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Is manuka honey good for dogs?

honey dripping from a utensil

For thousands of years, people have known about the health and wellness benefits of honey. In addition to its use as food and as the basis of early alcoholic beverages, Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians used medicinal honey for its antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. They knew it was valuable for wound and burn care, and they even used it after death. It is said that Alexander the Great’s body was preserved in honey in a process known as ‘mellification’ and placed in a gigantic golden sarcophagus when he died in 323 BCE. Mummification usage aside, there has been a recent increase in interest in using honey for human health benefits ranging from wound care to treating gastrointestinal disorders and metabolic disease such as diabetes and hypertension. Research on its many applications continues, but the FDA has approved the use of honey in some medical settings. 

The veterinary world has also taken notice of the health and healing benefits of honey. In particular, a type called manuka honey has been shown to have many positive heath and healing effects for dogs as well as for humans.  

Table of contents:

What is manuka?

Manuka honey is made from the nectar of one kind of flower, from the manuka (or ‘tea’) tree, which is found in Australia and New Zealand. It is naturally high in antioxidants, is a powerful antibiotic, and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Because it is a natural product, it can be difficult to know the exact composition of the honey. To ensure that a product is of high quality, producers use two rating scales to show the honey’s purity. One is a measure of the amount of methylglyoxal (MGO), the compound that makes manuka honey such an impressive antibiotic. The other is a measure of the unique manuka factor, known as UMF. UMF measures the amount of MGO but also takes account of other chemical compounds in the honey. The higher the MGO and UMF ratings, the more potent it is as an antibiotic. 

How can it be used?

There are many different uses for manuka honey in the overall picture of your dog’s health. It can be used topically to help heal minor wounds or infections. It might also be a part of your vet’s treatment plan for larger or more serious wounds. Manuka honey can also be given orally, as it has been shown to be safe for dogs to ingest small amounts, which could help with allergies and inflammation.  

There are certain dogs who should not be given any honey to eat. These are: puppies under the age of 1 or dogs with compromised immune systems because they won’t be able to fight off the bacteria from botulism spores that can sometime be in honey (but are not a danger to adult dogs with more robust immune systems), obese dogs or diabetic dogs who cannot balance the high sugar content of honey, and dogs who are allergic to bee stings. 

Manuka honey for wound care

One of the most notable uses of honey for both dogs and humans is to effectively clean and heal wounds. Most honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which gives it its antibacterial property. Manuka honey, however, is known as a ‘non-peroxide’ honey and has up to 100 times more antibacterial properties than other honeys due to its high concentrations of an antibiotic called methylglyoxal (MGO). This means it is a powerful antibiotic that will not harm skin tissue the way repeated use of hydrogen peroxide can.  

The high sugar content of manuka honey also lends it an osmotic effect, which means that it draws moisture out from a wound. This decreases swelling and dries and kills any bacteria in the wound. Honey is also slightly acidic, which creates an environment where bacteria cannot survive and helps promote healing and tissue regeneration. 

There is a growing problem around the world as the over-use of antibiotics has spawned the growth of ‘super bugs’ that are resistant to current doses of these life-saving drugs. Manuka honey is effective in killing even these drug-resistant bacteria, but its complex composition makes it hard for bacteria to adapt to it and then become resistant. 

Honey can be applied directly to your dog’s wound, but it should be covered with a non-stick dressing or used in conjunction with a cone in order to prevent them from licking it off before it has a chance to work. It can also be mixed in a saline solution and used as a wound wash. 

Manuka honey for skin irritation

Manuka honey is also a natural anti-inflammatory, and it can be useful to soothe skin irritations. Applied as a balm to the skin or taken orally, it can help soothe the redness and itching that comes from an allergy.  

Manuka honey for immune health

The high levels of antioxidants found in manuka honey can help boost your dog’s overall immune system to keep them healthy. Antioxidants promote molecular and cell health. This will help support your pup’s natural defenses to illness and disease. 

Manuka honey for digestive health

Manuka honey contains important prebiotics and probiotics, which are essential for maintaining good digestive health. They help to balance your dog’s gut biome and assist in digestion. Honey can also help to reduce inflammation in your dog’s intestines caused by food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease. Manuka honey can be added to their food for this benefit. While manuka honey can be helpful for most dogs, it is important to be aware, however, that it can cause digestive upset in some cases, especially if you know your dog has a sensitive stomach. If you are unsure about whether manuka honey is suitable for your dog, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian before adding it to their diet. 

Manuka-honey-for-digestive-health

The antibacterial properties of manuka honey can also benefit your dog’s oral health. By reducing the number of harmful bacteria in their mouth, it lessens the chance of tooth decay and gum disease. Manuka honey can be a good supplement in your dog’s oral routine, but it should not take the place of standard teeth cleaning. 

The bottom line

From ancient to modern times, manuka honey has been shown to offer important benefits for our dogs and can remain a valuable part of their health and wellness toolkit. With its anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antimicrobial properties, manuka honey is a first aid and wellness powerhouse. If you are giving your dog oral honey, take it slow in order to see if they can tolerate it as there are cases where it leads to stomach upset and too much sugar can lead to dental problems or hyperactivity. As with using any over the counter product, consult with your veterinarian if you have any health questions about your pup.  

SOURCES: 

https://ivcjournal.com/medical-grade-honey-veterinary-medicine/ 

https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/134665/1/RRB-75754-on-the-antibacterial-effects-of-manuka-honey–mechanistic-in_102915%20%281%29.pdf

https://mag.uchicago.edu/arts-humanities/sweet-honey-rocks#

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7847899/

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/can-dogs-eat-honey/

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