We all know roughly the type of foods that are safe for our dogs.
Whether they enjoy nibbling on a cube of cheese or wolfing down a leftover Sunday dinner, you generally know how to play it safe with your pooch.
But what about those foods that don’t come up for discussion?
And what if you’re thinking of expanding their diet to make it more nutritionally rich?
Coconut is an edible fruit of the coconut palm.
A thick fibrous husk forms the outside. Once cracked open, you will find edible white flesh or ‘meat’ as well as a liquid or ‘milk’ which can be consumed as a drink.
The coconut can be chopped up and eaten directly from the nut, or shredded into chunks, flakes and rice.
Coconut flakes are the most common, being best enjoyed as cake decorations.
But can dogs eat coconut flakes?
4 ways that coconut flakes are good for dogs
Coconut flakes contain a lot of healthy nutrients for dogs. Enjoyed in moderation, they contain healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates.
 Lauric acid
They contain lauric acid which has extensive antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. They are also packed with antioxidants which can boost the immune system and clear toxins from the body.
 Lots of vitamin B
High levels of B-vitamins are also present such as folate, niacin and thiamine which can provide wide benefits for a dog’s heart, digestive system and coat.
It’s also good to break down the nutritional content to work out exactly what a portion does.
There are no figures to state where coconut lies on the daily recommended allowances for dogs! However, the largest nutritional component of coconut is dietary fibre.
 Dietary Fibre
And dietary fibre is a crucial component of food as it adds bulk to a diet and makes dogs feel full faster. In turn, this can help with weight control.
Coconut also contains potassium which is crucial for the functioning of your body’s cells. Potassium regulates the heartbeat and looks after muscle, nerve function and water balance.
Importantly, too, coconuts help to control blood cholesterol levels.
Two ways that coconut flakes are bad for dogs
 Coconut flakes are high in calories
Although incredibly rich in some nutrients, the fatty content of coconut can cause weight gain for dogs. Coconut ‘meat’ has a very high calorie content. This can lead to weight gain. Not balancing off a fatty diet with plenty of walks can also cause diabetes, pancreatitis and heart damage.
 Coconut flakes contain triglycerides
Whilst coconut is not toxic, it does contain triglycerides, a type of lipid. Excessive triglycerides can cause an upset stomach and bloating, which may be uncomfortable for your dog.
 Can dogs eat fresh coconut?
Coconut is a fantastic source of many healthy nutrients. Its flakes can provide essential levels of potassium and dietary fibre, as well as lead to overall organ health.
However, are we right to assume dogs can also eat fresh coconut?
The good news is we can do so but only when carefully managed. Coconut meat should never be served to the dog in the coconut. The dog could bite into and swallow the outer layer, which can cause a blockage in the windpipe.
A general recommendation is to feed your dog coconut through other forms, such as coconut flakes, oil or rice. Alternatively, you can cut the ‘meat’ from a fresh coconut into little squares.
Due to the very high fat content, you should first tentatively portion off the coconut. A safe amount, to begin with, is one-quarter of a tablespoon. Eventually, you’ll want to upsize this to either one teaspoon or tablespoon, depending on your dog’s size.
 Can coconut oil boost a dog’s nutrition?
Coconut oil contains the same nutritional benefits as regular coconut, plus all the antibacterial and antioxidant properties. Coconut oil is regularly used in safe amounts in various commercial dog food diets and treats.
It’s said that coconut oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, helping the body to form a healthy response to foreign microbes.
It can also eliminate hairballs, help with skin conditions and eliminate doggy odour.
Coconut oil is largely safe for dogs but should be introduced gradually into their diet. Giving them too much from the beginning can upset their digestive system, causing discomfort and an upset stomach.
Start with ¼ teaspoon daily for small dogs and between 1 teaspoon and tablespoon a day for bigger dogs. Overweight dogs should receive a smaller dose. Monitor your dog the first few times they ingest coconut oil, just to be on the safe side.
 Can coconut oil be used in any other way with dogs?
