Did you know that Winnie the Pooh’s favorite snack is also quite healthy for your dog? It sounds crazy when we think about how detrimental added sugars and carbs can be for us and our pets, but manuka honey (a specific type of raw honey) has a wide variety of healing benefits for our pups just like it does for humans. Be careful though, as this is not to be confused with typical “all-natural” or “organic” store-bought honey, and some general precautions should be taken when supplementing your dog’s diet with this superfood.
What's the difference?
So, what makes raw honey different from regular honey? It all comes down to how it is processed. Raw honey is in its natural state, meaning it has not been heated, strained or filtered. Because it isn’t filtered, it may contain particles of wax, pollen, and propolis. Raw honey is also free of any artificial sweeteners that may be used in a select few varieties of honey (but not many, thankfully).
On the other hand, the kind of honey you might purchase at the grocery store to use in your tea, is pasteurized (heated to high temperatures) and strained to kill any yeast that may be present to prevent fermentation. And while this is great for people, the pasteurization process sterilizes food and can kill off any beneficial bacteria that may be present in the honey, which is why raw honey should be the go-to when adding it to your dog’s bowl.
But before you go buying any raw honey, there’s a reason why you should reach for Manuka before anything else. Manuka honey is made by bees in New Zealand and Australia that pollinate the small white flowers of the Manuka tree, or tea tree. The honey produced from these flowers has incredibly strong healing properties, and can provide benefits both internally and externally. Not all honey is the same though, and Manuka honey comes in different UMF (“Unique Manuka Factor”) grades. This grading scale measures the amount of methylglyoxal (MGO) in the honey, which is what gives it its therapeutic benefits. Manuka honey for dogs should be at least UMF10+, but UMF16+ is necessary to control oral bacteria and promote dental health.
HOW RAW HONEY BENEFITS DOGS
Have you ever seen mold on a lollipop or a jolly rancher? Probably not. This is because sugars, like spices, do an impeccable job of inhibiting bacterial growth and is why caramelization is a method of preservation. These antimicrobial properties are the reason why raw honey can be used to treat minor wounds and boost one’s immune system. But to go a step further, Manuka honey’s specific chemical components (DHA, MGO, and Leptosperin) make it even more resistant to bacteria, fungi, and other harmful microbes!
Supports a Healthy Gut & Immune System
Manuka honey is a natural prebiotic that helps support a healthy digestive system. Prebiotics are food ingredients that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and act as food for gut microflora, AKA the “good” bacteria living in the gut that help break down food. Prebiotics work best when paired with probiotics (beneficial bacteria) because they act as fuel for the healthy bacteria, and can help create a flourishing gut microbiome that can lead to a stronger immune system. Healthy gut bacteria, in addition to the anti-viral properties of manuka honey, can help strengthen your dog’s immune system and protect against viruses like kennel cough!
Aids with Allergies
For dogs with skin allergies, Manuka honey can provide a natural source of relief for things like itching, inflammation, and rashes. Many skin problems are caused by bacteria or yeast overgrowth that can cause the skin to become inflamed and irritated. Manuka honey can help tame the rogue bacteria internally or externally, and can help promote the growth of healthy skin cells.
Supports Oral Health
As mentioned above, Manuka honey has the ability to fight bacteria and control inflammation in the body, so it only makes sense that it can do this in the mouth as well! Bacteria below the gumline can lead to inflammation and ultimately gingivitis, but Manuka honey is able to dispel oral bacteria and keep plaque and tartar at bay.
HOW TO INCORPORATE MANUKA HONEY INTO YOUR DOG’S LIFE
Manuka honey can be applied directly to small wounds or hot spots to help keep nasty bacteria from growing, but if you’re unsure of the severity of the wound, it is best to check with your vet first before proceeding with any at-home treatment.When applying Manuka honey to wounds, follow these guidelines:
Clean the wound with cool running water to wash away any debris, dead cells, and pus
Dry the wound to remove excess moisture from the skin and prepare it for topical medicine
Apply a bit of Manuka honey directly on the wound and cover it with a clean bandage. If your dog tries to lick at the wound, try distracting him or use a cone to keep him from reaching the bandage
Remember to clean the wound and change the dressing and bandage daily until healed. If you don’t notice signs of improvement, consult your veterinarian
Oral Dosage Guidelines
You will want to start off slow and only use half the full dose, but you can increase it gradually as your dog adjusts to the new supplement. Below are some rough guidelines on how to incorporate Manuka Honey into your dog’s meals!
½ tsp twice a day for dogs under 20 lbs
1 tsp twice a day for dogs 20-60 lbs
2 tsp twice a day for dogs 60+ lbs
You can always adjust the dosage later on as your dog’s needs change as well. But before adding Manuka Honey to your dog’s food, be aware of a few precautions you should take!
Suitable for Adults, but Not Puppies
Just like human babies can’t have honey, puppies shouldn’t either. Because raw honey isn’t heated or pasteurized, it can still contain bacteria once the final product is made. Puppies can have very fragile immune systems, so introducing them to bacteria in food could lead to potential illness.
Moderation is Key
Like any supplement, it’s important to limit the amount you give. Despite all the benefits of Manuka honey, it is still an added sugar that can be detrimental if given too often. Remember, dogs don’t need carbohydrates to thrive, so the amount of honey your pup receives should always be measured and controlled.
Not for Diabetic or Obese Dogs
Despite its natural healing benefits, Manuka honey still has a high sugar content, and should not be given to diabetic dogs, as this can cause blood-glucose levels to get too high. Additionally, honey shouldn’t be given to obese dogs given the high caloric value, as this can only cause the problem to worsen.
And for those wondering if Manuka honey can cause hypoglycemia, there isn’t anything to worry about. Raw honey is free of artificial sweeteners that might negatively affect blood-glucose levels, and is perfectly safe to give to the average, adult dog.
Manuka honey seems to be the healthiest honey around, and it may even have a place in your dog’s bowl. It’s clear that Manuka honey has tons of unique benefits for our canine companions, and it’s definitely worth a try if your pup could use an immune boost, needs a little help with dental care, or is lacking some healthy probiotics! So don’t be afraid to try out this new superfood, but always remember to feed in moderation, and adjust the dosage to your dog’s ever-changing needs. You can find Manuka honey at select department stores like Target or Walmart, or from online merchants such as Amazon and Thrive Market.