So I’ve lurked here for a while now collecting information regarding nutrition and have come across an interesting topic. I became interested in natural allergy remedies as it seems our Australian cattle dog has some itchy skin problems the vet believes is related to allergies from the environment.
Now before we get on to the topic of honey I would prefer that this be a FACT based discussion not a personal opinion, anecdotal evidence type discussion. Unfortunately as humans we are able to make extremely irrational and unfounded correlations especially when we don’t understand something or want something to be true (ie we desperately want a natural remedy to be as effective or more effective than a pharmaceutical remedy). This has no place in the canine nutritional world (or human) as toying with an animals nutrition based on weak non-scientific beliefs is in my opinion horribly ignorant and in some cases an unethical thing to do. So please keep responses scientific in nature and cite articles if you can (petmd, blog posts and natural canine health daily articles type sources with no references don’t count as scientific!)
The theory behind the honey supplementation seems to be this: Local honey supposedly contains local allergens and supplementing with it acts similar to a vaccine by exposing the animal to low levels of an allergen and helping to develop an immune response to the allergen.
Now this sounds all fine and dandy in theory and certainty a naive layman will take this as face value and argue this as being fact (i’m am trying to be an informed layman!). But does this actually have any scientific value? That is what I want to find out.
I have read several claims that in fact there is no scientific basis for this. The argument is that bees do not extract pollen from the common plant sources of airborne pollen which cause the allergic reactions in our dogs. They of course get pollen from flowers and a few other sources, they do not collect pollen from say pine trees or most grasses. Any contamination during transport or in the nest from the common local allergens is said to be negligible and will not help build an immunity.
example of a study on humans:
There is also a Finnish study on humans which took 3 groups, one group as a control, one supplemented with regular honey and one supplemented with a honey that had birch pollen added to it. The Ones taking the honey with birch pollen saw improvements and had to use less antihistamines to control their symptoms while the ones supplementing with regular honey saw no difference.
Now my problem is that I see honey toted continuously on natural canine remedy sites. However I do not see a signal study either in humans or canines showing any truth to the theory. Any evidence is extremely weak correlation evidence with no control or consideration for other variables. All actual scientific studies of this theory i’ve personally come across show that their so no truth to this theory. So is this just a myth?
The second problem I see that REALLY concerns me is there are huge ranges of supplementation dosages. Some references say to feed your dog 1/4 teaspoon per week while other such as the lady in the non-scholarly article below say two tablespoons per day for larger dogs (in her case her lab and staffordshire terrier). Now that is extremely worrisome to me as there are 17 grams of sugar per table spoon of honey. if I am to assume her dogs weigh approximately 80 pounds (upper end of pure lab retrievers and beyond the upper limit of staffordshire terriers) then I estimate their daily requirement of calories (using online calculator) to be 1630. If there are 64 calories per tablespoon of honey (google) this would mean they are getting 7.9% of their daily intake of calories straight from simple sugars. Comparing this to my daily intake of ~2300 cals (because from my understanding canines metabolize simple sugars similar to the way humans do) this computes (if i’ve done my math right) to 48 grams of straight simple sugars a day for me. This is over my targets for the day even making the assumption that my other foods have zero sugars in them…. Now assuming that the dog is already getting sugars from their regular food source you are probably doubling their recommended sugar intake per day. This doesn’t seem right to me at all as a human consistently doubling their recommended sugar intake daily would be a good candidate for type 2 diabetes. So why are people recommending this to do to our dogs?
Michele Crouse interviewed about honey supplementation (under “honey for dogs” section)
I’m hoping this sparks some interesting conversation. As you can probably tell I am somewhat against this theory. Mostly because I have yet to see a shred of scientific evidence for it and I don’t personally like adding or subtracting things from my dogs diet based on personal opinions and weak, unfounded theories. I’d be interested to see if there is actually research supporting this idea.
Is there any truth to this theory? or are people just pumping their dogs full of sugar and added calories?Kristin CMember
Jon-what are you feeding your dog?
Hi Kristin, that might be the topic of another thread. We have high confidence that it is environmental allergens as it appears to be seasonal and no variation/elimination of food has changed the irritation.
However in this thread I was hoping to address solely the theory that honey supplementation helps build immunity to environmental allergens which seems to be spreading like wildfire in the canine natural remedy world yet no scientific basis as far as I’ve been able to find has ever been presented in favor of this idea. I’ve only found scientific resources that discredit this idea.zhibaMember
It’s one thing to feed your dog honey with local pollens, but it’s another to find one that has pollens your dog is actually allergic to. In theory, yes this can help, but without knowing the pollen content/concentration it is difficult to dose correctly.
What you are trying to do, and what you really want, is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) – building up tolerance to allergens by introducing them slowly over time. SLIT does have research, particularly with humans, to back it up: http://www.allergychoices.com/Physicians/Research/Bibliography/default.aspx
You can have your dog allergy tested and get a custom formula of allergens made for you. One company that does this is Heska – http://www.heska.com/Products/ALLERCEPT/Allercept-Drops.aspx
There are non-custom formulas available, based on regional allergens as well. Even products labeled for children (alcohol free) are fine if the rest of the ingredients are dog-safe.
Thanks for the response zhiba. Now sublingual immunotherapy makes complete sense. It has science to back it up and intelligent theory behind it. Local honey supplementation appears to have zero science to back it up and only science refuting the claims that it works. As mentioned (and from further research after my initial post) local honey carries zero common allergens for dogs or humans and will therefore never be an effective method of “immunizing” your dog against allergens. Instead you are just pumping your dog full of sugar it shouldn’t be having and added calories it doesn’t need.
Hopefully people will stop perpetuating this misinformation and start actually providing their animals with proper care instead of trusting in so called “experts” who have nothing but their own opinion and poor or non-existent education in the matter backing them up.aimeeParticipant
I have nothing really to add, I agree with your assessment of the validity or lack thereof of this practice and wanted to compliment you on your excellent posts!
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