Can dogs eat honey? Is it safe to use honey on your dog at all? Mostly. The verdict is still out about how effective honey is for medicinal purposes, and it can be dangerous for very young dogs or dogs with compromised immune systems, but many people report success in using honey to treat everything from their dog’s seasonal allergies to his infected burns. Here’s what you should know about honey for dogs:
There are many benefits of honey for dogs, but let’s discuss the drawbacks first. Humans are at risk for food poisoning, and children under the age of one shouldn’t ever get honey as they are at risk of infant botulism, which can be serious. Similarly, the AKC says to avoid giving raw honey to dogs with compromised immune systems and puppies because of similar risks around botulism spores. As with any other medical treatment or dietary change, check with your veterinarian before adding honey to your dog’s diet.
Use raw honey for medicinal purposes. Unlike the honey found in packets or in those ubiquitous honey bear bottles, raw honey is unprocessed and unpasteurized. This means that it isn’t filtered or heated, a process that kills bacteria, but also reduces the presence of some medicinal properties, such as local pollens (more on why that matters later!).
Honey can be a sweet treat for your dogs — many homemade dog cookie recipes call for honey. It can also be used directly on the skin, or given orally to your dog in small quantities.
Honey is high in calories and should only be given to your dog in very limited quantities. Since one teaspoon contains about 17 grams of sugar and 70 calories, the Honey Bee Conservancy recommends no more than one teaspoon of honey per day. Too much honey could lead to tooth decay, and be sure to consult with your vet on the right amount — especially if your dog is overweight or has diabetes.
Some dog owners use honey as an at-home kennel cough treatment, specifically to reduce coughing, relieve throat pain and promote healing for infected dogs. Dr. Ford, a professor of medicine at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, who recently answered all our questions about kennel cough, was less convinced about the healing properties of honey for kennel cough. “‘Honey’ as needed to treat kennel cough is conjecture. I suppose one could also try chicken soup from a New York deli — that’s supposed to work in humans with ‘kennel cough,’ [too].” Dr. Ford responds.
If your dog suffers from environmental allergies, the Honey Bee Conservancy reports that feeding him honey might improve his symptoms— similar to how honey is used to naturally treat allergies in humans.
You must feed your dog local, raw honey, which will have small amounts of your area’s pollen. The idea is that if you feed your dog this local, raw honey on a regular basis, your dog’s system may develop an immunity to local pollen triggers over time. Eventually, he might not show any allergy symptoms. Honey collected from hives outside your local area won’t help with local allergies, because the pollen will be different from the local pollen your dog is having an allergic reaction to. A local farmer’s market is a great place to find very local honey, and you may be able to talk directly with the beekeeper.
Dog parents say yes. Healthy With Honey credits researchers at Copenhagen University with conducting a successful study showing that daily doses of honey and cinnamon for a week allowed previously impacted patients to move without arthritis pain.
Honey may be used topically to help reduce swelling and redness associated with skin sores, and possibly even increase healing time and reduce infection. The New York Times reports that small burns (on people) treated with small amounts of honey healed faster than similar burns covered in antibiotic ointment.
Thumbnail: Photography ©WilleeCole | Thinkstock.
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