Updated - Jul 16th, 2021
Honey – “the nectar of the Gods” – provides many health benefits for both humans and dogs. It’s been around since 5500 BCE and was the most common sweetener used for many centuries. In fact, archeologists have discovered honey alongside mummified remains from ancient Egypt – and it was still intact!
Today, honey is still most commonly used as a sweetener. It’s easy to overlook its medicinal benefits. It contains many nutrients, like vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, along with minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and copper. In its raw form, it has antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties, along with some powerful antioxidants. All these provide many health benefits your dog can enjoy.
Let’s dive into honey and its many health benefits for your dog.
What is honey?
We know honey comes from industrious little bees, but other than that, many of us know little about it. Sure, we know bees collect the sweet nectar from flowers and make honey in their hives, but there are more fascinating facts about the manufacture of honey.
The purpose of honey is to feed bees when flowering plants aren’t available. This is why honey needs to be suited to long-term storage.
Bees fly around and look for sources of nectar. Using their tongues, they collect the sugary liquid from flowering plants and deposit it in their second stomachs, called “crops.” The nectar sloshes around in their crops, mixing with enzymes that make it more suitable for long-term storage. Then, the bees carry this nectar back to their hives.
Once at their hives, bees transfer their nectar by mouth to worker bees, who then deposit it in the honeycomb. The worker bees fan the nectar to evaporate any water or moisture, creating the thick, syrupy substance we call honey. Then, they seal the comb cells with a wax substance for storage.
The entire process is amazing, and the result is something incredible, for many reasons. Let’s look at those reasons and learn more about how honey can boost your dog’s health.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey is very sugary and high on the glycemic index, so the nutrients it provides are in micro-dose form. Nonetheless, those nutrients are there. (And did you know honey never goes bad if stored properly?)
When we talk about the health benefits of honey, we’re talking about raw, unpasteurized honey. Heated or processed honey can contain additional ingredients like high fructose corn syrup that dilute its medicinal value.
Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, and E – along with phenolic acid and flavonoids – give honey its powerful antioxidant properties. They combat free radicals that cause cell oxidation damage in your dog’s body. They also help reduce inflammation and boost your dog’s immune system.
B-complex vitamins: These are the building blocks of a healthy body. They support your dog’s energy levels, brain function, and metabolism.
Vitamin D & Vitamin E: Both are fat-soluble vitamins supporting bone health, regulating your dog’s immune system, and providing blood clotting properties.
Fat-soluble minerals: Minerals like copper, magnesium, manganeses and copper aid in the production of red blood cells and collagen. They also promote muscle development, bone density, and growth of ligaments and tendons.
Antimicrobial, and antifungal, and antibacterial properties: The enzymes found in honey reduce inflammation and soothe stomach ulcers and sore throats. When applied in a thin layer to skin, honey stimulates the healing of wounds, hot spots, eczema, and bug bites. When eaten, it helps rid the gastrointestinal system of bad bacteria that can cause diarrhea.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Honey can help senior dogs with joint pain, as well as dogs with inflammation due to hot spots, wounds, or bug bites.
Seasonal Allergy Relief: Honey contains trace amounts of flower pollen. This pollen stimulates your dog’s immune system, helping it build antibodies that can prevent autoimmune responses to the pollen.
Pollen also contains quercetin, a polyphenol rich in antihistamines that relieve itchy, watery eyes caused by environmental allergies. It’s best to buy local honey, as it’s more likely to contain this type of pollen.
Not all honey is the same
Different bees have access to different plants. This means they produce different honey.
Manuka honey comes from the manuka bush in New Zealand. It contains the highest amount of antibacterial properties of all honeys, with up to four times the nutrient content of regular honey. If your dog is coughing – or has a kennel cough – manuka honey can soothe their throat and relieve their cough.
Dandelion, meadow, heather, honeydew, jarrah, and tupelo honeys have the most antioxidants.
When you want to use honey for its health benefits, pay attention to how it was processed. For the best medicinal and health benefits, use raw, unfiltered, locally sourced honey. Processed and pasteurized honey can contain ingredients or be produced using methods (like heat) that destroy its health benefits for your dog.
How much honey can your dog safely eat?
Honey contains high amounts of sugar. Even though it’s a natural sugar, it can still cause problems for diabetic, obese, or immunodeficient dogs. For these dogs, honey isn’t safe to eat. You should check with your vet if you’re considering giving some to your dog.
One teaspoon of honey contains 17 grams of sugar and 70 calories. Most dogs can tolerate and benefit from 1 teaspoon of honey per day. The following are guidelines according to the weight of your dog:
|Dog Size||Honey Consumption|
|Small (10 lbs)||¼ teaspoon per day|
|Medium (10-20 lbs)||½ teaspoon per day|
|Large (20-50 lbs)||one teaspoon per day|
|Larger (over 50 lbs)||2 teaspoons per day|
It’s possible for dogs to consume too much honey. If your dog has eaten too much, they may have elevated blood sugar levels, causing symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite. If you observe these symptoms, talk to your vet.
Honey can cause problems for these dogs
Dogs who react to bee stings may react to honey as well. If you want to offer them honey, start with one drop a day and build up from there, watching for signs of allergic reactions.
Puppies’ immune systems are still developing. They shouldn’t have raw honey because it may carry botulism spores. Those spores could give the puppy gastrointestinal issues.
Diabetic dogs should not have honey. The high sugar content can raise their blood sugar levels too high.
Overweight or obese dogs don’t need the extra sugar honey contains. There are plenty of other healthy snacks available. You can find some ideas for healthy snacks here.
Dogs with compromised immune systems should not eat honey, as it can harbor botulism spores. Dogs with auto-immune diseases, cancer, lupus, or diabetes fall into this category.
Honey can cause tooth decay because of its high sugar content. Brushing your dog’s teeth every week will remove this risk.
Ways to offer your dog this tasty superfood
The easiest way to offer your dog honey is by teaspoon. Just offer them a glop of honey and let your dog slurp it off the spoon.
Or, if you don’t like the thought of sticky fingers, try smearing it on fresh fruit or dog treats.
Drop a teaspoon of raw honey into your dog’s fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies for a healthy, cool snack on a hot summer day.
Mix honey with peanut butter, freeze the mixture, and add it into a treat toy to add some extra nutrition to your dog’s day.
Home-baked treats that include raw honey in their ingredient list are plentiful on the Internet. Raw honey is an excellent addition if you’re trying to sweeten up a treat, but be aware that heating honey removes its medicinal benefits. Try smearing it on the outside of a treat to keep those benefits intact.
Once you feed your dog honey, you’ll come up with loads of creative ways to incorporate it into their daily diet. If you drop a teaspoon of honey into their dog food, most dogs will slurp it up.
Yes, you can feed honey to your dog
There are few scientific studies that prove conclusively the claims made by honey enthusiasts, but the anecdotal evidence is positive, and people have used it for centuries for its medicinal and health benefits.
Honey is a superfood because of its many benefits for both humans and dogs. It’s sweet, filled with antioxidants, provides the benefits of several vitamins and minerals, provides relief from allergies and skin irritations, and gives your dog a quick energy boost when they need it.
Raw honey is beneficial for most adult dogs, with few risks. My dogs all love it – I include it as part of their diet. Try adding honey to your dog’s treats or dog food to give a boost to their overall health.