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Coconut Skyrockets in Popularity

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The vast array of supplements available on the market can easily overwhelm even the savviest of pet enthusiasts. While most pet owners understand the advantages that supplements like fish oils and glucosamine offer to pets, not as many are aware of the many benefits of coconut oil.

Coconut oil received a bad rap in the early ‘90s due to its high level of saturated fat. While virgin coconut oil contains 90 percent saturated fat, it has proven to be very beneficial to humans for everything from heart disease to bolstering immunity due to its unique string of medium-chain fatty acids. Since most of the saturated fats in coconut oil come from medium-chain triglycerides, coconut oil is considered an easily digestible source of energy.

And now the pet industry is seeing it become a major trend in helping to keep pets healthy, too.

“Coconut oil is rapidly gaining recognition because of its unique health benefits,” Ryan Phillips, COO of Wholistic Pet Organics, said. “Besides giving your pet a beautiful, glossy coat due to its high fat content, coconut oil contains lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that can help combat bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Lauric acid, most commonly found in ‘mother’s milk,’ also helps support the immune system. Our unrefined, virgin coconut oil is not treated with chemicals or exposed to high heat, which makes it richer in phytonutrients and polyphenols, [which act as antioxidants in the body] than refined coconut oil.”

The Tree of Life

Nearly every part of the coconut can be utilized in the animal industry. ZooMed utilizes the husks of coconuts into its Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate. This results in an eco-friendly product that can be safely composted and recycled into potted plants or gardens. It is ideal for setting up naturalistic terrariums, naturally breaks down odors and is safe for most reptiles.

Many report that a very light application of coconut oil can help resolve issues like fungal infections or cuts in reptiles prone to skin conditions. This is also particularly helpful when an animal is shedding.

Others report that tiny amounts of coconut oil can assist in gut load.

According to Phoenix-based Tropic Zone, coconut water is a common supplement among bird enthusiasts. Parrots and other birds also enjoy the benefits of coconut when it comes to playtime.

Also, according to Tropic Zone, the shell of a coconut can be cut and drilled, then strung with other toys to help encourage play.

Crunchy pieces of coconut can help alleviate boredom while promoting dental health and keeping pets entertained with unique textures.

“CocoTherapy Coconut Chips are a rich source of dietary fiber, making it a great supplement for dogs with sensitive digestive tracts, such as those suffering from IBB or colitis,” Carmina O’Connor, co-founder of CocoTherapy, said. “We’ve heard from many pug owners, whose pets have had anal gland problems, that CocoTherapy oils and chips have virtually eliminated problems with impaction. Our Coconut Chips are designed for maximum digestibility, while providing all the beneficial nutrients from medium-chain fatty acids.”

Use In Pet Foods

Because of coconut’s many benefits, the industry is beginning to see it appear in pet foods.

Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen, said they have been incorporating coconut oil and the flesh of coconuts into their food and treats since early 2006.

“Many of the benefits discovered in humans can also be translated to pets,” she said.

Other pet food companies are also taking advantage of this super food.

“Dogs and cats need fat in their diet,” Matt Koss, founder and president of Primal Pet Foods, said. “Medium-chain triglycerides are difficult to find in nature, but they offer a substantial benefit that delivers a unique saturated fat. We use 100 percent organic virgin coconut oil in our raw, frozen and freeze-dried line of Formulation products.”

They are also quickly being a favored addition to treats.

“Dogs, like people, can run out of energy while exercising,” Chris Meiering, director of marketing for Zukes, said. “By including coconut oil in our Power Bones, our treats provide a source of sustained energy before, during and after an activity. This one nutritious treat gives dogs all the healthy energy they need to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.”

In 2013, Party Animal launched its Cocolicious line of dog food The product is available in six flavors, ranging from Organic Chicken & Beef to Lamb & Wild Caught Salmon.

“Coconut oil has gained mainstream awareness for its health benefits in humans, and it’s now time for animals to benefit from this amazing, nutritious ingredient,” Daryl Abrams, founder and CEO of Party Animal, said.

Medium-chain fatty acids are added to most baby formulas, even those designed for dogs and cats. Wysong Mother’s Milk is one such formula that is designed to mimic the complex formula of lactating animals, utilizes coconut oil as a source of MCTs.

Coconut As a Super Food

Coconut oil is a neutraceutical that contains natural antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. In pets, it can soothe cracked paws, reduce arthritic pain and decrease inflammation. Since coconut oil is primarily composed of medium-chain fatty acids, it is also beneficial for increasing metabolism and supporting weight loss.

Coconut oil naturally contains caprylic acid, which has been proven to help combat yeast infections and support natural ear and skin health. It naturally contains digestive enzymes and probiotics to support good digestive health.

MCFA, which naturally occurs in coconut oil, has also been found to be effective in preventing parasites, such as Giardia and protozoa. When applied topically, injuries heal much more quickly and its natural antiviral component can help disinfect abrasions.

- Stacy Mantle

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