Many of my clients want to know, “Can I use coconut oil in my dog’s ears?” or “Can I use coconut oil to treat my cat’s ears?” Most of the stuff you’ve heard about how coconut oil cures everything from the common cold to cancer in dogs and cats is definitely not accurate. Buried somewhere under all the hype are some nuggets of truth about the benefits of coconut oil in dogs and cats. Let’s talk about how coconut oil can be used for ear infections in dogs and cats.

Coconut Oil Kills Bacteria and Yeast

When used topically, coconut oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects. Multiple studies have found that some components of coconut oil reduce populations of various bacteria on contact, including Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a common ear bacteria that overgrows in allergic and infected dog and cat ears.

There is also evidence that contact with coconut oil components stops the growth of yeast. Most of the studies examined coconut oil’s effect on Candida species which is not the main type of yeast present in dog and cat ears. Still, it’s possible that coconut oil would have a similar effect on the yeast Malassezia which affects dogs and cats.

coconut oil for dog's ears
I kind of like coconut oil in my ears!

Coconut Oil Moistens Dry Allergic Skin

The moisture level of allergic skin is abnormal and allows for increased growth of bacteria. A study on humans with allergic skin disease found that coconut oil worked better than olive oil at reducing bacteria overgrowth when used topically on allergic skin.

coconut oil for cat's ears
Putting a little coconut oil in a cat’s ears is pretty safe.

Should You Give Your Dog or Cat Coconut Oil Orally?

Coconut oil has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects when given orally to rats. Although it provided some relief from experimentally-induced inflammation, it was much less effective than ibuprofen. The antibiotic factors in coconut oil are inactivated in the presence of starch and protein in food, as well as being inactivated by proteins in the blood. Therefore, oral administration is less likely to be helpful when treating ear inflammation and infection.

How to Use Coconut Oil for Your Dog’s or Cat’s Ear Infection

If your dog or cat has any ear inflammation at all, it’s best to see your vet for a proper diagnosis. For dogs or cats with chronic, low-grade otitis, you can do home care consisting of regular cleaning followed by applying coconut oil.

I recommend Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner, 8 oz for ear cleaning. It is gentle and effective at removing waxy goo from inflamed dog and cat ears. It also doesn’t have a strong odor. Depending on how inflamed a dog’s or cat’s ears are, I have my clients use it daily for a week, or for less severe cases once or twice a week. Make sure to literally flood the ear with the liquid, wiping out the excess with soft cotton. If you see blood, stop the procedure as wiping more can make inflammation worse.

After cleaning with Epi-Otic Advanced, allow at least 30 minutes for the ears to dry. Next, apply warm, high-quality virgin coconut oil such as Raw Paws Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for Dogs & Cats, 16-oz -... directly to the ear flap to moisten the skin. Wipe away excess, but don’t rub as that can irritate the skin more. Use a dropper or teaspoon to dribble a few drops into the ear canal. Gently massage the base of the ear to distribute the oil.

Topical Coconut Oil Can Cause Irritation for Some Dogs and Cats

Despite its gentleness, coconut oil can cause contact irritation for some dogs and cats. If you notice the skin in your dog’s or cat’s ear looks redder or develops bumps or sores, discontinue the use of coconut oil and seek help from your veterinarian. You may remove residual coconut oil from the ear flap with mild soap and water. Use warm saline solution several times to flush coconut oil from the ear canal.

Summary

Coconut oil has been scientifically proven to have antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. These effects are expected to be much less strong than the effects of pharmaceutical medications, so coconut oil is probably not going to cure a moderate to severe ear infection.

We don’t have any studies to show its effectiveness in dogs or cats for any ailment including ear inflammation. However, this natural substance should be safe to use topically on most dogs and cats. Watch for uncommon adverse skin reactions to coconut oil application and discontinue use if this occurs.

Disclaimer

The content provided on NaturalPetsHQ.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Our content is not intended to take the place of professional veterinary advice and should not be relied upon to guide or influence the medical treatment of any animal. For more information please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page. 

References

Intahphuak, S., Khonsung, P., & Panthong, A. (2010). Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil. Pharmaceutical biology, 48(2), 151–157.

Kitahara, T. et al. Antimicrobial activity of saturated fatty acids and fatty amines against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 27, 1321–1326 (2004).

Ogbolu, D. O., Oni, A. A., Daini, O. A., & Oloko, A. P. (2007). In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria. Journal of medicinal food, 10(2), 384–387.

Rouse, M. S., Rotger, M., Piper, K. E., Steckelberg, J. M., Scholz, M., Andrews, J., & Patel, R. (2005). In vitro and in vivo evaluations of the activities of lauric acid monoester formulations against Staphylococcus aureus. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 49(8), 3187–3191.

Verallo-Rowell, V. M., Dillague, K. M., & Syah-Tjundawan, B. S. (2008). Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis. Dermatitis, 19(6), 308–315.

Wille, J. J., & Kydonieus, A. (2003). Palmitoleic acid isomer (C16: 1Δ6) in human skin sebum is effective against gram-positive bacteria. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 16(3), 176–187.

Last update on 2020-11-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API