Can Dogs Eat Honey?

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Dog and honey

Honey’s a super sweet treat for humans and a common sweetener in baked goods and other treats. So you might be wondering: Can dogs eat honey? Is it even safe for your dog BFF to enjoy a taste of honey or some of the fun things you make with it?

There are actually some benefits of honey for dogs when fed in small amounts, but it’s important to know that not every dog can eat honey safely.

We spoke with some experts to find out if dogs can eat honey, how much they can eat and which dogs should avoid honey altogether.

Can dogs eat honey safely?

Honey can actually be super healthy for your dog when served in small amounts.

“Honey is often touted as a panacea, a medicinal food that can be used to cure a range of ailments,” Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, told The Dodo.

However there’s not a ton of research-based evidence to support these claims when it comes to dogs.

What we do know is that honey is naturally a very nutritious food for both humans and dogs.

“Honey contains many vitamins and antioxidants that are great for your dog,” Dr. Sara Ochoa, a small- and exotic-animal veterinarian in Texas, and a veterinary consultant for DogLab, told The Dodo.

Since honey is packed with antioxidants, “it is great to help their immune system,” Dr. Ochoa said.

Honey can also be used if your dog has a bad cough or a sore throat, just like in humans.
“As honey is a thick liquid, it helps to coat the throat and minimize both inflammation and irritation locally,” Dr. Simon said. “Vets most often recommend that honey is given to those with coughs, such as when a dog develops the dry honking cough associated with kennel cough or a collapsing trachea.”

Vets might also use honey when treating dogs who are malnourished.

“It is also applied to gums when a quick sugar source is needed; such as in a poorly pup who is not eating well,” Dr. Simon said.

Honey might also be effective at treating a dog’s wounds (though, obviously if your dog has a serious wound, you should contact your vet before trying anything at home).

“Honey is regularly used topically on wounds and burns to prevent infection and speed up healing times,” Dr. Simon said.

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Can honey be bad for dogs?

Since honey is high in sugar, feeding your dog too much can lead to obesity, and it can be dangerous for dogs who are already overweight or have diabetes.

“It contains lots of calories, so [it] needs to be restricted, especially in dogs who are overweight,” Dr. Simon said.

If your dog has diabetes, definitely skip the honey as a treat. “Any dog that is diabetic should not eat honey,” Dr. Ochoa said. “This can cause a spike in their insulin levels.”

“The blood sugar spike it will cause can be hard to manage, even when dogs are given their regular insulin,” Dr. Simon explained. “As diabetics need to try to keep their blood sugar levels stable at all times, honey is a no-go.”

Puppies, senior dogs or dogs who are immunocompromised should also avoid honey, since there’s a risk that it can cause botulism in your dog (more on that below).

Also, if your dog has too much honey, it can lead to stomach problems. “Too much honey can cause a serious blood sugar spike in your dog, leading to vomiting or diarrhea,” Dr. Megan Conrad, a veterinary consultant with Hello Ralphie, told The Dodo.

You should also be sure to check the ingredient list before letting your dog eat honey, as you should only give him genuine pure honey. Sometimes artificial sweeteners, like xylitol, can be added to honey products “that would cause them to be very sick,” Dr. Ochoa said.

Can dogs have raw honey?

The difference between raw honey and regular honey is that raw honey has not gone through a pasteurization or filtration process, which means it may contain certain bacteria that can be potentially dangerous for certain dogs.

“Raw honey should not be fed to those who are very young, old or immunocompromised,” Dr. Simon said. “It can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum, which can make your dog very unwell indeed.”

(Healthy, adult dogs can generally eat raw honey and be OK as they have stronger immune systems.)

These spores can actually cause botulism in dogs, especially if their immune systems are weak for any reason. “This is the same reason honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age,” Dr. Simon said.

“Botulism is a deadly condition caused by botulism spores in honey and can lead to serious paralysis or even death in dogs,” Dr. Conrad said. “Symptoms include muscle weakness, distorted vision and difficulty chewing or swallowing. Muscle tremors or even seizures can occur as well. If not treated, the heart or lungs can become paralyzed, which leads to death.”

Even regular honey can contain these spores, too, so older, younger and immunocompromised dogs should avoid all types of honey, just to be safe.

How much honey can I give my dog?

“As a rough guide, we can give about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of honey to a dog, depending on their size,” Dr. Simon said.

You should probably err on the side of caution when feeding your dog honey, though, and keep the serving sizes pretty tiny, especially for smaller breeds.

“It would be best to just give your dog a very small amount,” Dr. Ochoa said. “Most dogs need less than a dime-size amount.”

Symptoms of toxicity in dogs

If your dog eats too much honey, he might show signs of toxicity, which include the following:

If you notice any of these signs of toxicity, you should take your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

Tips for feeding honey to dogs

If your adult dog is healthy, you can probably feed him a tiny amount of honey every once in a while.

“For most, honey is a safe ‘sometimes’ treat,” Dr. Simon said. “It can be baked into dog-friendly treats, such as biscuits and cakes. It can also be drizzled on top of dog food puzzles in small amounts or given straight off a teaspoon.”

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“Just stay mindful of the amount of honey your dog is consuming,” Dr. Conrad said.

So the bottom line is that honey can be OK for your healthy adult dog to eat in small amounts, and can actually be good for your dog — but if your dog is acting sick after eating honey, or you’re unsure about adding it to his diet, talk to your veterinarian.

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