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Is Honey Good For Dogs?

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Honey is delicious in tea or on toast …  and it’s Winnie the Pooh’s favorite. Honey has long been used in folk medicine (there’s even a name for that … apitherapy).  But what about honey for dogs?

Can Dogs Have Honey?

Yes, dogs can have honey. It’s safe for dogs in moderation. It has many traditional health benefits … from helping with allergies, to soothing coughs, to wound healing. But it’s also high in sugar, so there are some cautions that you’ll read about later.

First. moderation is key because of honey’s sugar content …

How Much Honey Is Safe For Dogs?

It’s important to know how much honey is safe for your dog, keeping in mind that honey is a simple sugar. This is the daily maximum amount of honey a dog should eat according to his weight:

  • Up to 10 pounds – ¼ tsp daily
  • 11-20 pounds – ½ tsp daily
  • 1-50 pounds – 1 tsp daily
  • Over 50 pounds – up to 2 tsp daily

More isn’t always better, and that’s the case with honey. Start slowly with just a small amount at first until your dog gets used to it. products. Watch for digestive or behavior changes that might indicate that honey doesn’t suit your pup.

How To Choose Honey 

Honey is full of potential benefits for dogs, with a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants … as well as being a sweet treat. And it turns out honey’s medicinal benefits have been quite well researched. 

Not all types of honey are the same quality. When you buy honey, beware of processed supermarket “honey” that sometimes has very little actual honey, and may contain pesticides.

Instead, look for labels that describe the product as pure, raw or unfiltered. The best choice is to get honey from a local beekeeper or farmers market .. and buy organic if you can. Raw, unfiltered honey is darker in color than processed honey. Processed honey won’t contain all of the pollen and propolis that provide some of honey’s health benefits. 

How To Use Honey For Your Dog

Here are some ways honey can help your dog. 

Honey For First Aid

Cuts, scratches, bumps and scrapes are part of everyday life with dogs. Honey has antibacterial properties that can help with healing (1). So for minor wounds that you can care for at home … smear pure honey over the cleaned wound, and cover it with a clean bandage. For small cuts or scrapes, you can even skip the bandage, but be sure to distract your dog so he doesn’t lick the honey off before it can work its medical magic.

If you have it on hand, you can also mix equal parts of honey with colostrum to make a paste that can be applied to wounds and will help stimulate healing.

You can also use honey for hot spots, eczema, and insect bites. Honey helps reduce pain and inflammation. Ironically, it’s an old folk remedy for bee stings too!

Note: If you’re using honey for its antibacterial properties, it’s best to buy Manuka honey. Research shows Manuka can even help treat MRSA infections (23). 

Honey For Allergies

There’s differing research on honey for allergies. A 2002 study at UConn Health Center found that there was no difference between subjects who took honey and the placebo group (4).  But 2013 research in Malaysia found high doses of honey significantly improved symptoms of allergic rhinitis (5). And symptoms improved for a month after the treatment stopped.  

Still … it’s a long-used folk remedy and many people do find honey helps with their environmental allergies … so it could help your dog too. The theory is that honey provides trace amounts of flower pollen, so if your dog’s allergies are seasonal, slowly introducing the pollen by giving local honey will allow his immune system to create antibodies.

Pollen also contains natural quercetin, which has antihistamine effects that may help manage allergies. 

If you can get local honey from a beekeeper or farmers market, that’s best, because it will contain the local pollen that affects your dog.

Honey For Skin Problems

Unlike medicated products that mask the symptoms without healing it the underlying problem, honey can provide itch relief by controlling inflammation. Often, itchiness and skin diseases are a result of bacteria or yeast overgrowth, so honey’s antibacterial and antifungal properties can really help your dog heal. 

Use honey as a spot treatment by rubbing it into your dog’s skin where he’s irritated. Oral dosing can also help with skin issues caused by allergies. You can also blend it with colostrum powder for extra immune support.

Honey For Weight Management

Honey, though a simple sugar, breaks down differently than table sugar. It needs less insulin than regular sugar, and it may slow down your dog’s digestion (6). If he has a hard time staying at his healthy weight, adding a bit of honey might be helpful.

It may also help manage blood sugar in dogs with Type 1 (not Type 2) diabetes … but read the Cautions below before you give honey to a diabetic dog. 

