If your area is anything like mine, when you look outside right now you see wonderful seas of bright yellow color splashed across the lawn. That is, of course, unless you’re pulling them all out or using some kind of spray to get rid of them.
But I want to try and change your mind about these under-appreciated plants. I’m talking about dandelions. More specifically, dandelions for dogs.
If you’ve noticed your dog munching away in the yard, is that something to be concerned about or something to celebrate?
We’ll get to that, but first…
A Forgotten Wonder?
A native of Eurasia, the use of dandelions in herbal medicine dates back thousands of years. It was introduced into North America by early European settlers, who created a “cure-all” tonic with it for everything from scurvy to cancer. Thanks to the growing knowledge of dandelion’s healing attributes, its use and growth spread throughout many of the Native American nations, and soon the hearty yellow flowers were blooming from coast to coast.
Dandelion became known by physicians as “the official remedy for disorders,” and was incorporated into the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a broad spectrum tonic and diuretic medicine in 1831. And it held its place there for almost 100 years. However, like so many other herbal medicines, it was passed over for more conventional pharmaceutical medicines.
Now, in North America, most see it as just another annoying weed to get rid of.
That said, dandelion does remain popular in herbal medicine around the world, especially in Europe and Asia. And, as our society turns an eye towards more natural medicines, it is once again regaining its place. All it needs is a little encouragement.
The Benefits of Dandelions for Dogs
They spring up every year, regardless of the state of your lawn, and often impervious to even the most fearsome lawnmower. And often pets will sniff around and chomp off those pretty yellow heads. (Our dogs know where it’s at!) And that’s a good thing – and just one of the many reasons to let them flourish.
First off, dandelions aren’t toxic to your pup. There’re perfectly safe. One thing to note though before we get started – many people view dandelions as weeds. That means there’s the risk that your neighbours spray them with herbicides to kill any that appear on their lawns. Obviously, we want to avoid contact with these ones, as these weed-killing chemicals can be poisonous and thus harmful.
So, if you know the dandelions in your yard are safe, why is it fine to let your dog continue munching away?
Firstly, the humble dandelion offers an impressive broad spectrum of medicinal and nutritional properties. Its leaves, roots, and flowers contain diuretic, diaphoretic, cholagogue, alterative, astringent, antimicrobial, analgesic, immunostimulant, and nutritive components, just to name a few.
In fact, it’s one of the most complete plant foods on earth. It contains:
- vitamins A, C, K, D, and B-complex
- and many other trace minerals
But that’s not all it provides. Here are a few other reasons dandelions for dogs are a good idea!
1. Liver Health
Dandelions are a diuretic and liver stimulant. This means it promotes healthy urine elimination (essential for overall health) and help the body stay balanced. Congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, arthritis, gall bladder disease, kidney stone – these are all imbalances caused by an inability to eliminate water and/or accumulated excesses.
It also helps the liver function. The primary role of the liver is to filter waste and toxins from the body. Dandelion stimulates bile production and circulation through the body, helping the liver clear out congestion.
2. Aid Digestion
Dandelions act as a “bitter tonic” to help get the digestive juices flowing, particularly when eaten before a meal. When your pup (or you) eats dandelion, bile and other digestive agents are triggered into production. This helps prevent indigestion, and allows for better absorption of nutrients and increased appetite. If your dog has frequent gas and/or passes food that does not appear digested, consider giving her some dandelion leaf to chew on, or add a few drops of dandelion tincture to her food.
Dandelion also stimulates the gallbladder (which stores bile from the liver), causing it to contract and release bile into the digestive tract. This helps aid digestion and acts as a gentle laxative to promote the elimination of solid waste.
3. Potent Antioxidant
As mentioned, dandelions have many potent medicinal properties, and antioxidants rank high on the list.
Antioxidants fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules that build up in the body, leading to chronic disease. Antioxidants neutralize or prevent the negative effects of free radicals in the body.
Dandelions contain high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is known to provide strong protection against cellular damage and oxidative stress. They also contain polyphenols, another type of antioxidant, which are found in the highest concentration in the flower but are present in the roots, leaves and stems as well.
Remember those polyphenols we mentioned? Well,along with being antioxidants, they’re also powerful anti-inflammatories. They also contain alkaloids, flavonoids, and terpenoids that have value as anti-inflammatories as well.
Research shows that dandelion significantly reduces inflammation markers in cells, making it a potential for pain relief. Additionally, the flowers of dandelion are known to be high in lecithin and to have weak but useful analgesic qualities, which can aid in pain relief.
5. Immune Support
The roots of the dandelion have mild immunostimulant qualities that can help give the immune system a gentle nudge when needed. Research also shows that it has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, which could support your dog’s ability to fight infection, and can protect against harmful bacteria.
6. Eye Health
Dandelion has mild infection-fighting qualities and can be used as a gentle, soothing astringent/disinfectant wash for the eyes. A simple tea of dandelion leaves can be diluted in sterile saline and used as soothing eyewash for conjunctivitis and general eye irritations. Dilute a ¼ teaspoon of the tea in one ounce of saline; a few drops in the eyes daily should bring relief.
How to Use Dandelions for Dogs
This one’s easy. As mentioned, if your pup likes to chomp away when out in the yard, let them do it! They know what they want, and their body thanks them for it.
But that’s not the only way. You can actually use every part of the plant! The flower holds all those helpful antioxidants. The leaves to too, as well as the vitamins and minerals. And they’re the best for the liver benefits. The root is also good for the digestive properties, and also to help boost liver function.
You can pick the leaves and crush them up and just add them to your dog’s dinner. You can also do the same with dried dandelion.
You can also make dandelion tea by infusing dried herbs in water and adding that to her meals. And while you’re at it, steep a cup for yourself!
There are lots of reasons dandelions for dogs are a great addition to your natural supplement list. Remember, these wonderful “weeds” do more than just make your lawn beautiful.
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!