Manuka Honey

Our pets mean everything to us and in order to make sure they stay healthy; it is important that we take good care of them like we would take care of ourselves.
When a pet gets ill or needs extra nutrients for health reasons, honey may come in handy.
Honey, as we all know, is a very tasty and sugary substance which is liked by both humans and animals.

Honey has been used as a natural medicine due to containing vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants in optimum amounts.
Especially Manuka honey, can have a positive effect in the treatment of various illnesses in humans and pets.

Manuka honey originally comes from New Zealand and it’s thought that its usage started from as early as 2000 BC.
Settlers used the bark and leaves of the  Manuka tree for herbal teas.
Manuka oil is known for relieving stress and other psychological issues in humans, so it comes as no surprise that Manuka honey is known as healing honey.

What is Manuka honey?
Manuka honey is made from nectar collected by bees that forage on the wild manuka tree.
The Mānuka tree flowers at the same time as Kanuka tree (Kunzea ericoides), which is another Myrtaceae species, which often shares the same growing areas.

Some apiarists cannot readily differentiate these species, as both flowers have similar morphology and pollen differentiation between the two species is difficult. Therefore, melissopalynology as identification for the type of honey is valid only in association with other identification tests.

In particular, Manuka honey is viscous, this is due to the presence of a protein or colloid and is its main visually defining character, , along with its typical dark cream to dark brown colour and has a strong flavour, characterised as “earthy, oily, herbaceous” and “florid, rich and complex”.

It is described by the New Zealand honey industry as having a “damp earth, heather, aromatic” aroma and a “mineral, slightly bitter” flavour, whereas Kanuka honey is pale yellow and clear, with a “delicate, sweet, slightly aromatic” aroma and a “sweet, slightly aromatic” flavour, and is not viscous.

What makes Manuka honey different?
Most honey’s have some bacteria killing properties because it contains chemicals that produce hydrogen peroxide, but some honey’s like Manuka also have other ingredients with antibacterial qualities

A 1991 study from the Honey Research Unit in New Zealand showed that when you remove the hydrogen peroxide from a range of honeys, manuka was the only type that kept its ability to kill bacteria which offers more protection against infection and disease, due to the presence of unique ingredients,

  • Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): found in the nectar of Manuka flowers and converts into MGO during the honey production process.
  • Leptosperin: a naturally occurring chemical found in the nectar of Manuka plants.
  • Methylglyoxal (MGO): a naturally occurring chemical compound in Manuka honey that can vary in strengths between different Manuka honeys.

These components give Manuka honey longer lasting antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal effects, because they’re not used up as quickly in the healing process compared to other types of honey who only have hydrogen peroxide as their main chemical defence.
Methylglyoxal (MGO), has specific antimicrobial properties.
Although MGO is found in most types of honey, it’s usually only in small quantities.
In manuka honey, MGO comes from the conversion of another compound, dihydroxyacetone, that is found in high concentrations in the nectar of manuka flowers.

The higher the concentration of MGO, the stronger the antibiotic effect.

As a response to this discovery, manuka honey began to be marketed with a UMF number – “Unique Manuka Factor” – relating to how many bacteria the honey could kill once the hydrogen peroxide had been removed.
This has caused some confusion.
As well as the UMF rating, some jars display MGO, which equates to the same sort of measurement, while others show NPA or TA.
The NPA (non-peroxide activity) rating is similarly founded on the level of MGO the honey contains once the hydrogen peroxide has been removed.
TA is instead the total activity, so this includes the hydrogen peroxide, which is present in normal honey.
At the same time, some jars can be found with ‘Activity’ or ‘Active’ next to numbers, while some just have numbers alone with no explanation as to their justification.

Honey being used as a medicine
Although honey has been used since ancient times to treat multiple conditions. it wasn’t until the late 19th century that researchers discovered that honey has natural antibacterial qualities.
The antibacterial quality of honey depends on the type of honey as well as when and how it’s harvested.
Some kinds may be 100 times more potent than others.
There have been many research developments from Cardiff University more recently, which have shown honey in general, and particularly manuka honey, as being effective with chronic wounds and MRSA (antibiotic-resistant infection).

Medical grade Manuka honey is licensed around the world for wound care treatment.
It is specially sterilized and prepared as a dressing.

Science
Lab tests have found that it can treat roughly 60 species of bacteria!
This is huge in a world battling infection that are resistant to conventional drugs.
Some of the more common infections Manuka honey can treat include:

  • Escherichia coli
  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Salmonella typhimurium
  • Serratia marcescens
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Candida albicans

Studies show that Manuka honey can be helpful when it is used on wounds and leg ulcers and also shown that it can fight infection and boost healing.
The NMCD lists honey as being “possibly effective” to treat burns and wounds.
The Cochrane Review notes that honey may shorten healing times in mild burns and surgical wounds compared with traditional dressings. But also, that more research is needed.

