Dandelion – the weed you hate to love. It’s another of those weeds with a long list of benefits for hat you can’t ignore. It’s a digestive, antibacterial and a liver tonic. And it’s even known to help manage diabetes. With qualities like this, you should be looking forward to having your lawns paved with dandelion gold. But can dogs eat dandelions?
First, here’s some background on dandelions.
Dandelion’s Long History Of Healing
There was a time when North America didn’t have this prolific wonder plant. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) was native to Eurasia. It moved to wherever travellers took it – accidentally – South America, India, Australia and New Zealand. So now anywhere there’s a moderate climate there’s dandelion. Dandelions spread by their fluff when they go to seed. If you disturb the fluff, you’ll have a lifetime supply!
Dandelion moved to weed status with the pharmaceutical industry’s rise in popularity and profit.
But herbalists have always looked at weeds much differently than we do. They call them herbs!
In centuries past, herbalists embraced the dandelion as a plant with a list of healing properties. And it’s always been free. Even the USDA’s Federal Noxious Weed List doesn’t classify dandelion as a weed.
India cultivates dandelion for use as a remedy for liver problems. But let’s look at that a bit later. For now, here’s why you should love this wonderful plant with the bright yellow flower.
Can Dogs Eat Dandelions?
Yes, dogs can eat dandelions … all parts of it. And they should. It’s why you’ll see dandelion is in most of Dogs Naturally’s raw food recipes.
Dandelion is a nearly perfect whole food source of vitamins and minerals. It’s also easily absorbed by the body so it’s a great supplement to any dog’s daily diet. And there aren’t really any substitutions. It takes several herbs to replace the benefits your dog receives from dandelion alone. Here’s what nutrition dandelion has to offer …
Its bright yellow flowers provide:
- High levels of polyphenols
But its the leaves that are a powerhouse of nutrients. Dandelion leaves are rich in:
- Vitamins A, C, K, D and B complex
- Zinc, iron, calcium, manganese
- Protein, double the amount spinach provides
- Many other trace minerals
RELATED: Vitamin rich herbs for dogs …
7 Reasons To Give Your Dog Dandelion
Dandelion is an excellent whole body tonic for your dog and you. It’s used to support the liver, kidney, heart and digestive tract. The flower has antioxidant properties and can improve the immune system. And the lecithin in it helps support the gallbladder, liver and skin issues.
So let’s take a closer at some of the ways dandelion can help your dog …
1. Digestive Aid
Dandelion leaves are an ideal choice for dogs with chronic indigestion or those with gas. Give some dandelion to your dog before his meal. It stimulates the appetite and the digestive juices to aid with digestion. Dandelion root also has prebiotic effects, supporting your dog’s gut health by feeding the beneficial bacteria (probiotics).
Dandelions have been used in herbal medicine throughout history to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. That’s because they have polyphenols that are powerful anti-inflammatories. They also have alkaloids, flavonoids and terpenoids that have value as anti-inflammatories.
While the bright yellow flower is especially beneficial … research suggests that all parts of the dandelion plant contain these natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. Studies show using dandelion also lowers the effects of inflammatory bowel disease.
Diseases take hold when there are too many free radicals for the body to manage. Free radicals cause chronic health problems like:
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune diseases
Antioxidants fight free radicals to prevent these diseases. And dandelion leaves and flowers have high levels of antioxidants, including beta-carotene. So when you feed your dog dandelion you’ll boost his immune system and fight free radical damage. Antioxidants also slow the aging process.
4. Liver Tonic
The liver is the body’s filter for removing toxins so it’s important to keep it healthy. Dandelion root acts as a liver tonic to help stimulate bile production and increase circulation in the liver. This helps remove toxins from the body through waste via the kidneys. Dandelion root can also treat gallstones and gallbladder inflammation.
If you see these signs of toxicity you’ll want to give your dog dandelion:
- Skin disease
- Chronic constipation
Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic when your dog’s body is retaining too much fluid. Conditions like heart failure, swollen tissues, diabetes and gallbladder and kidney disease cause fluid retention. Dandelion is also loaded with potassium so it can replace the potassium lost through frequent urination … unlike pharmaceutical diuretics that deplete nutrients.
When made into a tea or a wash, dandelion has infection-fighting abilities. Just soak a cloth in it and apply it to the injured area.
Goldenseal has stronger properties but it’s being mass harvested. Fortunately, dandelions are still in strong supply. And studies show that the entire plant has these properties, though the root and flower are most effective.
RELATED: Here are more infection-fighting herbs that can help your dog …
Diabetes mellitus occurs in dogs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin is required for your dog’s body to efficiently use sugars, fats and proteins.
Research shows dandelion is a hypoglycemic herb that can help manage diabetes. That’s because it reduces sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity. You can use various forms of dandelion to manage diabetes including fresh and dried leaves, tincture, juice or powder. You should discuss using dandelion with your veterinarian.
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What Parts Of The Dandelion Can You Use?
You can use all parts of the dandelion but certain parts of the plant are better for different purposes.
Stem: You want to avoid the stem. It doesn’t have a great flavor. Plus that sticky white goo is latex and can have a laxative effect.
Flower: The dandelion flower has antioxidant properties. This means it’s great for fighting chronic diseases caused by free radicals and inflammation. The flower is also antimicrobial.
Root: Traditional Chinese and Native American medicine uses dandelion root for stomach and liver conditions. The root is also a natural diuretic.
Leaves: They’re high in potassium and other vitamins and minerals. They also help digestion, boost antioxidants and act as a diuretic.
When Should You Pick Dandelion?
If you’re lucky (yes, lucky!), dandelions that bloom in spring can flower again in the fall. Don’t get confused with other members of the sunflower family. Dandelion grows in rosettes off the single taproot that goes straight into the ground.
Dandelions are not poisonous but the pesticides used to try to get rid of them are. So steer clear of harvesting them from public areas where they’ve undoubtedly sprayed weeds. Instead pick them from your own yard.
Pick leaves in the early spring before the flowers bloom. After that, the leaves become bitter. Once you’ve collected your leaves, allow them to dry, then bag them to use as needed. Or freeze loosely when they’re fresh so you don’t have to buy them through the off-season. You can also chop them and dry them in the sun.
Do the same with the flowers. Pick and freeze loosely or dry.
If you’re using dandelion root for dogs, wait until late in the fall. Dig them out and chop them up. Then, lay them out on a newspaper to dry.
How To Use Dandelion
You can use dandelion roots, leaves or flowers. They can be fresh, dried or brewed as a tea or tonic.
Fresh leaves: If you’re feeding dandelion to your dog, add flowers or a few torn leaves to his dinner as needed. A leaf or 2 for small dogs, more for larger dogs. Or you can blend leaves in a blender with some water and add to his meal.
Dried leaves or root: Crumble dried herb onto your dog’s meal. You’ll need 1 tsp per 20 pounds body weight.
Bitter tonic: This will help with digestion so you’ll need to get your dog to have some before his dinner. Blend leaves with some broth to encourage your dog to drink. If that doesn’t work, just add a teaspoon or 2 to his meal.
- Use 5g to 30g dried herb (leaves, root or flowers) infused in 8oz water for 10-15 minutes.
- You can use 1/3 of a cup of tea per 20 pounds of your dog’s body weight, up to 3 times a day.
Since dandelion is a diuretic, make sure your dog has ample opportunity to get outside for a pee during the day.
Is Dandelion Poisonous To Dogs?
Dandelion isn’t poisonous to dogs but like most things, you should use it in moderation. Feeding too much can cause:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive peeing
- Increased potassium levels
And as already noted, avoid using the stems as the sticky latex can have a laxative effect.
Now you’ve got several reasons not to spray those cheerful dandelions in the yard. You’ll be picking them for your dog instead of the compost bin.
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Jin, Y-R., et al. The effect of taraxacum officinale on gastric emptying and smooth muscle motility in rodents. Neurogastroenterology and Motility. 2011 Aug;23(8):766-e333.
Mir, M. Amin, et al. Taraxacum officinale herb as an antiinflammatory medicine. American Journal of Advanced Drug Delivery. 2015 Jan 31.
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Dandelion. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH May 2020