Rich in natural sugars as well as certain vitamins and minerals that are believed to provide an array of medicinal properties, honey is frequently used as a health supplement for both people and pets due to its anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, which are said to reduce inflammation and fight bacteria, treat everything from stomach ulcers and sore throats, and even help minimize allergies. But can our four-legged friends reap honey's benefits?
Can Dogs Eat Honey?
The good news is that honey is safe for dogs to eat—but only in small amounts. When choosing honey to offer your dog, opt for raw whenever possible, as it will be in its purest form and has not been pasteurized, heated, or processed. Honey that is highly pasteurized has fewer health benefits (its consistency will typically appear more watery and clear in color, and it’s often found in bear-shaped plastic bottles).
Dangers of Honey for Dogs
While raw honey is safe for adult dogs, it should not be offered to puppies, dogs with compromised immune systems, or diabetic or obese dogs. Raw honey may contain the presence of botulism spores; botulism is a rare but serious condition that can cause paralysis in dogs. Older dogs (and humans) have strong enough immune systems to tolerate exposure to botulism spores.
Many dogs love its sweet flavor, but, of course, honey's high sugar content can lead to obesity and other weight-related issues. Much like offering too much candy to children, allowing dogs to consume large amounts of honey can also lead to tooth decay, so following up any honey consumption with a round of toothbrushing (with canine-specific toothpaste) is always a good idea.
How Much Honey Can My Dog Consume?
Although honey isn’t toxic to dogs and does contain some essential nutrients and vitamins, dogs shouldn’t be offered more than one teaspoonful of honey a day. While many “people” foods are difficult for our pets to digest, honey is already predigested by bees so in most cases it’s easy on your dog’s stomach. For that reason, honey is a common ingredient in homemade dog treats, as it’s a natural, tasty way to sweeten special cookies for your pup.
As with any “human” food, be sure to discuss offering honey to your dog with your veterinarian, who can provide more specific feeding guidelines based on your individual dog’s breed and medical history. If your dog accidentally consumes too much honey, be on the lookout for symptoms of stomach distress, including diarrhea and vomiting, and alert your veterinarian right away.
Benefits of Honey for Dogs
Honey is believed to act as a natural remedy for everything from inflammation to allergies, as it’s rich in vitamins B and C and contains nutrients including pollen grains, natural sugars, enzymes, minerals, magnesium, sodium chloride, potassium, iron, sulfur and phosphate. Honey also contains proteins and hormones.
There are some claims that honey can help reduce—or even cure—seasonal allergies in humans and dogs; since raw honey already contains trace amounts of pollen, eating it may help your dog build up a tolerance to the pollinated air outdoors. If your dog has previously had an allergic reaction to a bee sting, then it’s never a good idea to offer honey, as they can lead to oral ulcers, skin lesions, and other allergic reactions.
Additionally, just as humans often use honey to soothe a sore throat, a small amount can be offered to your pooch to help minimize inflammation and help alleviate symptoms from conditions like kennel cough (just be sure to check in with your veterinarian first). It may also help prevent bad bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract.
Offering small amounts of honey may also help improve your pet’s energy level, as raw honey contains natural sugars that are easily broken down and provide a quick boost of energy.
Honey also contains moisturization properties, which is why it’s a common ingredient in various beauty products--and, likewise, it can improve your dog’s coat and skin. It can be used in shampoos to help nourish your pet’s skin and heal infections while keeping insects at bay.
Considered the most beneficial type of honey for humans (and their beloved pets), manuka honey contains the highest amount of medicinal properties. Manuka honey comes from New Zealand, and is made from the medicinal Manuka bush. Its nutritional content is up to four times more than normal forms of flower honey—as well as significantly more enzymes than other types of honey. These enzymes produce a natural hydrogen peroxide, which can serve as an antibacterial agent—some pet parents apply honey to a cut or wound to help protect from outside contaminants, promote faster healing, and even help kill bacteria.