Honey is a superfood that offers wide-ranging benefits. It has natural sugars and various minerals and vitamins that can come in handy with treating certain medical problems and maintaining good health in general. But can dogs eat honey and derive similar benefits as well?
Dogs can eat honey but in limited quantities. Unfortunately, honey’s high sugar content renders it not very ideal for unlimited consumption. Too much honey could lead to weight issues in your dog. Your dog could also miss out on nutrition from other foods if honey ends up filling up your dog.
Continue reading to learn how dogs can benefit from eating honey, why proportions are so critical when feeding honey to dogs, and more.
The Goodness of Honey
Honey is one of the most underrated superfoods nature has to offer. It usually doesn’t receive the plaudits it deserves. Poor-quality honey sold in a supermarket has, to a great extent, eroded the faith people have had in honey. When sourced raw and pure, there are few foods that come close to honey in terms of nutrients and the various benefits.
Raw honey is packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that could help boost and maintain your pet’s health. Honey is 80% sugar, 17% water, and the remaining three percent contains a wide array of micronutrients, trace minerals, and bioactive compounds.
The following are some of those nutrients:
- B vitamins; vitamins C, E, D, and K.
- Minerals like iron, zinc, phosphate, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
- Natural antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, which help prevent illness and slow down the aging process.
- Essential enzymes to facilitate various bodily chemical reactions.
- Simple sugars such as glucose and fructose. These are referred to as monosaccharides that get easily absorbed into the body than complex sugars, such as polysaccharides and disaccharides, which are typically found in starchy veggies, processed sugar, etc.
Unpasteurized honey has antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial traits that help soothe sore throats and stomach ulcers, reduce inflammation, and cure allergies. Honey is often claimed to treat seasonal allergies in both humans and dogs. Even if honey doesn’t provide a cure, a little bit of honey certainly won’t aggravate the condition. Better yet, it would be a wonderful little sweet treat for your dog.
Benefits of Honey for Dogs
All the goodness of honey is not just beneficial to humans; it also helps dogs live a better life. The following are the ways in which honey can help dogs battle their various maladies:
Helps with Allergies
Honey helps canines alleviate seasonal and year-round allergies. Seasonal allergies in dogs are different than the seasonal allergies humans usually get troubled with. During summer, spring, and fall, seasonal allergy symptoms in dogs include:
- Red, irritated skin
- Obsessive licking of paws or the belly
- The itch to rub the face against carpet, couch, pillows, etc.
- Hot spots
- Hair loss
- Inflamed stinky ears
Honey addresses these allergies by subjecting your pet to extremely low quantities of the allergic substance that causes the reaction, which helps your canine pet develop immunity against the substance over a period.
Kindly note, raw honey helps your dog battle only environmental allergies, such as pollen. If your dog has food allergies, honey may not be of much use. In worse circumstances, honey could compound those allergies.
Could Be Good for Digestion
Honey could help with digestion issues, such as indigestion, diarrhea, and constipation. This is because honey contains both probiotics and prebiotics, which play a major role in proper digestion. Adding some honey to your dog’s food could be quite effective at addressing various stomach-related issues.
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Unlike several other foods that dogs find it difficult to digest, honey comes in the pre-digested form and is, therefore, easy on your pet’s stomach. This is one of the major reasons why honey is so commonly used in dog treats.
If your dog has consumed excessive amounts of fresh grass or a certain treat and is experiencing a minor stomach upset as a result, honey may help remedy the condition. If the stomach problem persists, it’s advised you take your pet to its doctor. Do not increase the dosage of honey instead, hoping that would work. It would most likely only make things worse.
Helps Manage Weight
As strange as it may sound, feeding your dog honey sparingly could help with its weight concerns. Honey is a simple sugar that breaks down differently compared to refined sugar. It needs less insulin and gets absorbed into the bloodstream at a leisurely pace.
This causes a slowdown in the digestion and glucose conversion process. If your pet canine has the tendency to easily put on weight, a little bit of honey could go a long way in helping your dog maintain the correct weight.
Provides an Energy Boost
Like other simple carbs, honey gives your pet dog an almost instant energy boost. As mentioned earlier, honey is a form of sugar. When sugar gets broken down, it offers a sudden burst of energy. Anecdotal pieces of evidence denote honey helps several older canines regain their past drive and spunk. Many owners of athletic canines, in fact, feed their pets honey to promote endurance, vitality, and energy in their pets.
