Features January 2017 Issue

Raw Honey for Dogs

Can dogs eat honey? Yes, but feed your dog local raw honey to maximize it's health benefits to dogs.

Honey is an amazing gift from nature, used for more than a thousand years to promote health and recover from illnesses. It’s loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, as well as powerful antioxidants. It has research-proven antibacterial/antimicrobial properties, can calm allergic reactions, and will soothe irritated skin and throats.

Look for “raw” honey, preferably from local beekeepers, rather than the processed product often found on grocery-store shelves. Raw honey is strained to remove debris, but that’s it. It’s otherwise as natural as you can get. Shop at the farmer’s market or do an Internet search for local beekeepers.

Processed honey, on the other hand, is manufactured with heat, which thins it and destroys many of its beneficial attributes. In fact, many processed honey products aren’t even truly honey, as the manufacturing can filter out the beneficial pollen.

Natural honey color will vary from light to dark golden amber, depending on the flowers the bees used to make the product. It’s only a color.

honey is good for dogs

While larger doses are safe, dogs don’t need much honey in order to benefit from its ingestion. A quarter-teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight daily is enough for health maintenance.

Since dogs enjoy honey’s sweet taste, it’s easy to feed from a spoon or, if the honey is thick, you can roll it into a treat-sized ball. Honey can be fed by itself, mixed with powdered herbs for additional benefit, or added to herbal teas that double as cough syrups. To find instructions on creating your own herbal honey, see "Herbal Medicine for Your Dog," (April 2007). We’ve read that some people add honey to the dog’s water. If you do that, you should offer plain, fresh water as well.

Dogs benefit from raw honey in the following ways:

1. Raw honey provides allergy relief to dogs.

Medical research supports the use of local honey to combat environmental allergies. Note that we said local honey. A local product contains tiny amounts of the pollen in your area, so that when your dog ingests the honey, his body can adjust to the potential allergens gradually, which should help prevent a full-blown attack. Hint: Be sure you’re dealing with an environmental allergic reaction. Itching, scratching, and hot spots can also indicate a food allergy. See “Suspect Your Itchy Dog Has a Food Allergy?” (March 2015).

You can even take things a step further in your quest for allergy relief. Texas beekeeper and dog trainer Michele Crouse washes her dogs with it. “I start with a clear, natural shampoo base from an organic supplier,” she says, “and mix it with an equal amount of honey to which I’ve added aloe vera and essential oils like lemongrass, orange, lemon, lavender, tea tree, citronella, and the Asian herb May Chang (Litsea cubeba). All of these plants have disinfecting, deodorizing, or insect-repelling properties. The essential oils make up about five percent of the formula, so it’s safe for adult dogs and older puppies. To dilute the shampoo and make it easier to use, I add about 25 percent water.”

The resulting shampoo doesn’t lather much, Crouse says, but it cleans the dog well and soothes the skin. “I let it stand for a minute or so, rinse it off, reapply, and then give a final rinse. I board dogs, and if a visiting dog is scratching and itching, I’ll give him a bath in honey shampoo, and that always helps.”

2. Raw honey soothes symptoms of kennel cough.

Honey is a time-honored solution for soothing irritated throats and coughs. For kennel cough, you can use local honey, but Manuka honey may be your best choice. Made by bees pollinating the Manuka trees in New Zealand and parts of Australia, Manuka honey has the highest antibacterial properties of any honey in the world. It’s also the highest-priced honey in the world, and may cost three or four times what you might pay for local honey.

3. Raw honey helps heal dogs' burns, scrapes, and cuts.

Manuka honey is also a top choice for a natural wound dressing. In fact, Manuka honey is FDA-approved for use on human burn patients. But any raw honey will help keep the wound area clean and moist, which promotes healing. Honey’s natural antibacterial properties reduce the chance of infection and protect the injured area.

After cleaning the wound, spread on a thick coat of honey and then apply a light bandage, if necessary. Of course, you may have to also use an Elizabethan collar or similar device to stop your dog from licking the area!

Note: Deep, wide or puncture wounds should always be examined by a veterinarian before applying any medicine.

4. Raw honey reduces gastrointestinal upset in dogs.

For minor bouts of an upset stomach or diarrhea that might come from something simple, such as your dog feasting on fresh grass, a couple of doses of honey may help quiet and soothe his GI tract.

Some veterinarians suggest honey to help control minor stomach ulcers, since honey’s natural antibacterial properties can help destroy bacteria that may be causing the ulcer.

Again, you need to be certain about what you’re dealing with, so seeking veterinary advice in these situations is wise.

5. Honey lends an energy boost to dogs.

Honey is a sugar, and sugar boosts energy. Anecdotal evidence shows that honey helps many older dogs regain some of their former spunk and drive. Many owners of canine athletes use honey to promote energy, endurance and vitality.

Tips for Feeding Your Dog Honey

All honey is thick, but honey that has crystallized is usually too thick to pour or even scoop out. It can be softened by putting the jar in a bowl of hot tap water. The water should reach about three-quarters of the way up the jar. Let it sit for five to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally after the first five minutes. This method will soften the product without harming it because you’re not using too much heat. Do not use a microwave or put the honey in boiling water on a stove top. Store honey at room temperature in a tightly sealed jar.

