So if you know me, or are getting to know me, you’ll quickly realize that my style of vet medicine does not include too much in the way of “natural” remedies. I’m more about scientific proof than word of mouth. So, it may seem odd to some that I have used honey more times in the past 6 months than in the previous 10 years combined!
CAUTION GRAPHIC PHOTOS AND SOME NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED.
What, you will ask, have I been using all this honey for? Is she feeding dogs sweetened hot tea? The answer is….wound care. There are records of honey being used for this purpose as early as 2000 B.C. It has been used for years in human medicine. Although there are a variety of topical products and medications that are used in bandages for open wound management, honey is something that is relatively cheap and easily accessible here in Belize! Granulated sugar is also an option, but we are lucky to have real home grown honey from the mainland right here.
Honey has antibacterial properties with no signs of bacterial resistance, it decreases swelling, helps tissues granulate (heal in) faster, and makes dead tissue fall off quicker. In this blog I will go over three cases where honey played an integral part in successful wound treatment. All were very satisfying but the third case is perhaps my favorite as I grew an attachment to this patient and it ends in typical Belizean fashion.
Olaf actually made it into an early blog, he had been brought in by his owner’s children having been run over by a golf cart. He was ridden with ticks and had wounds on both front legs. On the right side the tendons by his wrist (carpus) were showing. This was my first case of serious open wound here at Saga Humane Society. As I contemplated what to do, I asked my boyfriend to run to the store to look for honey.
Olaf’s Worst Wound
After multiple days of medications and applying bandages full of honey, the wound was no longer infected and the tissue was healthy enough to be closed surgically.
Olaf’s Healed Wound
Sophy was brought in by her family. She had been wounded a week prior and they had been trying to get her to heal at home. I could see the telltale yellow stains of iodine on her fur.
Sophy’s Hind Foot
Under deep sedation Ingrid clipped and cleaned the wound and found it to be very infected. Her fifth metatarsal bone (these are the bones between the ankle and the toes) was also broken and sticking out. I removed the piece of fractured bone knowing she’d be fine without it. I started her on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories by mouth and applied a honey bandage. I knew that there was not enough loose extra skin to for me to ever close this wound with surgery. Every couple of days we would check the wound and I would trim the tissues, I also put in some temporary tension sutures to encourage the wound to come together. It started to look much healthier.
After a Few Honey Bandages
Sophy stayed at Saga during this time so she could not get into trouble! As the wound got much smaller we finally removed the bandage to let it air out. After 2.5 weeks of treatment, she was ready to head home.
Blackie is a senior dog. I first saw him when I was in the community doing spay/neuter with a large volunteer vet group in the San Mateo area. The clinic was closed that day so his owner brought him to see me in the field. He was worried as Blackie had run away for five days and come back with some punctures and swelling on his left chest. I evaluated the wounds, which were infected and draining, and gave the dog antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. As requested, he came to Saga to follow up days later, at that time the hair was beginning to fall out, but Blackie was doing well and we continued the medications. I did not have the foresight to know what was to come.
A week later, Blackie came in for his scheduled recheck. His owner was smiling and was still giving the medications, although Blackie had gotten loose and left home for awhile once again. I could not yet see how it was doing. He said the wound had gotten a little bigger so he was a little worried, he was still smiling. That’s why my jaw dropped when I actually saw what had happened.
Blackie’s Left Chest Wound
I was a little lost for words at first. The overlying skin had all died and sloughed off. The wound was over 18 cm long. I knew Blackie would need hospitalization so I could sedate him, clean the wound, and do regular honey bandages. I applied honey to the wound and then wrapped the bandage around his chest to keep it in place.
Bandaged and Tshirt
As much as I grew to love Blackie, he was never my biggest fan. He tolerated me but I could only talk to him, never pet him. Still, that old man face, I just couldn’t resist. Over the course of a week the wound looked much healthier.
After Honey Bandages
Finally I decided it was time to try surgery. There was a lot of tissue with a weird cobblestone consistency that needed to be removed. I only wanted healthy tissue left behind after closure. I then sent him home.
Blackie was a little late coming in for his suture removal. He had been at home during this time and I anxiously awaited the results. The owner had not called with any concerns. When he finally showed up again his wound was doing well but was not perfect.
Two Weeks After Surgery
I removed the remaining sutures and added some more oral antibiotics and a topical cream. I sent him home with instructions to return in a week, sooner if needed. I knew that this was unlikely to happen, but I felt fairly confident that the wound would finish healing. A week passed, then two. I was sad that I had lost Blackie to follow up. I would not get to see the final result, having worked so hard to achieve a good outcome.
Then, last Monday it happened. It had been a few weeks since I’d seen Blackie. It was my day off and I decided after the gym that I would ride my bike up north a for awhile. To get there I have to pass through town. As I biked alone down the north end of middle street, I approached a thin tall boxer mix from behind. He was sauntering along alone on my left, a little stiff with arthritis. Somehow I knew in an instant. I passed him and slowed, I looked back at his face…Blackie! I jumped off my bike, he didn’t run, but he didn’t slow down either. I tried to talk to him softly by name as I grappled with my bike while frantically trying to get my phone out of my bag. I followed him up a side street. I’m sure the local ladies going about their morning business thought I was a lunatic. Finally I got him to stop briefly. Again, we have a “I don’t touch you without a muzzle or sedation” kind of relationship. I got a good look from a few feet back and was satisfied that his wounds were gone. The honey bandages had played a huge role in this success.
Blackie Out and About
As he walked away briskly I smiled to myself. Blackie was on the lam once again.