Sometimes, pouring up to one spoonful of coconut oil into your dog’s food does not work. Dogs are so perceptive that they may suspect the new smell or catch you in the act!
Fortunately, you can also apply it in other ways.
The coconut oil can be baked into sweet and savoury treats such as frozen banana, peanut butter and coconut bites, or sweet potato fries with coconut oil.
You can also visit a health-based pet shop to purchase coconut oil-based cakes and biscuits.
Some owners rub it into their dog’s coat to make it glossy and sleek.
You can buy shampoo and conditioner containing coconut oil which moisturises their coat and helps to remove dandruff.
If you notice your dog’s paws are dry and cracked, you can rub in coconut oil to ease the soreness.
Just be careful to rub it in enough for your dog not to lick it off afterwards!
 Can dogs eat coconut rice?
If you’re considering the benefits of coconut in another form, you may consider coconut rice.
Feeding your dog this is not really that different from pure coconut meat or shredded coconut.
The same warnings about coconut apply in this instance.
As coconut contains triglycerides, your dog should be fed only small doses, which you can gently and gradually upscale.
Too much coconut can cause a stomach upset and diarrhoea.
 Can dogs eat toasted coconut?
If you’re baking a cake and your dog is eyeing up the toasted coconut flakes on the side, you can certainly add this as a topping to their kibble.
Toasted coconut is only different to raw flakes in that the toasting process brings out a wonderfully nutty flavour.
Toasted coconut comes with the same health and nutrition guidance as regular coconut.
 What are the safest cake decorations for dogs?
Now we know dogs can enjoy toasted coconut in small portions, you may be wondering which other cake decorations are safe for dogs.
Unfortunately, most traditional cake decorations are not safe for dogs.
Sprinkles are cake decorations to avoid.
Whilst they can be safe on a one-time basis, they are certainly not healthy.
They either contain high levels of sugar, which can cause diabetes, or xylitol, which is dangerously toxic for dogs.
Any other decorations containing chocolate should also be avoided.
If your dog decides to go the whole hog and even eat the candles, please know that these are also fine.
Candles will pass easily through a dog’s body, likely causing only an upset stomach and diarrhoea.
However, if there is an ingestion of sparklers a veterinarian must be called immediately. Fireworks are toxic to dogs.
 Why is chocolate the worst cake decoration for dogs?
Should chocolate be avoided? Surely that’s a mistake?
Unfortunately not. Chocolate contains an alkaloid called theobromine which dogs are unable to metabolise. This makes chocolate toxic for dogs.
Cooking chocolate is by far the worst culprit, containing 16mg of theobromine per 1g of chocolate.
Dark chocolate contains significantly less, but still double that of milk chocolate. White chocolate is the most forgiving for dogs.
It has just 0.01mg of theobromine per 1g.
If your dog’s eaten chocolate, look out for warning signs including agitation, drinking excessive amounts of water and vomiting or diarrhoea.
If you suspect your dog has eaten a large amount, make sure to phone the veterinarian as a precaution.
The first thing they’ll ask you is whether you retained the chocolate packet.
This is important as the vet will need to make a judgement about whether the dog has eaten enough to be given activated charcoal, which will force them to vomit.
 Can dogs drink coconut milk?
The final component of a coconut we haven’t looked at is the water or ‘milk’. Is coconut milk safe for dogs to drink?
Providing the coconut milk is pure and has not been mixed with any sugar or preservatives, it is fine in small doses.
Coconut milk directly from a coconut is safe, however, coconut milk from the shop must not be consumed.
Shop-bought coconut milk contains high levels of calcium, which can provide the dog with a crucial source of healthy bone development.
The saturated fats can have healthy consequences, helping the dog to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
However, it does contain the harmful additive guar gum, which can cause gastric inflammation and blockage.
So coconut milk can be healthy for dogs, although just be wary of not giving your pet excessive amounts.
For coconut milk, similar guidance for the rest of the coconut should be followed.
Gently introduce it to your dog’s diet in small doses to avoid diarrhoea and stomach upset.