Potential Problems with Feeding Honey to Your Dog

Honey contains 64 calories in a tablespoon. While that may not seem like much, it’s a relative thing, depending on your dog’s normal weight and his activity level. Unwanted weight gain can result from the addition of a daily dose of honey, if other adjustments are not made (i.e., reducing other treats or the amount of food your dog receives).

Heads up: If your dog is diabetic, discuss the use of honey in his diet with your veterinarian. Honey is a simple sugar.

A final caution: Do not give honey to puppies. Natural, raw honey can contain very small numbers of Clostridium botulinum spores, which can be found in dirt and dust. The mature digestive systems of adult dogs (and humans) can move the spores through the body before they cause any harm, but puppies (and babies) can become sick from ingesting the spores. Save honey treatments for dogs who are more than a year old.

For an in-depth survey of all the ways you can use honey and other bee products for dogs, read "Bee Products Have a Special Meaning for Dogs," (September 2007).

Cynthia Foley is an experienced freelance writer and dog agility competitor in upstate New York. Her last piece for Whole Dog Journal was “Reduce Your Dog’s Cancer Risks” in August 2016.

Comments (5)

BEFORE YOU FEED YOUR DOGS OR FAMILY RAW HONEY READ THIS ABOUT RAW HONEY AND BOTULISM SPORES!!!
Honey is delicious. Whether you add it to your tea, spread it on a muffin or just eat it raw - it's smooth, sweet flavor is universally enjoyed. And almost all store bought honey is perfectly safe. It goes through a process called pasteurization, which heats it to kill any dangerous bacteria. However, it's possible to purchase raw honey - sometimes in a health food store, sometimes directly from bee farms where it's produced - that hasn't undergone pasteurization. Raw honey can contain botulism spores - a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause stomach cramps, vomiting and fever in adults, and much more severe symptoms in infants. So stick to bottled honey that clearly indicates it has undergone pasteurization.

Posted by: Teddy's Mom | January 18, 2017 4:45 PM    Report this comment

Can raw honey be used for dogs probe to yeast infections? I am concerned about using raw or any type of honey because yeast loves sugar. Although it is not sugar it is sweet and yeast loves sweets. Sugar causes yeast to feed off sugar and create yeast or build yeast on too if yeast. This is also true for oatmeal.

Posted by: Poopka | January 8, 2017 1:06 PM    Report this comment

dpmorton, I'm surprised as a medical professional you haven't come across any of the vast amount of medical data available in both human and veterinary medicine detailing the very positive use of honey and sugar in wound healing.

It has been particularly effective in chronic wounds in patients with diabetes and vascular disorders. They've managed to heal chronic wounds with honey that have been non-responsive or minimally responsive to traditional treatments. It has been used in burn patients to promote granulation with a minimum of scaring in areas where skin grafts have failed. And in veterinary medicine its a popular choice in healing wounds that cannot be closed. It is used on ulcerations due to unresolved moist dermatitis and wounds that must be healed by secondary or tertiary intent, depending on depth. It's a popular tool in equine medicine for packing hoof abscesses. Honey dressings are excellent for pressure wounds in patients, both animal and human. Not to mention it was approved as a wound healing agent by the FDA in 2007.

You take a tone with the patrons and publishers of this site that is meant to attack, inflame and is derogatory. I think, at least on the point of wound healing, that you owe them an apology. As a scientist I would have expected you to do a little research before accusing the publishers of being unethical in any way. I can't attach links to comments on this site or I would. However, I can tell you where you can find the data you wish to see.

I would ask that in the future you consider the tone of your comments, everyone on this site is trying to learn and do what is best for their pets. If you want to educate you may want to begin from a place of comradery and open mindedness. After all, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. ;o)

Google Wound Compendium Study of natural honey in chronic wound healing:

wounds research dot com article efficacy-and-safety-natural-honey-healing-foot-ulcers-case-series

Wound Compendium has MANY articles on the uses of both sugar and honey in wound healing so you can certainly search this site and find all kinds of peer reviewed and published studies. However, here is another, at the bottom of the article you'll find more referenced studies than you could possibly read in a day, so it should keep you busy for a while:

wounds research dot com article honey-biologic-wound-dressing

And here is an article from the AAAS that also references many studies on honey for healing.

eurek alert dot org pub_releases 2006-04 sp-hht040606.php

Posted by: ierneiw | January 8, 2017 12:22 PM    Report this comment

An interesting article, however, I am a little disturbed by the lack of any references to objective, controlled, scientific studies to support any of suppositions. I am particularly impressed that you are advocating putting a high sugar content dressing on an open wound. As a human MD, it's not something I would recommend. Mostly, though, the advocacy of untested therapy is really the hallmark of medical quackery. So a few legitimate references to well accepted vet research journals would be a good thing. Just sayin' ...

Posted by: dpmorton | January 8, 2017 11:18 AM    Report this comment

thank you for this info. I have a dog who has indigestion from time to time. I will try this. I read that honey is most effective with allergies if it is local honey.

Posted by: greyfel | January 8, 2017 10:09 AM    Report this comment

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