Welcome back to our discussion about healthy, edible oils for your pet!
Some of you may remember from our last blog that oils can be a good source of fat for your pet, as well as a source of essential fatty acids and omegas. Yes, dogs and cats do need a suitable amount of fat in their diet for energy and organ function. Fats and omegas are vital to your dog or cat’s well-being, and adding the right oil to your pet’s diet (sardine, anchovy, salmon, flaxseed, etc.) can make a huge difference in your pet’s health — now and as they age.
But what about those other oils? The plant, nut, or seed oils that we see touted at our local natural-healthy-organic markets/pet supply stores? The oils that many popular pet publications recommend feeding your pet? (For the record, we ALWAYS recommend trusting your vet’s advice above any publication — yes, including this blog!)
With edible oils “trending” right now, one can’t help but wonder: are they really good for my pet?
Like any supplement, the answer is they can be…if it’s the right oil…for the right pet.
The truth is, like we always say in the store, every pet is different. One pet’s needs are not the same as the next pet’s, and what works for one dog may not work for another. Plant, nut, and seed oils can have wonderful benefits for your cat or dog, it’s just a matter of choosing the right oil. (And frankly, it also comes down to what your pet will or will not eat! My fussy kitty loved coconut oil but was NOT a fan of olive oil.)
Of course, these oils are not essential to your pet’s health. Unlike giving your pet a fish oil with a good balance of omega-3s and omega-6s, supplementing with oils like coconut or hemp is just that, supplementing. Such oils can improve your pet’s appearance or boost their wellness, but to be clear, if your pet is getting a solid, balanced diet from their food, and are in good health, supplements are not a necessity.
Then why even bother?
Well, like humans, sometimes pets run into minor issues that interfere with their comfort. Issues like dandruff, dry skin, constipation, dull coat can be improved by supplementing with the right oil. And while more severe issues like a yeast problems, immune system problems, and infections cannot be solved by supplementary oils, some oils can be effective aids in healing your pet and making them feel a little better.
So if you and your vet think supplementing with a healthful, edible plant, nut, or seed oil will benefit your pet, here are some tips to help you choose, as well as some oils you may like.
The Basics of Choosing an Oil Supplement
When choosing an oil for your pet to consume, you’ll probably find yourself shopping in human stores and markets. While your pet can absolutely eat the some of the same oils you eat, it’s important to know that how that oil is prepared or treated can impact its efficacy as well as safety in regards to your dog or cat. Also, many oils (especially in capsule form) may have additives that are not safe for your pet.
Here are a few things to remember when shopping for your pet’s edible oils:
Try to get as pure a product as possible. Some oils do need a stabilizer or natural preservative, but if the oil you’re looking at has lots of extra ingredients, you may be looking at something that has an excess of fillers. A lot of fillers can decrease the potency of the product, and some can actually harm your pet. If you don’t know what something is, a quick search on the internet can prove helpful or ask your vet. Also, be aware that some human oil supplements may have “bonus” vitamins, minerals, or nutrients added to the oil. Such additions may be good for humans, but could throw a pet’s system out of balance.
Cold or expeller pressed. If an oil has been cold or expeller pressed that means that either no heat was applied in order to extract the oil from its source, or a lower heat was applied. Therefore the oil is more potent and most likely has not had any harsh chemicals added to it in the extraction process. You may also encounter “centrifuged” as an extraction method. This process is will also preserve the potency of the oil, and is least likely to have had heat used during extraction.
Unrefined. You will most likely encounter “refined” or “unrefined” when looking at coconut oils, but it’s important to know the difference when choosing any oil. An unrefined oil has not been deodorized, bleached, or had chemicals added to it in order to extract the oil. This could also refer to cold/expeller pressing. An unrefined oil retains its nutrients and natural aroma.
While every oil has specific things to be aware of when purchasing, keeping in mind these basic guidelines can help you and your pet get the most out of an oil.
Virgin or Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Safe for dogs? Yes.
Safe for cats? Yes, but only short term. Cats should only consume olive oil when necessary (see below). As obligate carnivores cats only really benefit from a balance of essential fatty acids from an animal source.