Honey For Sore Throats

We’ve all had sore throats or coughs that were soothed by adding honey to tea, or even eating it straight off the spoon. Honey can soothe your dog’s sore throat or coughing as well. A Pennsylvania State University study in 2007 found buckwheat honey eased children’s nighttime coughing and sleep difficulty better than dextromorphothan medicine (7).

Honey For Gut Health

Honey helps with gut health because it has prebiotic as well as probiotic properties. The natural probiotics help maintain the balance of good bacteria in your dog’s gut … and prebiotics provide fuel for the probiotics (8)

Honey can help resolve indigestion, constipation and diarrhea. Research in China showed how honey affected gut microbiota in mice and helped with constipation (9). 

Honey’s Protective Antioxidants

Your dog’s body creates free radicals as a normal byproduct of metabolism. Free radicals are damaged cells that try to repair themselves by stealing from other cells. This causes oxidative stress that leads to disease and faster aging. Antioxidants help control free radicals and protect your dog from their harmful effects.

Phytonutrients are compounds in plants that help protect the plant, and phytonutrients in honey give it antioxidant effects. Honey contains antioxidants that can help keep disease at bay and boost your dog’s immune system. A Malaysian study by S Ahmed et al, found that honey has immunomodulatory and anti-cancer effects as an antioxidant agent (10

Another Malaysian study found that honey has anti-cancer effects, concluding … “Honey is highly and selectively cytotoxic against tumor or cancer cells while it is non-cytotoxic to normal cells.” (11)

Researchers at University of Calabria in Italy found that honey may act as an immune booster to help stop cancer spreading, and can alleviate side effects of chemotherapy (12).

Cautions With Honey

  • If your dog is diabetic, talk to your vet before giving your dog honey. Research in 2012 by Erejuwa et al found that for Type 2 diabetic dogs, honey may have some anti-diabetic effects (6). But most dogs get Type 1 Diabetes … which means the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin. Your vet will likely have you monitor how honey affects your dog’s blood glucose levels.
  • Just like with human babies, puppies should not have honey until they are 1 year old, because their immune systems are still developing, and raw honey can contain Clostridium botulinum (13)
  • Dogs with compromised immunity also shouldn’t have honey for the same reason. 

So honey can be really good for your dog. You might want to make friends with a neighborhood beekeeper to get a good supply of local honey. Honey is sweet for many reasons … for you as well as your dog!  

References

1. Mandal MD, Mandal S. Honey, its medicinal property and antibacterial activityAsian Pac J Trop Biomed.

2. Jenkins R, Burton N, Cooper R. Manuka honey inhibits cell division in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2011 Nov;66(11):2536-42.

3. Frydman GHet al. Manuka honey microneedles for enhanced wound healing and the prevention and/or treatment of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) surgical site infection. Sci Rep. 2020 Aug 6;10(1):13229.

4. Rajan TV et al. Effect of ingestion of honey on symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitisAnn Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002 Feb;88(2):198-203.

5. Asha’ari ZA et al. Ingestion of honey improves the symptoms of allergic rhinitis: evidence from a randomized placebo-controlled trial in the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Ann Saudi Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;33(5):469-75

6, Erejuwa OO, Sulaiman SA, Wahab MS. Honey–a novel antidiabetic agent. Int J Biol Sci. 2012;8(6):913-934.

7. Paul IM et al. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Dec;161(12):1140-6. 

8. Anand Mohan et al, Effect of honey in improving the gut microbial balanceFood Quality and Safety, Volume 1, Issue 2, 1 May 2017, Pages 107–11

9. Li Y, Long S, Liu Q, et al. Gut microbiota is involved in the alleviation of loperamide-induced constipation by honey supplementation in miceFood Sci Nutr. 2020;8(8):4388-4398. Published 2020 Jun 27. doi:10.1002/fsn3.1736

10. Ahmed S et al. Honey as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Its Molecular Mechanisms of ActionOxid Med Cell Longev. 2018;2018:8367846. Published 2018 Jan 18. 

11. Erejuwa OO et al. Effects of honey and its mechanisms of action on the development and progression of cancerMolecules. 2014;19(2):2497-2522. Published 2014 Feb 21.  

12. Mariateresa Badolato et al. From the hive: Honey, a novel weapon against cancer. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Volume 142, 2017.

13. A Koluman et al.  Clostridium botulinum in honey: prevalence and antibiotic susceptibility of isolated strainsTurk J Vet Anim Sci (2013) 37: 706-711

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