Do you add honey to sweeten your tea or oatmeal? Or do you take a spoonful of honey for its many benefits? Have you ever stirred in a scoop of the sweet stuff and wondered, Can my dog have honey, too?
TL;DR version: Yes! However, let’s break down how honey could benefit your dog and how much each dog should have each day.
First, what is honey?
We know it comes from bees, and we know we love bees. But what, really, is honey? The bee members of a hive work to collect nectar from flowers. They take the nectar back home and transform it into honey. According to the experts at Bee America, “Honey production is actually a carefully orchestrated series of chemical process including digestion, regurgitation, enzyme activity, and evaporation.” Ultimately, honey is the end result of bees working for thousands of hours to convert nectar into energy!
Is honey sugar?
And, more importantly, isn’t sugar “bad” for us and for our dogs? That’s the message we all hear these days, but it isn’t quite so simple. The beekeeper bloggers at TwoBeekepers.com write, “Honeybees gather nectar from various flowering plants. Nectar’s main ingredients are natural sugars – sucrose, glucose, and fructose.” (BTW, their “What is honey?” post is super fascinating and delves into the entire creation process--an interesting read if you have the time!) So, yes, sugar. But the emphasis is on natural sugars, which differ from the artificial sugars we find in common junk food.
If you or your dog consumed enormous quantities, sure, it’d be bad. But if you’re using honey in small quantities--and it’s much sweeter than sugar so you can use less--you and your dog will be A-OK. Plus, unlike sugar, honey doesn’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly.
So, can dogs have honey?
Dogs can have honey. In fact, a little bit of honey might enhance your dog’s overall health and wellness. An article published by the University of Arizona compared honey and sugar. Honey’s nutritional value blows sugar out of the water. The paper states, “Honey contains trace amounts of many B-Vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. It also contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.”
Honey is even implicated in wound care--slathering a bit on an open wound may fight infection and help healing--and many believe that honey produced from local pollen might help manage allergies. It’s also possible that the anti-inflammatory properties of honey may help your dog with mobility, and honey might aid in digestion--both important for aging dogs.
However, since most of us don’t have a diligent tooth-brushing routine with our pups in place (though, of course, we should!) it’s still a sugary product that can cause tooth decay. If you choose to share a little honey with your pup, make sure it’s in small doses and try to squeeze in a brushing as often as you can.
Dogs Who Shouldn’t Have Honey
Before starting your pup on the sweet stuff, always check with your vet first, especially if you love a dog with a health concern like diabetes. Puppies aren’t able to digest it yet, so skip serving it to them altogether.
Consider starting with treats that contain honey, or use the sticky treat to conceal your pup’s medications. However you decide to give it a try, start slow and see how your dog reacts. Of course, if your dog is cleared to enjoy honey and you’ve talked it over with your vet, dive right in!