Spring has finally arrived in the Northeast U.S. and with it comes the ubiquitous dandelion, considered by many to be a noxious weed. Not so in our house; here we celebrate the awakening of spring and the much-maligned dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) both for its health properties and as one of the first food sources for bees. Wait. What? Health properties?
Yes. While most of us have heard of dandelion wine, few know that every part of the dandelion is edible and healthful. It’s true for humans, and for our dogs. Let’s briefly break down the sunny plant into its many beneficial parts, shall we? For more comprehensive research, see the link at the end of this post.
Anyone who has tried to remove dandelions from a lawn or patio knows that their roots are stubborn and tenacious. And with good reason. Dandelion roots are healthful powerhouses. They are high in inulin, a dietary fiber that regulates blood-sugar levels. Herbalists believe the root also supports pancreatic health and liver functions. As the filtering organ of the body, the liver is responsible for removing toxins. Research has demonstrated that dogs with digestive issues benefit from ingesting dandelion roots.*
Clean, fresh dandelion leaves are packed with potassium, iron, and manganese, as well as vitamins A, K, C, D, and B complex. That so many of these vital nutrients are contained in a single source — in amounts a dogs’ body can absorb without overworking the liver or kidneys — is one reason the dandelion is considered a superfood. It is a gentle herb that doesn’t tax the system the way synthetic supplements might. That said, dandelion is a diuretic, so it’s important that dogs who ingest it have plenty of water to drink.
Dandelion leaves are also considered a “bitter tonic”. Bitter greens have been consumed throughout history before meals to aid in digestion. The greens are thought to stimulate appetite and encourage digestion, particularly for dogs prone to gas or an upset stomach. The leaves also act as a prebiotic, feeding good gut bacteria/probiotics.
Wine aside, research demonstrates that dandelion stems and flowers act as an antioxidant and boost the immune system. The flowers are also full of lecithin, a nutrient that is essential for cellular health. The herb may also be used topically mixed with saline, as an astringent or soothing eyewash.
Adding Dandelion to Your Dog’s Dish
Given the multiplicity of benefits, it’s astonishing that humans spend so much time and money trying to eradicate, rather than cultivate, the dandelion. Prior to the 1930s, dandelion was considered by physicians in the U.S. as a “cure-all” drug prescribed for everything from scurvy to cancer. The advent of allopathic medicine put a stop to that. Fortunately, dandelions are having a renaissance. They are showing up more and more at farmers’ markets and on specialty menus. Even the FDA lists dandelion as a food “generally regarded as safe.”
If the above benefits don’t convince you to add a bit of the plant into your dog’s food, we hope at least it will encourage you to see the plant in a different light — not as an invader to eradicate, but as just one more of Mother Nature’s many gifts.
If you’re lucky enough to have a lawn full of the sunny herb, then here is a tea you can easily make to add to your dog’s food. As always, be sure to consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet, especially if s/he is unwell or on medication, particularly a diuretic.
- Collect fresh, young dandelion leaves from plants that have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides
- Dry the leaves by gathering them in a bunch, tying them with an elastic, and hanging them upside down
- Once dry, add one teaspoon of dandelion leaves to one cup filtered water or broth
- Boil the mixture, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes
- Serve 1/3 cup of liquid for every 20 pounds of dogs’ weight per day if desired
Resources for additional research:
Recognizing Dandelion’s Herbal Benefits to Dogs, Whole Dog Journal: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/newspics/pdfs/6-7-Resources.pdf
*All of the above information is for educational purposes only. We are not veterinarians or pet nutritionists, nor can we diagnose a problem or prescribe a diet for the specific needs of your pet. We strongly recommend you consult with a veterinarian or pet nutritionist if you have any concerns about your pet’s health, or are changing your pet’s diet, especially if medications or other treatments are being used.