Other more recent studies suggest that Manuka honey may help prevent gingivitis and other periodontal disease by reducing the build-up of plaque.
In some early studies, manuka honey seemed to help prevent inflammation in the
oesophagus from radiation and chemotherapy for cancer but haven’t shown that it works better than standard treatments.

Another possible benefit of Manuka honey is that, unlike antibiotics, it doesn’t appear to lead to resistant bacteria.
These so-called “superbugs” develop after use of common antibiotics, which leads to other antibiotics being needed to treat the resistant bacteria.

Most studies on Manuka honey have been with small numbers of people, and research hasn’t shown that manuka honey helps with high cholesterol or balancing the bacteria in the gut.
No major studies have looked at the effect of manuka honey on cancer, diabetes, or fungal infections.

Manuka honey is commonly sold as an alternative medication, but what are its health benefits?
Manuka honey is

  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • antiviral

Manuka Honey is generally used for treating minor wounds and burns.
Although Manuka honey is also marketed for use in many other conditions, the evidence is limited on whether it works for these conditions.
Think of:

  • Preventing and treating cancer
  • Reducing high cholesterol
  • Reducing inflammation inside the body
  • Treating diabetes
  • Treating eye, ear, and sinus infections
  • Treating gastrointestinal problems

Side effects:

  • Allergic reaction, especially in people who are allergic to bees
  • Risk of a rise in blood sugar
  • Effects on certain chemotherapy drugs

How is the above information relevant to our pets?
Animals like our dogs and cats are very sensitive to many regular food items meant for human consumption.
Some of these items are beneficial for our pets, as where others can be very harmful.
Most of us pet owners are generally very careful when giving food/ supplements to our pets and when it comes to Manuka honey it’s no different.

Since it has been proven that Manuka honey is beneficial for humans, it to some degree can be beneficial for our pets as well.
As read above, Manuka honey has amazing healing properties
All kinds of pure unrefined honey are nutritious but the types of honey that have a darker colour, like Manuka honey are even more beneficial.
Researchers and medical professionals have approved the use of Manuka honey for both humans and animals, which means that pet owners are free to use it.

Manuka honey has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-septic properties.
Manuka honey is mainly used to treat external wounds on a pet’s skin.
It reduces bacterial infections, inflammations and swelling.
The honey is viscous, which helps to protect the wound and lets it heal during the initial phase, it soothes the pain and lets the pet relax.
Best of all Manuka honey is safe to ingest, so you do not have to worry about your pet getting ill due to licking itself.

Manuka honey is especially helpful for skin related complications.
Skin irritation, fur loss, obsessive licking, hot spots, minor burns and other skin related issues These can be relieved by putting the honey on the effected skin and by feeding Manuka honey to pets. (It is its anti-inflammatory property that helps in this respect.)

Bad smells that sometimes come from the body (especially from the mouth) can be reduced when a pet is fed Manuka honey regularly.

The antibacterial and antiviral properties of Manuka honey help remove bacterial and virus-related illnesses that are associated with cold/ cough symptoms. Including kennel cough
Even after you pet has been cured, giving Manuka honey in optimum amounts can enhance their immunity

Manuka honey is completely safe for expecting mothers and is an excellent alternative to all other existing forms of medicine used during pregnancy
The only case where it might be harmful for the mother-to-be is if she is allergic to it.

So how do I use Manuka Honey?

Wound care
No matter how hard we try, our pets still get bumps and cuts.
Minor wounds can be cleaned and cared for at home, if you’re unsure how bad the wound is or if it’s a deep cut, check with your (holistic) vet first.
Use your own judgment.

Clean the wound and apply Manuka honey directly on top of the wound, if the cut is small and not very deep you probably won’t need to cover it with a bandage/ wrap, but you’ll need to distract your pet for a while as the honey won’t have time to work if your pet licks it off straight away.

Skin Problems:
Skin problems are common in pets whether from allergies or immune related issues.
Many conventional treatments come with a long list of negative side effects without fixing the cause.
Manuka honey can provide itch relief while you try to get to the bottom of the cause.
Manuka honey can control inflammation.
Skin disease is often a battle of bacteria or yeast overgrowth that leads to red, inflamed skin.
I’m not suggesting that you cover your whole pet in Manuka honey, but you can use it as a spot treatment.

Put a small amount on the affected area and a little over the non-affected area surrounding it
Given internally, Manuka honey supports the body’s natural ability to restore healthy skin cells
This means your pet will have the resources to up his immune response and heal faster.

Gut Health and added immunity:

supplement/ complimentary
supplement/ complimentary

About 80% of the immune system starts in the gut, so gut health is essential to overall health.
You want to do everything you can to make sure your pet’s digestive system has a good balance of bacteria.
Manuka honey is a natural prebiotic that can help in maintaining the right bacterial balance.
Probiotics are the good bacteria your dog needs, and prebiotics fuel the probiotics and help them thrive.
So not only does Manuka honey act as an antibiotic to clear out any bad bacteria, it will also boost the number of good bacteria in the gut.
By boosting the good bacteria in your pet’s gut, you can strengthen his immune system.
Manuka honey also has anti-viral properties for added immune protection.
If your pet is happy and healthy, there is a lesser risk of getting sick from a virus.
But there are things in life that can lower his natural protection and a big one is stress.

Stress weakens the immune system putting them at higher risk of becoming ill from a virus or bacterial infection.
Two common illnesses found in stressed dogs for example are dog flu and kennel cough.
Kennels are stressful for dogs and is how kennel cough got its name as it’s common in dogs in kennel environments.
But sometimes stress can’t be avoided.
If your pet travels for competitions or is lucky enough to be your number one travel companion, they are at a higher risk.
You can use Manuka honey orally to boost anti-viral immune health.
Giving Manuka honey as a preventive step before shows, travelling or if he will be meeting new pets can be beneficial.

Antioxidants
Antioxidants help to keep disease and cancer at bay, slows the ageing process and boost the immune system.
They repair and restore the body’s cells to fight free radical damage caused by environmental toxins like;

  • air pollution
  • pesticides and fertilizers
  • micro/ radio waves from devices

Giving antioxidants can help fight this damage.
Vitamin C is one of the top antioxidants that fights cell damage and helps preventing cancer. Giving your pet Manuka honey offers you a way to give your pet vitamin C.
Manuka honey is also a good source for B vitamins, these also help the body fight off infections and support good gut health.
You can see that adding Manuka honey as an antioxidant supplement can support your pet’s health in many ways.

Oral Health
A pet having smelly breath can have many reasons, if your pet has a gut imbalance you can see many changes in their health like;

  • Allergy
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Dental disease
  • Joint problems

How can Manuka honey prevent gum disease?
Bacteria below the gum line leads to inflammation (gingivitis)
Gingivitis is the first stage of dental disease.
Preventing gingivitis means fresher breath.
Manuka Honey can help as it has the ability to fight bacteria and control inflammation.

Manuka Honey grades and which one to use?
The grade of Manuka honey plays a role in how effective it is
You’ve read earlier on the page that all honey’s have healing properties, but that Manuka stands out from all of them.
When it comes to Manuka honey, you’ll need to choose the right grade for the condition you are treating.
A CAAS 2009 study looked at various Manuka honey products.
Researchers found that honey with more MGO has stronger therapeutic benefits
And this is why there is a UMF grading system for Manuka honey, honey with more MGO has a higher value.
The grading system will help you choose the one that fits your pet’s needs.
When using Manuka honey for healing wounds, you want to buy at least UMF1O+.
You need a higher UMF grade product if your pet is a superbug or virus.
You can buy Manuka honey that ranges from UMF5+ up to UMF28+.

A dental study found that a UMF16+ is needed to control oral bacteria.
And to support your dog through kennel cough, you’ll need a UMF20+ or more.
Contact your (holistic) vet for dosing for your pets’ condition.

How much Manuka honey to give your pet?
In general when giving your pet supplements/ remedies they should be given according to your pet’s size and weight
If you’re using Manuka honey internally start your pet off slow and use half of the recommended dose and increase gradually:
• 1/2 tsp twice a day for a small dog or cat– under 20 lbs
• 1 tsp twice a day for a medium dog – 20-60 lbs
• 2 tsp twice a day for a large dog – 60 lbs+
Once your pet has had time to adjust you can slowly increase to the full amounts recommended.

Caution:
Dogs and cats under the age of 1 should not be fed Manuka honey.
Manuka honey, like all other types of honey, is a source of sugar, so if your pet is diabetic do not give honey to your pet, if your pet is overweight ask your (holistic) vet first.
Most adult pets have no problems taking Manuka honey orally, but you can always check with your (holistic) vet to confirm internal use is OK for your pet.
Excessive consumption of Manuka honey can cause the same problems for pets as for humans when they eat too much sweet stuff.
The vet should be able to determine how much Manuka honey can be used to cure your pet.
Extra caution should be taken when providing honey to pets with low immune system.

Shampoo, ointments, and creams made from Manuka honey are available on the market, but they don’t possess the same healing properties of the actual honey.

Sources:
Australian Manuka Honey Association, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ovid , Interim labelling guide manuka honey.pdf, Antimicrobial properties of honey. Published in American journal of therapeutics, Cochrane Library, CAAS 2009 study, PubMed , WebMD , Dogs Naturally
Books:
Andrew Matheson & Murray Reid: Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand