Can I Give My Dog Honey?
In recent years, more conscientious pet owners are aware of the sizable list of human foods that are unsafe for dogs. Aside from a handful of toxic fruits and nuts, most of the items on this list may seem like common sense—after all, they are foods that we consider unhealthy for us, too! We understand that it probably is not healthy to feed our dogs junk foods like donuts, cakes, fried chicken, or soda. For most of us, these food decisions are pretty easy to make.
But some foods are trickier— particularly the ‘healthier’ sweet treats that do not readily fall into any of our basic food categories (the big ones being meat, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy). Honey is one of the best examples. While many of us use it as a whole food alternative to refined sweeteners, there are some special rules where honey is concerned. For example, very young children should not eat any honey at all.
But what about our pets? Can dogs eat honey? Is it safe for them, can it contribute to health problems over time, or is it downright toxic?
Is it okay to share a drizzle of honey with your pooch? The answer is YES! Honey is perfectly safe for most dogs to consume in moderation. Aside from dog-safe fruit, honey is one of the best sweet treats you could give your dog. It is natural, available year-round, and requires little in the way of preparation.
Health Benefits of Honey
But the good news doesn’t stop there. Not only is honey ‘okay’ to feed to dogs, but some suggest that it may even provide health benefits. Those with an interest in health and fitness are familiar with honey’s reputation as a human super-food, so it may come as no surprise that the sweet, syrupy food is touted as a doggy health supplement, too.
The most universally agreed-upon health benefit is the vitamin content: pure honey contains significant amounts of Vitamin A, several B Vitamins, and Vitamins C, D, and E. It also contains smaller amounts of minerals such as magnesium and calcium, though not enough to serve as your dog’s primary source. All honey also contains antioxidants, which destroy dangerous free radicals floating around in the blood. Left unchecked, these free radicals cause the cell damage that often leads to cancers, arthritis, and other diseases. This is basic nutrition.
Now we get into the health benefits that are more hotly debated. However, despite the debate, countless pet owners sing honey’s praises as a powerful treatment for doggy allergies. Like many people, dogs get the sniffles when the seasons change due to high levels of environmental allergens such as pollen. Some dogs also suffer from excessive itching or watery eyes.
Things to Keep in Mind
If you’re sure your dog’s allergies are not food-related, you can experiment with honey. For best results, most people recommend purchasing raw, locally-produced honey. This will, in theory, help your dog’s allergies by desensitizing their immune system: since the raw honey contains high amounts of the chemicals from various plants in your area, the body will adjust over time. The idea, in a nutshell, is that eating raw honey will train your dog’s immune system not to panic every time it encounters the allergen. A mellow immune system means fewer allergy symptoms!
There are also anecdotal accounts of people using honey to soothe their dog’s kennel cough symptoms and digestive problems. While honey certainly cannot cure any chronic health problem, it may be able to calm a cough or soothe an upset stomach. Just remember not to use medicinal honey too liberally—it is, after all, a high-sugar food that may accelerate tooth decay and weight gain.
Weight gain aside, the biggest risk involved with consuming honey is this: raw, unpasteurized honey has a small chance of containing dangerous bacteria. While many people and their pooches eat raw honey for years without any illness, the lack of pasteurization does put the consumer at risk of developing botulism. The bacterial spores sometimes found in honey produce a dangerous neurotoxin that can be life-threatening to people and dogs.
Symptoms of botulism in dogs generally show up within three days of eating the poisoned food. They include weakness, heavy breathing, paralysis in the face and hind legs, and problems swallowing. If your dog develops these symptoms, take them to the veterinarian for treatment. To avoid these risks altogether, you can opt for pasteurized honey—though be aware that this removes any medicinal properties.
Just as many people argue that the health benefits of honey are vastly overblown, some suggest that unpasteurized honey offers no real benefit to dogs. It’s always best to experiment with small amounts of a new food at first, then proceed based on how your pet reacts. If honey seems to help ease your dog’s symptoms, great! If not, you can rest easy knowing that the energy-boosting treat, when consumed in moderation, is unlikely to hurt them. If the honey is safe enough for you, it is safe enough for them.
Dog Eating Honey Video: