Downeast Dog News

The Value of Honey

Feb 01, 2018

Q. I take honey all the time for so many maladies. Can I give it to my dog? Will it work?

A. Honey has been used for centuries. It has been used for many conditions, of which some are scientifically proven to be helpful but others are antidotal and unproven.

Raw honey is what most people use. The honey you can find in the grocery store has been pasteurized. Honey has two forms of sugar, fructose and glucose. It can be absorbed right into the blood stream, so dogs who are diabetic should not be fed honey. Besides sugar honey has many vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Honey is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is used in medicine for wound management. In veterinary medicine, when we have a wound that can’t be sutured, such as road burns, burns, fight wounds, we would apply the honey over the entire area and bandage. The bandage is changed often. The antibacterial properties will kill the bacteria and allow healing called granulation. Small injuries can be cleaned, then apply the honey and bandaged at home. Again the bandage is changed often.

When your dog comes down with a respiratory infection and has a nasty cough, honey is much better than anything you could find over the counter at the pharmacy. Honey is soothing as well as anti-inflammatory. It works by coating the throat to decrease the irritation to the nerve endings. The honey will decrease the inflammation causing the cough. With the antibacterial properties, it is a winner. You can give the honey often to stop the cough.

In some literature, it is said that honey is good for allergies. Since it is made from pollen, little particles of the pollen can be in the honey. The idea is with exposure to the small amount of pollen, your dog will slowly become desensitized to whatever he is allergic too. There are no research studies to support this claim.

Honey has been shown to help older people with their short term memory. The theory is that the anti-oxidants help prevent brain cell damage. Others feel that honey helps the absorption of calcium which in turn aids in brain health. We don’t know if this would be effective in dogs with dementia, but it wouldn’t hurt to give our old buddies a boost with a little honey each day.

If your dog is restless at night and has trouble sleeping, you may want to try honey. In people, honey before bed may help increase melatonin that is a hormone necessary for quality sleep. Honey also contains the amino acid called tryptophan which is in many calming supplements. Again, this has not been studied so we don’t know if it will work.

If Fluffy has digestive problems, you can try honey. It may help with gastritis, IBD, colitis, and other gastrointestinal problems. Usually a teaspoon of honey in his food will be enough.

The honey with the most research behind it is Manuka honey. This honey from New Zealand has shown to be high in antibacterial properties.

When looking for honey to buy, local raw honey is best. I don’t suggest raw honey in puppies because their immune systems haven’t developed and cases of botulism have been reported in infants from honey. If they are a year or older, honey should be fine.

Remember that honey is a sugar and if your companion is a diabetic, I wouldn’t recommend it being taken internally. If your companion has a weight problem, you need to cut back his calories if you add honey to his diet. Also, if your dog is suffering from any health problem, it is best to see your veterinarian first before medicating with honey.


Judith K. Herman, DVM, CVH

Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, Maine