Can dogs eat honey?

Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVSDr Andrew Miller MRCVS is an expert veterinary working in the field for over 10 years after graduating from Bristol University. Andy fact checks and writes for Pure Pet Food while also working as a full time veterinarian. Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

We all know bears love honey, but hounds with a sweet tooth also seem to have a hankering for the sweet stuff too. But can dogs eat honey?

Many owners are curious about whether honey is safe for dogs since it is supposed to have fantastic medicinal properties. However, honey isn’t safe for all humans or hounds to eat, even with its brilliant benefits. So let’s discuss whether dogs can eat honey, and why it might be good or bad for your pooch.

Can dogs eat honey?

Yes, honey is safe for most healthy, adult dogs to eat as long as it is in small amounts.

While honey is safe to eat for most dogs, you will need to be mindful of how much you offer your pooch. Honey is packed full of sugars, so it is important to exercise moderation when feeding it to your dog. A single teaspoon of honey has around 6g of sugar in and around 21 calories, which is quite a lot for such a small amount of substance. Because of this, honey is counted as a high glycemic index food and should not be fed to dogs with diabetes or obesity.

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You should also be aware that not every dog should eat honey. If your pooch is still a puppy, or they are obese, diabetic, or they have a compromised immune system, you shouldn’t feed them honey.

But why do people feed their dogs honey? Many owners feed their dogs honey in homemade treats as an alternative to sugar. Another pup-ular reason owners have fed honey to their dog’s is to try and boost their health and immune system. This is because honey has been touted as a bit of a miracle cure for everything from burns to hayfever for years. But is there any truth to the old wives tales boasting the medicinal properties of honey?

Is honey good for dogs?

Honey has made a bit of a comeback in the medical world, so it’s natural more people would be using it as a home remedy for themselves and their pets. It’s natural, inexpensive, and its efficacy as a treatment for various health problems has long been discussed. The benefits of honey are supposedly just as good for our hounds as it is for us humans, and honey is promoted as a treatment for hayfever, burns, wound healing, and coughs in dogs.

Treating wounds & burns

Honey does help to protect wounds like ulcers and burns and help to improve the healing process in humans, and we’ve been using it for thousands of years. However, honey used in this manner in modern medical settings must be “medical grade” products.

Pause the press though, you might not want to reach for the honeypot next time your pooch gets a boo-boo. Honey straight off the supermarket shelf can range in its contents and some jars may not contain 100% pure honey, or they’ve been pasteurized. Plus, there hasn’t been huge amounts of research on the use of honey with dogs, and what research there is would be with the use of medical-grade products and not store-bought.

Limited research suggests that honey might have some benefits for certain dogs by helping to prevent infection and inflammation, but it doesn’t necessarily improve the healing process. Meanwhile, another study suggests moist exposed burn ointment still works far better than honey to treat burns, so medicine still trumps home remedy on this one.

Because it isn’t clear how effective honey is, it’s best not to slap it on your pup’s cut. Stick to your vet’s advice and the products they suggest you use to treat your dog’s wound.

If you want to take a more traditional approach, stick to bathing the injury with salt water to clean it and keep it protected with clean gauze once it is dry. Most vets advise you do this and it should help speed along recovery and prevent infection.

Honey for hayfever

Humans and hounds alike might have been told to try eating a spoonful of honey every day to prevent hayfever. Most evidence for this is anecdotal, so the jury is still out. But, many people believe this theory, and there is some evidence that it can help people. But will honey help dogs with hayfever?

Well, no one’s sure, it hasn’t really been studied. However if it seems to help humans, there is a chance it might help your pooch. Provided your pooch is allowed to eat honey, it shouldn’t hurt to try this home remedy.

Feed your pooch half a teaspoon of honey every day if they are small, or a whole teaspoon for a medium or larger dog. They should start eating honey a few weeks before the hayfever season so their body can learn to recognise the pollen particles and develop antibodies.

There is a big BUT here though. Firstly, the honey you offer your pup should be raw honey because pasteurised honey probably won’t contain pollen particles which they need to develop antibodies. Secondly, local honey is the most useful because there is more chance it contains the different pollens that your dog will be coming into contact with when they’re out on walks.

Finally, there is no guarantee that the honey will contain the specific pollen or allergen that causes your dog’s seasonal allergies. So if you do try using honey to treat your dog’s hayfever, make sure it is local, raw honey and remember there is no guarantee it will work. If you do start to see some adverse side effects, contact a vet immediately.

Can dogs have honey for kennel cough?

We humans use honey to treat coughs and tickly throats all the time, but no one has really investigated if it’s any good for dogs. But since a little honey is perfectly safe for a dog to eat, dogs can have a little honey for kennel cough to see if it helps to soothe their throat.

Honey is antibacterial and antimicrobial which is why it’s used to treat wounds, and these properties could help fight the cause of the cough and treat their irritated throat. Honey is also an anti-inflammatory, which explains why it helps to soothe a sore throat.

How to give dogs honey for kennel cough?

Giving dogs honey for kennel cough is really as simple as spooning it out of the jar and offering it to them. If you have a small dog, offer them half a teaspoon of honey every day. If you have a medium or larger dog, you can offer them a whole teaspoon. You could also spread the honey on a lick mat to give your dog a calming exercise as well as a throat soother.

Are dogs allowed manuka honey?

If you’re into your home remedies and natural treatments you’d know that manuka honey is the honey to eat if you want to benefit your health. But are dogs allowed manuka honey?

The answer is, maybe. The same rules apply here as any other honey so if your dog is diabetic, has a compromised immune system, or is still a puppy they should not eat manuka honey. However, healthy adult dogs can eat manuka honey and could benefit from the seemingly magical medical properties it has.

Much more research is needed, but there is evidence to point towards manuka honey being effective in preventing infection and inflammation, so it shouldn’t hurt to try as long as your pooch is otherwise healthy.

Will honey make dogs sick?

As long as your dog is healthy and an adult, it shouldn’t make them sick. But it is packed full of sugar, and just like with humans, too much sugar can lead to poor oral hygiene. If you’re feeding your dog honey, you should also brush their teeth regularly to protect them against cavities and prevent bad breath.

Not all dogs can safely eat honey though. Honey can make puppies and dogs with weakened immune systems ill because it can contain spores which cause botulism. If you have a baby, you’ll know that this is the same reason why children are not allowed to eat honey until they are over 12 months old.

These spores can cause serious illness for any human or hound with a developing or compromised immune system. In which case, never give honey to a puppy or a pooch with a condition which affects their immune system.

If your dog is diabetic, you should avoid giving them honey as the high sugar content can cause a large spike in their blood sugar and make them ill.

Finally, although honey won’t necessarily make an obese dog sick, you still shouldn’t feed it to them. The tasty treat is packed with sugar and calories they don’t need, and it won’t help your efforts to get your pooch to lose the pounds. Obesity seriously impacts a dog’s health and quality of life, leaving them at greater risk of illness such as cancer and diabetes and shortening their lives by 2.5 years on average.

How much honey can I give my dog?

If you have a little dog, never feed them more than half a teaspoon a day. Medium dogs or anything bigger can have up to one teaspoon of honey per day. Ideally, you won’t be feeding your pooch honey every day though as it may lead to poor oral health and weight gain.

Rather than feeding sugary sweet treats like honey to your dog, feed them a complete and balanced meal like Pure. Honey will only make them pile on the pounds and damage their teeth, so instead it's much better to feed them a food that's packed full of nutrients for a healthy, happy dog.