Find out why raw honey is a canine “superfood” (but not for puppies!).
In our recently released book, Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health, Dr. W. Jean Dodds and I list raw honey as a canine functional “superfood.” In this article, I am going to discuss some of the amazing benefits that have earned raw honey our superfood designation. And, in upcoming posts, I will talk about other beneficial bee products.
The fact that raw honey is a superfood might first sound odd, because honey is made up of simple sugars – mostly glucose and fructose – and we have typically been taught that simple sugars contribute to a variety of health issues, from obesity to diabetes, and should be avoided. So, why is raw honey an exception?
Not all Honey is Created Equal
You’ll notice that I have been talking about how raw honey is a canine superfood. Raw honey is honey that has not been heat treated (pasteurized) or processed, and that retains its original nutritional qualities. It is typically thick and milky in appearance. THIS is the honey with superfood health benefits. Pasteurized honey, on the other hand, typically looks clear and smooth and may even be so thin that you can pour it (think those plastic bear-shaped jars). Pasteurization destroys honey’s beneficial properties, leaving behind a sugary, high-glycemic sweetener. We definitely want to avoid pasteurized honey products, both for ourselves and our canine companions.
Benefits of Eating Raw Honey
Raw honey possesses many benefits, including:
- High in antioxidants
- Packed with natural enzymes and nutrients
- Powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties
- Helps heal ulcers
- Helps manage diarrhea
- Aids indigestion
Raw honey is also beneficial in treating topical wounds, including sunburns and mild burns. This amazing ability results from a chemical reaction that occurs between glucose in the honey and an enzyme added by honeybees called glucose oxidase. When the honey comes in contact with the skin, the right conditions occur that enable the glucose oxidase to break down the glucose into hydrogen peroxide, which is antibacterial. Pasteurized honey, however, is not a viable wound care treatment.
Locally Grown Raw Honey may Help Prevent Seasonal Allergies
A study published in 2011 supports anecdotal evidence that consuming locally grown raw honey can help prevent seasonal allergies. Forty-four patients diagnosed with birch pollen allergy consumed incremental amounts of birch pollen honey from November 2008 to March 2009 and then recorded their daily allergy symptoms and medication use during the birch pollen allergy season, from April 2009 to May 2009. An additional 17 patients serving as the control group took only their usual allergy medication. During the 2009 birch pollen allergy season, the patients who consumed the birch pollen honey reported:
- A 60% lower total symptom score
- Twice as many asymptomatic days
- 70% fewer days with severe symptoms
- 50% less antihistamine use compared to the control group
Manuka: the “King” of Honey
Manuka honey from New Zealand, which is made from the nectar of flowers from the medicinal Manuka bush, is considered to be the most beneficial of all honeys.
In clinical trials, Manuka honey has been shown to kill more than 250 strains of bacteria, including:
- MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus)
- MSSA (methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus)
- VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci)
- Helicobacter pylori (which can cause stomach ulcers)
However, certain strains of Manuka honey contain more potent antibacterial properties than others. These more potent honeys are graded according to their potency using a system known as UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor. The higher the UMF rating, the more potent the honey’s antibacterial strength. The lowest recognized UMF is 10. Manuka honey rated 10 or above may be labeled as “UMF Manuka Honey” or “Active Manuka Honey”.
Common Sense Honey Precautions
Raw honey in moderate amounts is a beneficial addition to your dog’s diet. However, if your dog is diabetic or overweight, consult with your veterinarian before feeding raw honey.
Puppies (and children less than one year) should not eat raw honey, as it can potentially be contaminated with a botulism-related toxin against which their immature immune systems are unable to defend. This toxin does not pose a threat to adult dogs or people.
-  Mercola, J. (2006). The Healing Properties of Raw Honey. Retrieved from http://arti- cles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2006/12/19/the-healing-properties-of-honey. aspx. ↩
-  Mercola, J. (2009). This Bee Product has Enormous Benefits for Your Health. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/11/17/This-Bee-Prod- uct-Has-Enormous-Benefits-for-Your-Health.aspx. ↩
-  Mercola, J. (2011). Fresh evidence…Could 1 Teaspoon Per Day Tame Your Al- lergy Problems?. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/ar- chive/2011/05/27/can-eating-local-honey-cure-allergies.aspx. ↩
-  Saarinen, K., Jantunen, J. & Haahtela, T. (2011). Birch pollen honey for birch pol- len allergy—A randomized controlled pilot study. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 155,160–166. doi: 10.1159/000319821. ↩
-  Puotinen, C.J. (2007). Bee Products have a Special Meaning for Dogs. Retrieved from http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/10_9/features/Bee-Honey-Products- Help-Canines_15967-1.html. ↩