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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Medium-chain triglycerides can be used in the management of gastrointestinal diseases when fat digestion is impaired

For fats to be absorbed across the small intestine wall, they have  to be hydrolysed in the lumen before they can enter the lacteals in the villi. This hydrolysis requires pancreatic lipase and bile salts, as well as intact villi, so diseases of the pancreas, liver or small intestine impair this process resulting in malabsorption of dietary fat.  

Most triglycerides in the diet contain 16-24 carbon atoms, but medium-chain triglycerides contain only 8-12 carbons, and this changes their physical characteristics. They are much more water soluble, and as a result can be absorbed across the small intestine wall into the blood stream, not into the lacteals. Mainly they are transported direct to the liver via the portal vein, but some are transported as chylomicrons via the thoracic duct.

Commercial MCT oil is derived from coconut oil and its characteristics are :

  • Contains the C8 caprylic acid (c67%) and C10 capric acid (c23%)
  • Contains c8.3kcal/g of oil

 So, MCT oil may be used as an energy and  fat source in patients with :

  • Pancreatic disease
  • Liver disease - reduced bile production/outflow eg cirrhosis or bile duct obstruction
  • Lymphangiectasia
  • Short-bowel syndrome

However, because the medium-chain triglycerides are transported direct to the liver there is the risk of hepatic lipidosis (especially in cats) developing in susceptible patients if high doses are given. In addition the following side-effects have been reported :

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Anorexia


Updated October 2013