Benefits: In dogs, regular supplementing with virgin or extra-virgin olive oil can have a plethora of benefits. Aside from the fact that many dogs love the taste of it, the monounsaturated fat in it can help dogs lose weight (along with the right diet and exercise regime), and can boost heart health as well as energy. Brachycephalic dog breeds (“smoosh-faced” dogs like pugs or bulldogs) can also benefit from olive oil, in that the oil can aid in circulation and the respiratory system. Olive oil also contains a good dose of antioxidants, protecting cell health and against premature aging.
Additionally olive oil helps improve a dog’s coat, skin, immune system, and brain function.
Cats can benefit from olive oil when they are constipated or are experiencing some trouble coughing up hairballs. (NOTE: If your cat perpetually has issues coughing up hairballs, or seems unable to cough up hairballs, contact your vet immediately as this could indicate a more serious problem.)
Olive oil should only be fed to cats for short periods of time (until symptoms go away). Long term feeding of olive oil to a cat could result in serious liver issues.
Dosage: Dogs, 1/4 teaspoon per 10 lbs of body weight, daily (though we always recommend starting with a quarter or half dosage and working your way up to a full dosage over several days).
Cats, 1/4 teaspoon as needed, for no longer than two or three days. Larger cats can go up to 1 teaspoon, BUT NO MORE. If your cat is constipated for more than a couple days, see your vet immediately.
Safe for dogs? Yes
Safe for cats? Safe? Occasionally, yes.
But is it beneficial? There is some controversy over whether coconut oil should be fed to cats. Like with olive oil, since cats are obligate carnivores they will not receive any real benefits from an oil that does not come from an animal. Since a cat does not get the essential fatty acids it needs from coconut oil, it is essentially just a source of fat that if overfed could be more fat than your cat’s body can adequately process. Your cat may get a shiny coat from coconut oil, but it may be hiding other internal issues.
Giving your cat coconut oil for the occasional hard-to-cough-up hairball or mild constipation is ok, but long term it is not a good supplement for your cat.
Benefits: Coconut oil, more precisely virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil, can be a great supplement for your dog. Chock full of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), coconut oil has antibacterial, anti fungal, and antiviral properties. Fed regularly, coconut oil can help prevent yeast or fungal issues.
Dogs with skin and coat issues can benefit greatly from coconut oil in their diet — may dogs who consume coconut oil develop glossy coats and more supple skin. In some cases, coconut oil consumption can help with minor odor control or even bad breath.
The MCTs in coconut oil also help stimulate a dog’s metabolism and give them more energy. Supplementing with coconut oil can be a helpful part of a dog’s weight loss program. Also, coconut oil can aid in healing inflammatory bowel syndrome or digestion issues in dogs.
And for those who cook for their dogs, coconut oil is a good choice for a cooking oil. Stable and able to withstand heat without losing potency (olive oil does not fare as well), coconut oil is not only healthy but practical.
Dosage: Dogs, 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, 1-2 times daily.
Cats, 1/4 teaspoon only as needed/until symptoms (hairball, mild constipation) go away.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Safe for dogs? Yes.
Safe for cats? Yes, occasional use only (like coconut oil or olive oil).
Benefits: Aside from being a good antioxidant and having antimicrobial properties, pumpkin seed oil can be an effective natural dewormer. Pumpkin seed oil contains cucurbitin, an amino acid that rids the intestinal tract of parasites, while leaving your cat or dog unharmed.
In fact, pumpkin seed oil has a good amount of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, and supports kidney and bladder health.
Dosage: Dogs, 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight, 1-2 times daily until your dog’s stool is free of parasites. Regular supplementing is possible, just be sure to check with your vet about it.
Cats, 1/4 teaspoon once a day, for no more than a few days.
NOTE: All of the above being said, we highly recommend contacting your vet if you suspect your cat or dog has worms or parasites. Your vet’s guidance is the best guidance.
We hope this gave you some insight into what to look for and think about when considering an oil supplement for your pet. Whether it’s a fish oil or plant oil, with so many options available you should definitely be able to find the right oil for your pet!
Stay healthy, happy, and wagging!
~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger
Note: Always check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt, always ask a vet.