11 Ways To Use Coconut In Your Dog's Diet

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I am a big fan of coconut and incorporate it in many of Kirby’s meals and treats. My favorite go-to's are coconut flour, coconut milk, and coconut oil. Once believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content, it is now known that the fat in coconut called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) lead to efficient burning of energy shown to help raise metabolism which can help over weight dogs. Published studies in medical journals show that coconut, in one form or another, provides a wide range of health benefits.

  • Kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, gum disease and cavities, pneumonia, and other diseases.
  • Kills fungi and yeasts that cause ringworm. 
  • Expels or kills tapeworms, lice, and other parasites.
  • Provides a nutritional source of quick energy.
  • Boosts energy and endurance enhancing physical and athletic performance.
  • Improves digestion and absorption of other nutrients including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  • Improves insulin secretion and utilization of blood glucose.
  • Relieves stress on pancreas and enzyme systems of the body.
  • Reduces symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
  • Helps relieve symptoms and reduce health risks associated with diabetes.
  • Improves calcium and magnesium absorption and supports the development of strong bones and teeth.
  • Helps relieve symptoms associated with gallbladder disease.
  • Relieves symptoms associated with stomach ulcers.
  • Improves digestion and bowel function.
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Supports tissue healing and repair.
  • Supports and aids immune system function.
  • Helps protect the body from cancers.
  • Is heart healthy; improves cholesterol ratio reducing risk of heart disease.
  • Protects arteries from injury that causes atherosclerosis and thus protects against heart disease.
  • Functions as a protective antioxidant.
  • Helps to protect the body from harmful free radicals that promote premature aging and degenerative disease.
  • Does not deplete the body's antioxidant reserves like other oils do.
  • Improves utilization of essential fatty acids and protects them from oxidation.
  • Helps protect against kidney disease and bladder infections.
  • Dissolves kidney stones.
  • Helps prevent liver disease.
  • Is lower in calories than all other fats.
  • Supports thyroid function.
  • Promotes loss of excess weight by increasing metabolic rate.
  • Is utilized by the body to produce energy in preference to being stored as body fat like other dietary fats.
  • Helps prevent obesity and overweight problems.
  • Applied topically helps to form a chemical barrier on the skin to ward of infection.
  • Reduces symptoms associated the psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis.
  • Supports the natural chemical balance of the skin.
  • Softens skin and helps relieve dryness and flaking.
  • Promotes healthy looking coat.
  • Does not form harmful by-products when heated to normal cooking temperature like other vegetable oils do.
  • Has no harmful or discomforting side effects.

Everybody is using coconut oil which is a good thing but there are so many other ways to incorporate this amazing beneficial fruit into your dog's diet. You can add it to meals, bake treats with it, or feed it natural as a snack.

Fresh coconuts

You can find them in most grocery stores and health stores. Shake the coconut and listen to the sound of water. You want one with more water because less water generally means that the water might have drained out which implies a crack in the shell which can lead to impurities entering the coconut meat and causing mold. For this same reason look for one that isn’t moist on the outside. Every coconut has three spots on it which are called coconut eyes. They shouldn't look dark or moldy. Though often sealed with wax to prevent leakage, this does not guarantee that leakage has not occurred.

Coconut Water

The young coconut (also called a jelly or green coconut) harvested at roughly four to seven months old, contains the clear slightly sweet liquid called coconut water. Look for fresh green coconuts when possible.  The second choice is cold pressured coconut water which is only lightly processed via high pressure processing instead of heat to eliminate bacteria but maintain a greater level of vitamins and minerals. If the coconut water doesn’t need to be refrigerated it usually means it has been pasteurized (heated to a high temperature to kill any bacteria) to maintain its freshness but this also destroys the natural vitamins and minerals. Avoid coconut water made from concentrate, has added sweeteners or added flavors used to mask mature coconuts that have a more bitter and acidic taste. It’s high in potassium so its been used for IV hydration due to its high electrolyte content and the fact that it’s sterile if used directly from the coconut.

Coconut milk (canned)

As the coconut matures, the liquid is replaced with coconut meat. Coconut milk is made by blending grated mature coconut meat with hot water and then straining the liquid. This first squeeze yields the creamiest of the coconut milk which is a mixture of coconut cream and coconut water. At cooler temperatures, coconut milk separates and the cream rises to the top. You can refrigerate the can overnight to make this easier. Once separated you can scoop out the thick yogurt looking part which is the cream. You can also let the can come to room temp and stir the cream and water together to get coconut milk. I much prefer coconut milk from Thailand which seems to be consistently better in both texture and taste. 

