2004 found that a coconut oil-based remedy was effective for repelling sand fleas and reduced inflammation from fleabites. But tests have not been done on the cat and dog flea… the ones that love your pet.

Most veterinarians suggest, if using coconut oil, combining it with traditional repellents.

A 2015 human study found rinsing the mouth with coconut oil every day reduced plaque and plaque-caused gingivitis.  You could make the leap and say it would help your dog’s dental health too.  But the study involved swishing the coconut oil around the mouth and it’s hard to get a dog to swish.

Many dogs like the taste of coconut oil and it may help with dental hygiene… and bad breath too. So if you’d like to brush your dog’s teeth with coconut oil, it probably won’t hurt.

Does your pet have a hard time swallowing a pill?  Here’s another use.  Coat the pill with coconut oil.  It will be easier for them to swallow and they generally like the flavor.

The unsubstantiated claims

Coconut oil is promoted as a cure or prevention for everything from digestive problems to cancer.  Some say it improves cognitive function in older dogs.  Others say it helps with allergies and weight loss.  None of these claims are supported by science.  There have been no studies.

That’s not to say coconut oil can’t be helpful for some of these ailments. But there just isn’t scientific proof yet.

The risks

If the anecdotal evidence is enough for you and you want to try coconut oil with your pet, speak to your vet first.  They can monitor the effects and educate you to the downside.  Because the high saturated fat content can make some conditions worse.  Pancreatitis for example.

The high fat content is also a problem if your dog is overweight.  Some veterinarians say it adds a lot of calories with little nutritional value.  And there’s concern this oil can raise cholesterol levels and block the arteries too.

Although coconut oil is well tolerated by most pets, some may have an allergic reaction. And too much can cause diarrhea.

Remember too that coconut oil does not provide the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids your pet needs in their diet.  So be sure you’re still giving your pet salmon or flaxseed oil, besides the coconut oil.

How much and what kind?

If you give your pet coconut oil, use only the organic virgin cold-pressed kind. Easy to find at any health food store.

Start slow to be sure your pet isn’t allergic and to avoid diarrhea.

Start with ¼ teaspoon a day for small dogs and 1 teaspoon a day for big dogs.  Work up to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day.

If you have a cat, start with 1/8 teaspoon a day for an average size cat.  Work up to ¼ to ½ teaspoon once or twice a day.

What I’ve learned about coconut oil is that it has some proven benefits.  And it may even have greater benefits yet to be studied.  But I would proceed with caution.

Coconut oil is not a cure-all. Take the advice of your veterinarian before adding any supplement to your pet’s diet.

Do you use coconut oil for your pets?  How have they benefitted? Have they had any adverse reactions?  Share your experience with us at the top of the page.