Can I Give My Dog Olive Oil?
Most of the popular superfoods we hear talked about are brightly colored berries or bitter leafy greens, there is one beloved ‘health food’ that is both processed and decadent: olive oil. Though we went through a phase where we feared anything with a measurable amount of fat (which is why we ate nonfat yogurt almost exclusively for a decade!), these days, many of us have embraced healthy fats. In addition to whole foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds, many health-conscious people include small amounts of olive oil when they prepare their meals. Many nutrition experts claim that olive oil is a heart-healthy food, so we have no problem consuming it in small quantities.
But we don’t just search for our own superfoods—those of us who share our homes with four-legged family members are constantly on the search for the foods that will grant our pets long, healthy lives. There are many fruits, vegetables, and herbs that people tout as canine superfoods, but one of the most frequently mentioned is olive oil. Other pet parents, however, suggest that refined oils are essentially poisonous for your pet! But what does the science say? Is there any science behind either claim? Can dogs have olive oil?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat small quantities of olive oil. This food is not at all poisonous to your pet, so there is no risk of toxicity associated with giving it to your dog—even if they eat it on a regular basis or in large quantities. That said, your dog should not be eating large quantities of olive oil! Even if it is safe and comes with some potential health benefits, olive oil is still extremely high in fat and calories. You may use small amounts of olive oil as a dietary supplement under the guidance of a veterinarian, but you should not make a habit of giving your dog foods smothered in the stuff.
There has not been a lot of research on the effect of olive oil on canine health, but many veterinarians recommend olive oil as a supplement to treat skin problems. There have been a handful of studies that found that olive, sunflower, and other ‘healthy’ oils may help manage inflammation and itching associated with skin allergies.
If your dog is prone to skin problems like dry skin, excessive itching, and hair loss, small amounts of olive oil may alleviate some of their symptoms. Many people who have dogs have reported that their canine companions’ coats became softer and shinier after they began supplementing with olive oil. It will take around a month to notice a difference, so be patient.
That said, olive oil should not be used to treat any undiagnosed health problems—if your dog has severe itching or hair loss, you should have them looked at a vet before you try to treat their symptoms. Olive oil is not a medication that will cure any underlying health problems!
Though canine research is limited, there have been several human studies that found health benefits which may be relevant to our pets. The healthy fats in olive oil have been linked to a reduced risk of dementia (including Alzheimer’s in humans), as well as heart disease. Olive oil consumption also correlates with a lower risk of stroke, diabetes, and even some cancers. These benefits may be due to olive oil’s antioxidant effects. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals, which are the highly charged particles thought to be at least partially responsible for many common ailments. By getting rid of free radicals, antioxidants can protect your dog’s cells from damage that may lead to dangerous mutations.
Things to Consider
Even though olive oil can be a powerful dietary supplement, you still need to practice portion control. Olive oil is an extremely fatty, caloric food. If your dog eats too much olive oil, they may suffer from pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. They will also likely put on weight and end up overweight or obese. Obesity can shorten your dog’s lifespan by up to two and a half years. Given that over half of all dogs in the United States are already too fat, we can’t afford to dismiss the extra calories! If your dog already needs to lose weight, you should probably leave olive oil out of the picture.
Olive oil can also cause stomach problems in some dogs. If your dog has a fragile stomach, or is currently dealing with symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, avoid giving them olive oil until things have cleared up.
Overall, olive oil is a safe dietary supplement for healthy adult dogs. In moderation, this oil may alleviate the symptoms of skin allergies, reduce your dog’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia, and improve overall health. If your dog is overweight or has a history of pancreatitis, however, you may want to avoid giving them this fatty food.