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Health & Wellness

Can dogs eat coconut?

Yes (without the husk).

Whether raw, in flakes, dried or even as oil, it’s easy to go nuts for coconut. And this isn’t a human-exclusive craving, either. Naturally meaty and fibrous, not to mention rich in flavor and aroma, it’s easy to understand why your best friend might want to get a taste of this tropical fruit, too. 

So we spoke to Dr. Fotios Bris, DVM, MS, a veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary in Brooklyn, New York, to find out whether or not this fruit is safe to share with dogs. And, fortunately, thanks to a bevy of nutritional benefits, coconut is completely safe, assuming you prepare it properly and serve it in moderation — and don’t let them chew on the husk, which is basically one big choking hazard waiting to happen.

(Even though coconuts are generally safe for dogs, always consult your vet before introducing a new food item to their diet.)

Is coconut good for dogs?

No matter the form it takes, be it raw coconut meat or coconut oil or even coconut water (as long as it’s 100% pure, with no additives), coconut can be quite good for our furry friends. Coconut oil, in particular, can help decrease inflammation, aid in digestion, lend a sheen to a healthy coat and even help with coughs and sore throats. 

The meat of the coconut is just as nutritious. They’re high in medium-chain fatty acids, aka the healthy kind that are absorbed as energy and used to ward off viruses and disease. A proven aid to inflamed joints, coconut meat and coconut oil are great treats for arthritic dogs especially. They’re also rife with antioxidants, which provide immune support and help thwart parasites and unhealthy bacteria. 

Is coconut bad for dogs?

As long as coconut is properly prepared and served (i.e., removed from husk, chopped up into small morsels and portioned out in small amounts), then there's very little to worry about when it comes to treating your pup. That being said, there are some side effects that are possible, even if only rarely. 

Medium-chain triglycerides are present in coconut, which aren’t typically much of an issue (especially in trace amounts), but it can cause tummy aches or bloating for dogs with pre-existing gastrointestinal issues. And this is also one ingredient where it’s definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. Coconut, especially in oil form, is a fatty ingredient that can lead to unhealthy weight gain if consumed in large amounts, or too frequently. As nutrient-dense as it may be, coconut should be more of a rare treat. Coconut oil, in particular, can cause diarrhea and cramping if fed in excess.

RELATED: Can dogs eat pickles?

How to serve your dog coconut

As is the case with anything you feed to your furry foodie friend, moderation is key with coconut — only a few shreds, flakes or pieces of meat go a long way, sprinkled on top of their food more of a flavor-boost than a meal replacement. Rather than feed coconut meat or oil to your pup straight-up, it’s best when added to or mixed with other things they naturally eat as part of their regular meal regimen. If buying coconut raw, make sure anything you feed is completely free of husk, and chopped into small pieces or slivers. Coconut flakes, as long as they’re pure and sugar-free, are a great addition to the dog bowl every now and again. 

In the case of choking or a bad reaction, it’s always great to have an emergency preparedness plan in place when introducing new foods to your dog’s diet. Some quick steps to get you started are:

  • Write down the phone numbers for poison control, local 24-hour emergency pet hospitals and animal ambulances in your area.
  • Put together a pet emergency kit including latex gloves, an information card with your vet’s address and phone number and towels.
  • Practice for emergencies by familiarizing your pet with riding in the car.

Happy snacking

Is your dog nuts for coconuts? Fear not! As long as your coconut treat of choice isn’t a piña colada or a coconut cream pie, this is one ingredient that’s totally safe for your furry family member to consume in small, occasional amounts.  

We’re confident that coconut isn’t the only human food your dog would love to sink their teeth into (cue the drool). Check out our series “Can dogs eat ... ?” to learn more about which human foods are off-limits and what’s fair game.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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