May Help Treat/Manage Wounds
Honey could also help your dog with various skin issues, such as hot spots, insect bites, eczema, scrapes, or wounds, etc. Honey’s healing attributes stem from the antimicrobial substances or inhibins it contains, which include a range of phenolic acids and flavonoids.
- Honey works as a disinfectant and antibacterial when applied to scratches, cuts, hot spots, bites, burns, or pressure sores. The topical application of honey could help mollify and heal these ailments.
- The enzymes found in honey could help stimulate new and healthy skin growth.
- Honey also helps with pain and inflammation.
To treat cuts and wounds, apply honey onto the wound directly. Wrap the affected region with a bandage so that your pet cannot lick the honey off. Make sure you use pure and organic honey for the purpose, as the honey found in stores is usually stripped off the antimicrobial and antibacterial traits critical for eliminating bacterial infections.
Unlike commercialized honey, raw honey has the necessary thickness that creates a barrier atop the wound and safeguards it. If the honey is a bit too thick for application, you may heat it a little. But do not overheat it as that could kill all the good microbes in the honey.
May Help Treat Sore Throat
Like in humans, honey could be used in dogs to remedy sore throat issues. If you’ve already consulted your vet about your dog’s sore throat problems and have followed treatment instructions, you may throw some honey into the mix. A little bit of honey can help soothe lingering inflammation. Even if it doesn’t, the taste of honey could be a pleasant distraction from the troubling throat.
How to Feed Your Dog Honey
Dogs can be fed honey in different ways. While some pet owners allow their dogs to lick honey off a spoon or a plate, there are more creative ways to help your pet canine ingest honey.
- Spreading a thin layer of honey on your pet’s favorite treat is one interesting way of serving honey to your dog. Since it’s your dog’s favorite treat, adding honey over the treat would only make it more special. Make sure you serve honey to your dog on the floor, and not on the bed or couch as you don’t want to leave behind a hard-to-clean, sticky mess.
- Pour some honey over a slice of banana, apple, or any fruit that’s safe for dogs to eat. You may even throw in some cream cheese, pumpkin puree, peanut butter, or plain yogurt into the mix. To make the treat fancier and a lot more fun, you may layer the different ingredients into a parfait. For garnishing, use a biscuit or crush up some other treat for a crunchy topping.
- If you don’t want to complicate things too much, you may let your pet lick honey off a spatula or spoon. Coat the large wooden spatula or spoon’s rear with honey for the purpose.
Before you start feeding your dog honey, however, here are a few things you should do or be aware of:
Source the Right Kind of Honey
Whether you are considering feeding your dog honey as a daily treat or to address some of the health issues in your pet, it’s critical you use the right variety of honey. Thanks to honey’s popularity as a food and the resulting commercialization, it’s not that difficult to buy impure or inferior quality honey.
Ideally, honey should be raw, unpasteurized, and unprocessed. This means the honey shouldn’t be heated or filtered, a process employed to kill bacteria in honey. Processing of honey also decreases some of the honey’s medicinal traits, which include local pollens.
Raw honey is completely natural, directly harvested from beehives. The honey is not heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. If not strained, it could even have bits of beeswax in it. Certain local beekeepers and vendors could even sell raw honey containing honeycomb pieces. If you want the best-quality honey, manuka honey is what you should be looking at.
Manuka honey is a more natural and nutrient-rich variant of honey. It is made by bees that pollinate the Manuka trees found in parts of Australia and New Zealand. Manuka honey contains the maximum number of antibacterial traits of pretty much any honey variety across the globe. But it’s also on the expensive side, usually costing three to four times more than local honey. This truly is a case of “You get what you pay for.”
How Much Honey Should You Feed Your Dog?
Honey is a relatively high-calorie food and must be administered to dogs in limited quantities. The proportions should be measured in spoons and not bowls. A teaspoon of honey has 70 calories and more than 15 grams of sugar. In case you didn’t know, that’s a lot of sugar to ingest for any dog. If you feed your dog too much honey, you risk tooth decay issues in your pet, besides inviting a host of other problems.
As a general thumb rule, small-sized dogs would do fine with up to a teaspoon of honey every day. Larger breeds, on the other hand, can tolerate a tablespoon or two.
