Castor oil is a natural remedy many people use for constipation, skin problems, and a variety of other health issues. Its use is a bit controversial, but the FDA says it’s safe for short term use in humans.
However, this doesn’t mean it’s safe for your pooch. Dogs have different systems than humans, so is it safe for them?
Can dogs have castor oil?
There are two ways castor oil is commonly used, in humans and dogs. These are internally and externally. Let’s take a look at both uses, and whether or not they are safe for your dog. But first, let’s learn what castor oil is.
What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil is made from the beans of the castor plant, which is technically known as ricinus communis. It was first used in ancient Egypt. It was originally used as a lamp fuel. Then, they discovered its benefits for medicine and beauty.
Cleopartra reportedly used the oil to brighten the whites of her eyes. Over time, it was discovered that the oil had anti-inflammatory properties, and relieved constipation.
Today, it’s used as a natural remedy. It’s also found as an ingredient in many beauty products.
External Castor Oil Use
Everyone agrees on this aspect of castor oil. It’s great for skin care. This includes the skin and coat of your furry friend.
Castor oil can boost the growth of new skin cells. This is desirable if your pooch has any wounds or skin issues. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it great for treating skin allergies or rashes, or any cause of skin irritation.
It’s highly moisturizing due to the fatty acid content and trigycerides. It’s also thought to have humectant properties. This means it brings moisture from the air and into your dog’s skin.
What Can Castor Oil Treat Externally?
Wondering if your dog could benefit from castor oil? It’s used to treat a surprising number of skin issues.
It’s wonderful for dogs with flea bites, particularly flea allergies. It won’t treat the fleas themselves. However, it will soothe the skin and reduce itching.
It’s also helpful for dogs with dry skin and any allergy that causes skin irritation. It can also be used on skin sores or minor wounds. It has antiinflalmatory and antibacterial properties, and it can speed healing.
The most surprising use of castor oil is to eliminate abnormal skin growths and tumors. Of course, any abnormal skin growth should be evaluated by your vet.
However, benign growths can be removed by applying castor oil. Apply to the area two to three times a day for two to three days.
External Use Side Effects
There is a small chance of side effects when using castor oil externally. This is because the oil is readily absorbed into the skin. Your pooch may experience lose bowel movements or diarrhea. Abdominal pain is rare, but possible.
The Toxicity Controversy
The biggest evidence for castor oil being toxic for dogs comes from a Japanese study. However, the study doesn’t actually indicate that castor oil is toxic to dogs.
The study used polyoxyethylene, which is not found in castor oil itself! It’s actually a mixture of several different chemicals, including rinolic acid. In the study, the mixture was injected into dogs.
The other reason it’s thought that castor oil is toxic is because the castor plant is listed as toxic to dogs. The plant and beans contain high amounts of ricin, which is higly toxic to humans and dogs.
However, castor oil doesn’t contain ricin.
Based on these factors, it is easy to see how castor oil can be assumed to be poisonous to your pooch. While castor oil isn’t toxic when used correctly, it does have some side effects. We’ll take a look at those later in the article.
The main component in castor oil is ricinoleic acid. This can be toxic in high amounts. However, it’s actually an Omega 9 fatty acid. You’ve probably heard of Omega 3’s, and maybe even Omega 6’s. Like these well known fatty acids, Omega 9s have a range of health benefits.
You’ll see claims that ricinoleic acid is dangerous or toxic. This can be true if your pet ingests a large amount of castor oil. However, in the right amounts, it’s actually good for your pet.
Internal Use of Castor Oil
Now that you know a bit more about castor oil, let’s take a look at using it internally. It is best to speak to your vet about administering castor oil. This is because it can have unpleasant side effects, particularly if ingested in high amounts.
However, when it’s used correctly, it can be used to relieve constipation and other digestive issues. It’s recommended to start with a very small amount of castor oil if giving it orally. In many cases, only a few drops are needed.
Again, it’s best to speak to a vet, preferably a naturopathic vet, before using castor oil on your dog internally.
An alternative is to place castor oil onto your dog’s stomach. Since it’s absorbed by the body, this is often enough to get things moving without risking giving them too much.
What happens if my dog licks castor oil?
If your dog licks castor oil, it’s unlikely that anything will happen. However, if they lick a large amount, they may experience some side effects.
The most common issue with a dog ingesting castor oil is diarrhea. Castor oil is a very effective laxative. In fact, it can easily become too effective.
Some dogs may experience vomiting and abdominal pain as well. This is rare, unless your pooch ingests a lot of castor oil. It would likely take several tablespoons to cause these issues in a medium to large dog.
Pancreatitis is a risk for dogs anytime they consume foods high in fat or sugar. Some dogs are more prone to the condition than others. Unfortunately, vets don’t completely understand what triggers the condition or the risk factors.
Because castor oil is an oil, and is high in fat, it does pose the risk of pancreatitis, just as any other high fat source does. Pancreatitis is most likely to occur if your dog consumes a high amount of fat and carbohydrates at the same time.
Pancreatitis causes the pancreas to become inflamed. This activates the digestive enzymes that should activate when they reach the intestines. This can cause damage to the pancreas and surrounding organs.
A pooch with pancreatitis will often assume the praying position. The front half of their body will be on the ground, while the back half is in the air.
Pancreatitis can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain.
What to do if my dog licks castor oil?
If your dog licks castor oil, you likely have nothing to worry about. It is a good idea to keep an eye on them. Watch for any digestive issues, including diarrhea, vomitting, and abdominal pain.
If your pooch has severe diarrhea or vomitting, you’ll need to contact your vet. You should also contact your vet if your pooch shows the signs of pancreatitis.
In most cases, it’s best to just let it run its course. It’s essentially a colon cleanse for your pooch, and can actually imrpove their digestive system overall.
It’s important to trust your instincts. If your pooch is in distress, give your vet a call. If they seem fine or only have mild diarrhea, you have nothing to worry about.