The ingredients of an oil for dogs should be easy to understand—even easier to understand than the packaging on human products.
Why? Because dogs have wildly different metabolisms than humans do, and highly-concentrated ingredients can be damaging to them. Moreover, many emerging pet products aren’t properly regulated.
So, we’ve got a situation where there are great products that could be powerful healers for your dog. Alternatively, we’ve got look-alikes that might actually be a little damaging. We’ll talk about some things you can do to sniff out the bad guys, but first we want to explore a key aspect of most, if not all oils on the market—carrier oils.
What Are Carrier Oils?
Carrier oils "carry" an active compound such as CBD into the body, allowing it to be processed. Without carrier oils, fat-soluble compounds wouldn't be absorbed naturally by the body. In other words, carrier oils improve bioavailability for key ingredients.
Some healing compounds such as CBD are fat-soluble, rather than water-soluble like many other compounds like vitamins. Because vitamins are water-soluble, they're dissolved and processed directly into you (or your dog's) water-heavy bloodstream.
Fat-soluble compounds dissolve in lipids and oils, and are processed much more readily when ingested with fats. So, a carrier oil such as coconut oil with plenty of healthy saturated fats greatly aids hemp oil on its way to the endocannabinoid system.
Carrier Oils May Also Dilute Concentration
In other situations, a carrier oil is necessary to dilute the concentration of one or more active ingredients. Let’s use a human example; imagine you’re about to drink an ice cold glass of water with lemon.
You’ve researched some of the benefits of lemon, and you want to incorporate it into your life by drinking it with a glass of water each day. If you wanted, you could get the same benefits by simply squeezing that lemon right into your mouth.
Instead, you dilute the lemon with a great deal of water. So much that the lemon is still noticeable, but it’s not overwhelmingly sour.
While many oils offer significant benefits, our bodies (and the bodies of our dogs) may not be able to process such concentrated amounts without getting sick.
It’s similar to the way pain-relievers help us to feel better at the appropriate dosage, but consuming a whole bottle of them would likely put you in the hospital. Most oils are extremely concentrated liquids, and they require a little buffer in order to be safe and effective.
4 Common Carrier Oils
The four carrier oils that follow are common in products with fat-soluble active ingredients. Note that they've all been shown to be safe for pets in appropriate dosages, and each poses potential health benefits.
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is very heavy in healthy fats. Its composed mainly of fats, almost all of which are called "Medium Chain Triglycerides" (MCTs). MCTs possess compounds that have shown to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, and even anti-viral.
Further, MCTs may benefit digestion, aid in the treatment of skin conditions, boost energy, spur weight loss, and even benefit with joint function. Note that these benefits are not all overwhelming. Coconut oil may gently benefit dogs in these ways, although it might not be extremely effective as a key ingredient.
If you're going to pick out a coconut oil to use for your dog, make sure that it's unrefined.
What is Fractionated Coconut Oil?
Fractionated coconut oil is made of coconut meat just like standard coconut oil, except that fractionated coconut oil is intentionally altered to turn long-chain fatty acids into medium-chain fatty acids.
The intention here is to make the oil more easily digestible beneficial for health. According to WebMD, "The medium-chain fatty acids found in fractionated coconut oil have also been found to benefit people with Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and epilepsy."
2. Salmon Oil
Salmon oil is another option that's ripe with healthy fats and Omega-3s. Omega-3s are some of the most important essential nutrients out there, which is part of the reason that fish oil and salmon oil can be so beneficial for dogs and humans alike.
The properties of salmon oil may be able to help your dog with brain function, inflammation, immune function, coat health, and more.
3. Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil is another common option, particularly as cannabis products proliferate and become popular in the pet world. This is another fatty oil that can be great to support your dog's immune system and inflammatory response.
- Keep in mind with hemp seed oil that it doesn't possess any cannabinoids. Cannabinoids (such as CBD) can have a very beneficial effect on dogs, and they come from the buds of mature hemp plants. Hemp seed oil comes from the seed which isn't mature enough to produce cannabinoids like CBD.
If you're looking for a product containing CBD, you're looking for "hemp oil" rather than "hemp seed oil."
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil is generally considered safe for dogs in most amounts. It's not toxic to dogs, and its often used in pet foods. Olive oil is a great source of Omega-6 fatty acids and can serve as an effective carrier oil.
It's not packed with too many demonstrated benefits for dogs, but it's a healthy way to get your pooch to process fat-soluble compounds.
How Do Carrier Oils Affect Dogs?
Carrier oils can be very beneficial -or- very damaging to your dog’s health.
It might seem harmless to give your dog a few drops of a random oil because there’s so little that comes out of the bottle. What’s a few drops going to do?
It all depends! It depends on the oil, the dosage, and the dog in question. It might help to think about these oils in the same way we think about pharmaceutical medicine; one pill can do a great deal even though it’s so small.
Similarly, one or two drops can spread through your dog’s system in very powerful ways. So, even though a product contains great pet-safe active ingredients, it’s important to know the concentration of those ingredients.
In all likelihood, the carrier oil takes up most of the bottle while the active ingredients only take up a fraction of the volume. I can’t stress enough that the carrier oil of these liquids could have very real health implications.
So, what can we do now that we know how important these carrier oils are?
Products With Dog-Safe Carrier Oils
We could list out oils safe for dogs, but there are too many factors that come into play. The size of your dog, the oil in question, the application, and more are all important questions to consider in your purchasing process.
Instead, there are three very simple things you can do whenever you buy a new product for your dog, specifically one that you’re not familiar with.
First, get a screenshot of the product’s ingredients.
Second, Google the ingredients to see if they’re safe for dogs.
- If they’re all safe, move to step three.
- If one or more are unsafe, don’t buy the product.
Third, send the ingredients list and product to your vet or show the website to them the next time you go in for a visit. Your veterinarian should always have the final say.
Pet Product Rules to Live By
Carrier oils are just one of the overlooked aspects of buying pet products. Any pet product, even if it's not an oil, has incredible power and importance. After all, you’re giving it to your best friend.
I hope the following product-buying rules can help you determine safe products that truly benefit your dog and don’t harm them. Less importantly, the following ideas can help you avoid losing money to dishonest brands.
Going through the following few steps should weed out most, if not all of the junk and lead you to something that will genuinely provide benefits for your beloved animal.
1. If It Isn’t Simple, There’s a Reason
If you want to find ingredients or you ask to contact someone from a business, you should be able to.
You should be able to see ingredients immediately, and you should be able to talk to someone within 48 hours. If you’re not able to do that, don’t buy from the company.
If you were proud of a product, wouldn’t you want to make the ingredients abundantly clear? A business has every ability to make things clear or unclear.
When something is hard to find, the business made the decision to make it hard to find. So, if you’re scanning and browsing for the ingredients list and you have to ask customer service for it, the business probably doesn’t want you digging too deeply into their ingredients list.
Then, as you wait for customer service to get back to you about something pretty simple, think about how long they’ll wait to get back to you when you ask for your money back or you inquire about why your dog is responding poorly to the product.
When things work out smoothly, there’s a reason for that as well. You find the ingredients, they check out, and you even call the customer service line for a few easy questions and they’re happy to help.
That’s the sort of business you want for your pet. If they’re upfront, respectful, and helpful, that’s because they stand behind the product they’re selling.
2. Ask Your Vet to Look into The Product
If you’re considering a new oil for your dog’s health, the best and easiest way to get an answer is to talk with your vet.
It’s not difficult to pull up a screen shot or even send an email (if that’s an option) to get a definitive opinion on a product. Even if the product doesn’t benefit your dog, at least you’ll know that it’s not going to harm them.
All of the Google searches in the world won’t outweigh the opinion of your vet at the end of the day. So, that’s the first line of defense.
Always ask the vet!
3. Look into The Reviews
Reviews (usually) don’t lie.
If a company has hundreds of fantastic reviews, odds are that they’re doing a great job safely helping pets feel better. Don’t simply look at the number of reviews, however.
It’s important that you actually read a number of the reviews on the page. How do they sound? Do they sound like someone who’s rejoicing with happiness that their dog can walk again?
Or, on the other hand, do they sound like someone who was told to leave a positive review? Even worse, does it read like AI has typed out something that looks vaguely human?
We can’t confirm or deny that companies are paying for good reviews, but we’ve seen a lot of reviews that look like this:
“My happy mix breed dog is feeling so much better. He was having trouble walking. He is now walking so much better thanks to this product. I am happy to have seen this ad online. Thank you.”
That might be the way that some people type. That’s just fine, but that’s definitely not the way that all people type, so beware if every review on a website reads like the quote above.
Further, make sure that the reviews on a website’s home page are accessible. If you’re on the actual company’s website, you might see something like “thousands of excellent reviews!” If that’s the case, make sure there’s a link to actually read those reviews.
There’s very little stopping someone from making up a random number and boasting about it. The best method is to go to third-party websites like TrustPilot.com, Yelp, or even Google to check for reviews. Even better, look at all of those sites to get a better idea of how actual people feel about the product.
So, How Important Are Carrier Oils?
Carrier oils are very important because they’re a concentrated liquid that gets ingested by your dog. The benefits or negative symptoms could be significant. You want to make sure that it’s safe for your dog to ingest the oil, and the best person to determine that safety is your vet.
Further, it’s important not only to vet the product but also the company. Your putting your pet’s health in their hands, so you want to get a good impression before you move forward—even if you have your vet’s approval!