If you’d like the dosage recommendations to be a bit more specific with regard to your dog’s weight and honey proportions, follow these guidelines:
- A quarter of a teaspoon every day for dogs weighing up to 10 pounds
- Half a teaspoon daily for dogs weighing anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds
- A teaspoon daily for dogs weighing in the 20 to 50-pound bracket
- You could offer up to 2 teaspoons if your dog weighs more than 50 pounds
If you’d like to be sure how much honey your dog should be consuming, talk to your vet as the quantity could vary across dogs and their breeds.
Start Small, and Check for Reactions
Like with every new food you introduce into your dog’s diet, start slow and small with honey too. In other words, you need not start with two teaspoons on the very first day even if your dog has the build for it. Begin with a teaspoon or half a spoon. Also, don’t do it every day during the first week. Do it on alternate days or two or three times a week.
This gestation period is needed to let your dog get acclimated to honey. Add a drop or two of honey to your dog’s food until it gets accustomed to the taste and smell of it. As your dog gets familiar with honey and starts to like it, you may increase the quantity and go up to the maximum permissible amount.
To ascertain your dog’s response to honey, look for alterations in the dog’s bowel movements and behavior in general. If there are no abnormalities, it’s a clear indication that the newly introduced food is agreeing with your dog.
Other Things to Consider/Know When Feeding Your Dog Honey
Raw honey must not be fed to dogs or puppies with undermined immune systems, as the honey could have botulism spores, which could pose some major health concerns. Honey must certainly not be served to obese or diabetic dogs.
There are a few other things you need to look into when procuring and incorporating honey into your dog’s food:
Stay Away from Supermarket Honey
Honey sold in supermarkets usually undergoes processing to accommodate various low-quality ingredients, such as corn syrup. Processing honey this way – particularly heating it – hampers most of its beneficial properties. It’s, therefore, recommended to go with raw, locally sourced honey to reap all of its benefits.
Not All Dogs Respond Well to Honey
Some dogs may not be able to reap the benefits of honey. Puppies, dogs with diabetes, obese pets, and canines with allergies to bees fall in this category. In fact, it’s strictly advised that dogs with underlying health concerns are not fed any honey at all – certainly not before a vet has been consulted.
Here are the reasons why certain dogs may not respond to honey too well:
- Honey’s high glycemic index number could quickly spike up blood sugar levels. It should, therefore, not be given to diabetic canines. (More on that below)
- The high calories in honey also make the food not ideal for obese dogs. If your pet is gaining wet with honey consumption, decrease the quantity of honey or stop feeding your dog honey altogether.
- Some pets could be allergic to bee stings. These hypersensitive pets could adversely react to honey. The adverse reactions could surface as skin lesions, oral ulcers, etc.
- Puppies or dogs that are not a year old yet should not be given honey. Puppies, thanks to their still-developing gastrointestinal system, may not be able to tolerate the bacterial spores found in honey.
Even if your dog is no more a puppy or if it has a weakened immune system, exercise caution when feeding it honey – particularly during the initial stages of feeding. Like with every new food, treat, or supplement you give your dog, always consult with your vet before adding honey to your dog’s diet.
Be Careful When Feeding Honey to Your Diabetic Dog
If you have a diabetic dog, you need to be a bit more cautious when feeding honey to your pet. If you insist on giving honey to your diabetic dog, be prepared for a spike in its blood glucose levels each time you serve honey. Talk to your vet if you believe your dog’s honey consumption for the day or a specific period has been higher than normal. But before heading to the vet, thoroughly brush your dog’s teeth to eliminate chances of tooth decay.
Even if your dog is not diabetic, it’s never recommended to feed your dog honey more than what’s recommended – irrespective of how much your dog loves honey, how beneficial it has been for your pet, or how raw and pure the honey is. If the ingestion is greater than normal, watch out for increased blood sugar symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite in your pet.
As per its proponents, honey can treat a variety of conditions – which include allergies, wounds, kennel cough, indigestion, lethargy, mobility issues, etc. Oftentimes, honey could be used in conjunction with other foods, including herbs. But a lot of these prescriptions have not been scientifically proven. It is, therefore, advised that you take all of this information with a pinch of salt.
If you’re trying to treat your diseased dog with honey, make sure your vet knows about the same. Even if the cure has worked for your neighbor’s pet, it may not work for your beloved canine or may do the opposite thing since not all dogs are the same – even if they are the same breed. Therefore, always do your due diligence.
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Shawn Manaher is a serial entrepreneur but when he isn’t working, he loves dogs. He’s owned different pets over the years, and always gives a part of his heart to each pet.