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Coconut Oil for Dog Fleas: Does It Work?

With most dog flea control products are chemical based and pose risks, coconut oil is natural and safe. We explore whether it works for fleas and how to use it.

We all want to protect our dogs and our homes from flea infestations. There are many flea control options on the market, such as collars, liquids, sprays, topicals, pills, and chews; however, most of them contain pesticides that you may be concerned about using on your dog or in your home. There are natural flea protection alternatives that can protect your home and peace of mind.

Coconut oil can be used for dog fleas. Rubbing the oil in your dog’s fur may help stop fleas from biting, and applying it to your dog’s skin may help it heal from flea bites and reduce itching. While research on adding the oil to your dog’s meals is ongoing, your dog may benefit from topical use. 

Read on to learn how to protect your dog and your home from fleas without toxic chemicals. You will also learn some of the other benefits of coconut oil for your pup. 

Controlling Fleas in Dogs

Anyone who has experienced a flea infestation in their home or watched their dog scratch incessantly knows that these parasites are a real nuisance. The most common flea species are the cat flea and the dog flea; however, the fleas that infest most dogs and cats are cat fleas. 

Once fleas get into your dog’s coat, they bite, feeding on your dog’s blood and laying eggs in their fur. Fleas can irritate your dog’s skin and cause itching. They also transmit potentially serious diseases, including tapeworm, and can give your dog skin allergies and cause anemia. While the fleas are worrisome, so are some of the treatments to get rid of fleas. 

The Goals of Flea Treatment

Flea treatment in dogs has two goals: eliminating fleas on your dog and eliminating existing populations in the environment to prevent new infestations. 

Once your dog has a flea infestation, you can only eliminate it by ridding your dog of the fleas and preventing flea eggs from hatching. If you kill the existing fleas on your dog without eliminating flea larvae, within about two weeks, the flea eggs, which fall off your dog onto carpets, furniture, clothing, and bedding, will grow into new fleas that will bite and re-infest your dog in a vicious cycle.

The second step in controlling a flea infestation is to eliminate fleas in your dog’s environment. A large component of de-fleaing the environment is sanitation, which includes frequent cleanings and vacuuming of floors and carpets, washing pet bedding and clothes, and flea treatments. 

Traditional Flea Treatments

Traditional treatments that eliminate fleas on your dog include soaps, chews, topical gels, oral medications, and collars. Environmental treatments predominantly consist of fumigation (flea bombs), powders, and flea traps, both inside and outside your home. 

Virtually all of these flea products contain harsh chemicals, including compounds known to have toxic effects that can cause serious health consequences for dogs and humans. The residue from these products can remain on dog fur for weeks after use. 

There is a growing demand for non-toxic flea treatments to reduce toxin exposure, particularly in light of significant adverse reactions dogs have had to pesticide-based flea treatments, including stumbling, seizures, and twitching.  Some flea products for dogs are also toxic for cats, making treating fleas in households with both pets a challenge. 

dog itches head with leg

What Is Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is a highly saturated fat extracted from coconuts. Refined coconut oil is extracted through high heat from dried coconut, while unrefined coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconut. You can buy refined and unrefined coconut oil in liquid or solid form. Coconut oil has been used for centuries in cooking, hydrating and healing skin, and hair and beauty products.

Benefits of Coconut Oil for Dogs

The topical application of coconut oil can benefit your dog in several ways, from managing flea problems to skin and coat health to treating fungal infections.

  • Kills fleas and other parasites: The lauric acid in coconut oil kills fleas by coating their exoskeleton on contact. Studies have shown that coconut oil shampoos have helped prevent infection from parasites, such as ticks, fleas, and mange mites in dogs.
  • Good for skin, paws, and noses: Coconut oil moisturizes dogs’ skin and can soothe and promote skin healing in dogs bitten by fleas and other parasites. Veterinarians recommend topical coconut oil to help treat dry skin and eczema, and you can use it to help your dog heal cracked paw pads and crusty noses.
  • Coat growth and shine: The lauric acid in coconut oil is one of the best fats to rub into your dog’s fur to bring out the shine, promote coat health and regrowth, and help control dandruff. 

How to Apply Coconut Oil to Your Dog

Coconut oil should be applied about once a week and allowed to absorb for a few minutes. You can use one of three methods to apply it. In all three, you want to get the coconut oil into your dog’s fur and paws, covering the ears, between the toes, and under the tail.

  • Rub coconut oil directly on your dog. Rub a good amount of coconut oil between your hands until it becomes liquid. Run your fingers thoroughly through your dog’s coat. You want to make sure to cover their body from nose to tail.
  • Spray it on. Mix a 1:1 solution of coconut oil and warm water in a clean spray bottle and shake it up, so the warm water melts the coconut oil. Spray your dog thoroughly but be careful not to spray their eyes.
  • Make a coconut oil bath. Rinse your dog to wash dirt from their coat, then rub coconut oil thoroughly through their fur. After five minutes, rinse off the oil.

You can add a drop or two of lavender or tea tree oil, which also repels fleas, to the coconut oil as long as you do not have a cat in the house, as essential oils can be toxic for cats.

Precautions for Giving Coconut Oil to Dogs

Coconut oil is also mentioned as a nutritional supplement for dogs. However, it contains fats that can be harmful to dogs’ health. 

While veterinarians and animal organizations currently warn against feeding coconut oil to dogs, ingestion in small amounts appears safe. The controlled topical use of coconut oil for fleas should not cause your dog to consume large quantities of oil from grooming and should be safe. 

However, if you find that your dog has an adverse reaction and you are using coconut oil topically, we recommend that you consult your vet before continuing to apply it.

Some of the problems that veterinarians believe to be linked to feeding dogs coconut oil are:

  • High cholesterol, pancreatitis, and weight gain: Adding coconut oil to your dog’s diet can worsen pancreatitis, cause high cholesterol, and lead to excess weight gain from the high amount of fat in the oil.
  • Impaired sense of smell: A limited study suggested that dogs fed coconut oil may lose some ability to detect scents, which suggests caution in feeding coconut oil to working dogs who rely on their scent detection abilities. 

Conclusion

While coconut oil is not a recommended nutritional supplement for your dog, you can use it topically to treat and prevent fleas. It can also help heal and soothe your dog’s skin and their coat shine. It is recommended that you work with your vet to ensure your dog’s flea treatment protects them and you, and stop using coconut oil for dog fleas if you or your dog has a negative reaction. 

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor