We’ve heard that manuka honey has fantastic properties and is a bonafide alternative treatment for human patients in clinics throughout the world. But did you know that veterinarians are also using manuka honey? Studies have come to the conclusion that not only are the antibacterial properties of manuka honey good for us but it’s also a great alternative treatment for our pets when other options may be toxic to them. In a study done by Tramuta et al they found that the gram negative bacteria, (staphylococcus pseudointermedius, escherichia coli, proteus mirabilis, and pseudomonas aeruginosa) found in infections, in open wounds, on animals can be treated with honey. Your vet now has access to solid surgical devices composed of manuka honey and pectin to treat wound infections and for use as natural therapeutic instruments in veterinary medicine (e.g., in abdominal surgery).
In one study, the antimicrobial properties of honey against MDR bacteria were clearly demonstrated, suggesting that membranes are effective in promoting the wound healing process, and as such, can be used in various fields of veterinary medicine and surgery. In addition, they may be particularly useful for treating wounds that are unresponsive to conventional antibiotics and antiseptics. Solid membranes are preferred and are the most successful clinical tool because they can be applied in high-risk areas to provide a physical barrier in the immediate post-operative period for pets. (2) In a case study carried out at Ontario Veterinary College a 8 month beagle that suffered 3rd degree burns to 20% of its body was treated with gauze embedded with manuka honey.
Within 24 hours the wound not only lost its odor but the tissue was dramatically improved. After 48 hours a clean healthy granulation bed of new tissue had formed and after 72 hours a healthy bed of granulations was formed and all of the infected tissue was eliminated. Interestingly as well they found that the areas treated with honey had normal hair growth where as the areas that were surgically debrided showed no regrowth of hair.(3)
But don’t forget that it is also important to consider that some honeys may be contaminated with bacteria and fungi, and therefore non-gamma-irradiated honeys may not be suitable for application on damaged skin. The production of medical-grade honeys, suitable for use in clinical practice, from local honeys should be use for treatment of open wounds to prevent infection. (4) If your wondering how manuka honey manages such feats let me tell you. The antimicrobial properties of manuka honey has been attributed to its multiple components, including high sugar concentration, low pH, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), methylglyoxal (MGO), antimicrobial peptide bee defensin-1, and other compounds such as polyphenols. The high sugar concentration and low moisture content of honey also causes osmotic stress to microbial cells, and low pH is unfavorable for the growth of many microorganisms. Honey bees also add an enzyme, called glucose oxidase, to the collected nectar during the honey-making process, which converts the glucose in the honey into hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and gluconic acid. H2O2 is toxic to many microbes. So there you have it, honey all by itself is a great alternative to much more expensive treatments for infections for both us and in our smaller furry family members.
(1)Oryan, A., & Zaker, S. R. (1998). Effects of topical application of honey on cutaneous wound healing in rabbits. Zentralblatt Fur Veterinarmedizin. Reihe A, 45(3), 181-188.
(2)Tramuta, C., Nebbia, P., Robino, P., Giusto, G., Gandini, M., Chiadò-Cutin, S., & Grego, E. (2017). Antibacterial activities of Manuka and Honeydew honey-based membranes against bacteria that cause wound infections in animals. Schweizer Archiv fur Tierheilkunde, 159(2), 117-121.
(3) Mathews, K., Binnington, A. (2002). Wound Management using Honey. Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practising Veterinarian – North American Edition, 24(1), 53-60
(4)McLoone, P., Warnock, M., Fyfe, L., (2016). Honey a realistic antimicrobial for disorders of the skin. Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection. (24), 161-167.