Once opened, any unused coconut milk will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Do not let it sit at room temperature for very long since it tends to spoil easily. Sometimes you can get a can that has oil floating on top of the coconut milk. This oil is a result of a can that got too hot during shipping and turned the coconut milk into oil – don’t use it.

Some brands contain only coconut and water while others include preservatives, emulsifiers, or stabilizers. Guar gum is a common additive, which although naturally derived from the guar bean can give some digestive problems. 

Lite Coconut Milk (canned)

This is coconut milk which has been diluted with water to reduce the fat content. I recommend buying regular coconut milk and diluting with filtered water yourself. You'll save money and get a better flavor.

Coconut Cream (canned)

This  is the part that rises to the top in the coconut milk. It can be purchased on its own. The price isn’t really much different so you can decide whether you want to purchase coconut cream or coconut milk.  I like to use coconut cream for my whipped toppings or any recipes where I want more cream with little water. Coconut cream should not be confused with cream of coconut which is coconut cream with added sugar.

Coconut Oil

Unrefined coconut oil is often referred to as "virgin" or "pure" coconut oil. It is coconut oil extracted from fresh coconut meat rather than dried. The fresh coconut meat undergoes one of two processes: wet milling or quick drying. Quick drying, the most common method used, promptly dries the coconut meat and the oil is mechanically expressed. Wet milling refers to the process in which the coconut milk is expressed from the fresh meat and then boiled, fermented or separated from the milk using enzymes or centrifuge. Due to the quick process, the resulting oil does not require bleaching or additives. It also isn't exposed to high heat levels like its refined counterpart. It retains the distinct flavor and odor of coconut. Always choose virgin or pure.

Refined coconut oil refers to coconut oil that has been bleached, and deodorized. The oil is derived from dried coconut meat known as copra. It has to be purified with bleaching clays because contaminants arise during the drying process. High heat is then used to deodorize the coconut oil to remove its distinctive odor and flavor. Sodium hydroxide is often added to prolong its shelf life. To obtain the most oil, some brands use chemical solvents to extract as much oil as possible from the meat. They may partially hydrogenate the oil, too, which means it will contain trans-fats. You don't want this type!

Refrigerated coconut milk

This is a greatly watered down beverage sold in cartons in the dairy section. It isn’t used for cooking or baking. It may have additives like carrageenan, guar gum, and sweeteners so be sure to read the labels.

Desiccated coconut 

The coconut meat which has been chipped, flaked, shredded or powdered, is then dried thoroughly to remove as much moisture as possible. Choose unsweetened.

Coconut butter

This is a delicious spread or condiment that can be used in place of almond butter or peanut butter. It’s made from the meat of the coconut much in the same way peanuts are used to make peanut butter. It can be combined into smoothies, blended into coffee, or devoured by the spoonful straight from the jar. I make my own which is so easy.

Coconut flour

This flour is made from dried coconut meat and is a natural by product of coconut milk production. When coconut milk is pressed from coconut meat, bits of solid coconut meat are left over which are then dried at a low temperature and ground until it produces a soft, fine powder. Coconut flour is a gluten free and protein rich alternative to traditional grain-based flours that imparts a sweetness because of the natural sugars in the coconut.  

Coconut Sugar or Palm Sugar

Coconut sugar comes from the coconut palm tree and palm sugar comes from the palmyra or sugar palm tree. Both are made from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds which is collected and boiled until it reaches a sticky sugar consistency. It’s then whipped and dropped in lumps on cellophane or filled into containers.

The color, consistency, flavor and level of sweetness can vary from batch to batch, even within the same brand. The color can range from a light beige to a rich caramel brown and the consistency can be soft and gooey or rock hard depending on how long the sap was reduced. The sweetness can vary based on the type of palm tree, time of year when the sugar is tapped and even the heat and fuel source used to reduce the nectar.  I have read that the palm sugar is much sweeter than the coconut sugar. Both can be stored in a cool dry place.

To find my recipes using coconut, go to Search in the right column and type in "coconut".