Your dog loves sweet treats as much as you do. From an evolutionary position, it makes sense for animals to love honey. A sweet taste indicates that honey contains a lot of calories. Plus, it’s an exciting, new taste for curious pups!
Just because your dog probably loves the taste of honey doesn’t mean that you should make it a regular treat. Think about all of the other things your dog will happily eat? A lot of those things probably send you into a panic as you yell, “Drop it!”
Most experts agree that honey isn’t something to worry about as long as your dog only gets it occasionally. In fact, some people believe that local honey has health benefits for dogs as well as humans.
The Potential Benefit of Giving Dogs Honey
Like humans, many pets struggle with seasonal allergies caused by sensitivity to airborne pollen. Dogs with pollen allergies may get the sniffles. More often than not, though, they absorb pollen through the skin, which causes different types of discomfort.
Some symptoms of pollen allergies include:
- Runny eyes
- Chewing their paws
- Swollen paws
- Frequent scratching
- Unusually loud snoring
- Red or swollen skin
Dogs can even experience vomiting and diarrhea from seasonal allergies.
What does honey have to do with seasonal allergies? Some people believe that taking small doses of local honey can curb allergy symptoms.
As the logic goes, local honey contains the pollen from plants that cause allergies. Exposure to the pollen can help humans, and presumably other animals, develop an immunity.
Does giving honey to your dog really help reduce allergy symptoms? No one has done scientific research to answer that question. Scientists have, however, looked into whether consuming local honey helps humans.
Some studies show that eating local honey doesn’t work any better than taking a placebo. More research shows that eating local honey only curbs allergies when people believe that it helps. In other words, the scientist found another instance of the placebo effect hard at work.
Unfortunately, the placebo effect doesn’t work for dogs because they don’t form beliefs about what will and won’t work for them.
Still, honey may benefit dogs that have allergies. The possibility is slim, but it exists. Since honey doesn’t harm dogs, you may want to try it.
Honey May Sooth Canine Skin Problems
Dogs that have skin problems may benefit from having honey directly applied to their coats. That may sound a little wild (or at least messy), but a lot of humans already use honey to improve their skin quality.
Some people swear that applying raw honey to their faces helps prevent problems like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
How could honey improve skin? By balancing pH and increasing the number of healthy bacteria while killing off unwanted bacteria.
Some evidence suggests that honey can also improve the skin’s healing process to prevent scars and reduce inflammation.
Of course, dogs and humans don’t have the same skin. Does honey give dogs the same benefits that it gives humans? Plenty of dog owners say that it does. Don’t spend much time looking for research on dog skin and honey, though. There aren’t many scientists spending their time on the issue. The subject also seems a little… underfunded.
Realistically, though, you can’t do any harm by putting honey on your dog’s skin. If your dog has skin problems, you might give it a try. The worst that will happen is you create a mess and make your dog mad. For once, Fido may prefer sleeping in her bed than yours.
Other Potential Health Benefits
According to the American Kennel Club, raw honey has other potential benefits for dogs. The organization doesn’t cite any scientific evidence, but it says that honey might help with problems like:
- Sore throats
- Stomach ulcers
Honey may also have antifungal and antimicrobial properties that benefit dogs.
If you have a picky eater that turns its nose up at dog food, honey could provide the temptation to improve the animal’s diet. Hey, it’s better than cane sugar. If it gets a sick or finicky dog to eat, maybe it’s worth a try.
Why You Should Limit Your Dog’s Honey Consumption
If you decide to give your dog honey, you need to take several precautions. Too much honey can lead to a variety of health problems.
Honey Can Make Dogs Overweight
One tablespoon of honey contains about 64 calories. For reference, a cup of dog food usually has 300 to 400 calories.
If you have a 200-pound St. Bernard, a tablespoon of honey isn’t going to add much to your dog’s diet. The dog probably eats 3,500 calories per day already. An extra 64 calories is negligible.
If you have a smaller dog, though, a tablespoon of honey each day could quickly lead to weight gain. A 15-pound chihuahua needs 500 to 600 calories per day. A tablespoon of honey equals 10% of the dog’s daily calories.
Pet obesity has become a major problem in the United States. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 56% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
Don’t take obesity in dogs lightly. It can contribute to health problems like:
- ACL tears
- Heart disease
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin diseases
Also, an extremely obese dog can’t run and romp with its friends. When a dog gets too large, its quality of life plummets.
Honey Can Contribute to Diabetes in Dogs
Canine diabetes is on the rise. In 2006, about 13 in 10,000 dogs had diabetes. In 2015, the most recent year with data available, 23.6 in 10,000 dogs had diabetes. That’s a 79.7% increase over less than a decade.
Since honey contains sugar, it can contribute to diabetes. Honey probably doesn’t contribute as much as cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, but it does add to an animal’s daily intake of sugar. If you have a dog at risk of developing diabetes, you should take honey off of the menu. It’s bad news for at-risk humans, so it’s probably bad news for at-risk dogs, too.
Honey Can Rot Teeth… Maybe
There’s a hot debate in the dental world about whether honey causes or prevents cavities. One study shows that honey helps balance the mouth’s pH level, which kills the bacteria that contribute to decay. The study goes so far as to claim that people can use honey to prevent cavities and gingivitis.
That sounds like good news for dog owners worried about stinky breath and brushing teeth, right?
Pump the brakes for a second! A few studies doesn’t prove much, especially when you try to apply human mouths to canine mouths.
The fact of the matter is that honey contains quite a bit of sugar. Typically, a tablespoon of honey has 17 grams of sugar.
Dogs evolved as scavengers that can eat just about anything, including fruits with high levels of natural sugars. Humans evolved in a similar way, which is why both animals find honey and other forms of sugar so invigorating.
Dogs and people, therefore, should have teeth that can handle regular exposure to natural sugar.
Except for one key factor: dogs live longer than they used to.
Our pets live in extreme comfort compared to the dogs of previous generations. If you’re like most people, your dog probably spends most of its time indoors, away from inclement weather and attacks from wild, undomesticated animals. A couple of human generations ago, dogs stayed outside. They would only come in during the worst weather.
We also spend a lot more money on our dogs today. In 2007, the U.S. pet industry was worth $41.2 billion. By 2017, the value had risen to $69.4 billion.
Veterinary science has also improved, which means dogs and other pets can receive life-saving surgeries and medications.
A dog that lives 8 years might not get dental problems from eating honey. A dog that lives 15 years, however, could lose a lot of teeth from the sugar.
Again, there are disagreements over how honey affects teeth. But it’s something to consider before letting your dog lick a dollop of honey off your finger.
The Closest Thing to a Conclusion
Honey raises a surprising number of questions. On the one hand, you can feel free to give small, infrequent amounts of honey to a healthy dog. As long as the dog doesn’t have a serious allergy to honey, the sweet treat won’t cause any problems. It will just make your dog happy!
It’s easy to take honey too far, though. When it becomes a frequent treat, it may contribute to a host of health problems that will hurt your dog’s quality of life and potentially shorten its lifespan.
So, what’s the answer?
Yes, dogs can eat honey, but you need to be responsible about what you feed your pet. At most, give your dog a tablespoon per week. Make it less if you have a small breed.
And always err on the side of caution!
If you notice any negative effects from giving your dog honey, contact your veterinarian for assistance. Pet health insurance will make the visit affordable. Insurance can also lower the cost of any medications or treatments that your dog needs to stay healthy.