Fleas are one of the biggest nuisances to pet owners and can be very uncomfortable and irritating to pets as they run along their skin and bite into them. There are many flea and tick treatments on the market that are effective at killing these parasites, but if you’re looking for a natural product to use on your pet, you may be considering coconut oil. Is it powerful enough to kill and repel fleas? No, coconut oil does not seem to be an effective treatment for fleas.
If your pet is suffering from a flea infestation we recommend you visit your local veterinary clinic for advice and effective treatments.
Coconut oil is a versatile product that is generally reported to be free from harmful chemicals and can be used on your pet’s skin because it is natural and even has a few health benefits. It can be ingested by most dogs so you don’t have to worry if your healthy pet licks itself once the product has been applied. Caution is needed if they are allergic to it or suffer from certain conditions such as pancreatitis. Keep reading to understand what the pros and cons of this product are.
Does It Work?
Lauric acid is found in coconut oil, which is a naturally occurring fatty acid. It’s this active ingredient that is reported to kill and repel fleas on your pet’s coat.
This information seems to have been incorrectly taken from a 2018 study1 (Zhu et al) carried out by the USDA. However, they actually point out that coconut oil itself is not repellent. Instead they made a test mixture derived from coconut oil containing coconut fatty acids. This is what was found to have good repellent properties to biting insects, especially stable flies, not normal coconut oil. Fleas were not used in this study either.
Anecdotally it is mentioned on many blogs that coconut oil if rubbed or sprayed into your pet’s coat, will cover the exoskeleton of the fleas and make them immobile, essentially suffocating them in the process and that the lauric acid will kill them quickly. We could not verify the source of this information.
How to Apply Coconut Oil to Your Pet’s Skin
If you would like to try coconut oil for your dog there are a few ways that it can be applied, use the method that works best for you and your dog.
Rub It In
The easiest way to use coconut oil in an effort to kill the fleas on your pet is by scooping some of it into the palms of your hands and rubbing it into your dog’s coat. You can start at any point but make sure to include their face, ears, paws, tail, and chest when applying it to their whole body.
Leave the coconut oil in your dog’s coat for several hours or overnight, and then bathe your dog to wash it out, along with any hopefully dead fleas.
Make a Spray
If you’re worried about cross-contamination or just don’t want to get your hands oily, you can opt to spray the coconut oil into your pet’s coat. You can make the mixture up by adding two tablespoons of the oil to 30 ml of warm water. Spray it over your dog’s coat and brush it through their hairs once their coat becomes damp to spread the oil and help it reach down into their skin.
Once again, you’ll need to leave the solution in their coats for several hours and then wash it out with warm water and dog shampoo.
Give Your Dog an Oil Bath
Another method to consider is giving your dog a bath and using coconut oil. First, wash their coats with their shampoo to rid their coats of dirt and grime, and then massage the coconut oil into their skin for several minutes. You can finish up bath time by lightly rinsing your dog off. If your dog loves water, they’ll feel pampered while being moisturized and possibly treated for fleas.
Other Benefits of Coconut Oil for Your Pet
When using coconut oil on your pet, stick to virgin, unrefined options. This is a safer option for your dog if they ingest it, and it shouldn’t cause irritation to their skin when applied topically.
Coconut oil can help soothe and moisturize dry and flaky skin. It can also give your dog’s coat a healthy shine and a pleasant scent.
Coconut oil contains antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, which can potentially prevent infections from developing on your pet’s skin if they’ve been bitten by fleas.
The Downsides to Using Coconut Oil
If your dog is typically allergic to coconuts or coconut products, using coconut oil on their bodies to kill fleas isn’t recommended. If you don’t know if your dog is allergic to coconut products, use the coconut oil with caution, starting with only a small amount.
Although coconut oil is usually safe for dogs to ingest, too much of it can cause them to have diarrhea. Another downside to using coconut oil on your dog to kill fleas is that it leaves their coat oily and feeling greasy, which can rub against your furniture and clothing and leave stains.
The main downside is that the true effectiveness of coconut oil against fleas does not appear to be proven. In addition, as it is described for use on your pet, it will not get rid of fleas in the environment (your home) and so the cycle of flea infestations will not be broken. 95% of the flea burden is in the home and not on your pet, so both need to be treated.
Coconut oil is often mentioned on pet care blogs as a natural way to rid your pet of fleas. We could not verify this with our research. Many people will still like to try coconut oil as it is felt to be a safe and natural alternative to medications. There are a few ways to use coconut oil on your pet’s skin. You can rub it into their coats directly, make a mixture and spray it onto their coats, or give your dog a coconut oil bath.
However, you should consider if using coconut oil on your pet is the right choice for you and your pet because although it has many benefits, it has not been shown to be effective and will do nothing to reduce the flea population in the environment.
Featured Image Credit: etorres, Shutterstock