We all want the best for our dogs. Even if they don’t currently have any health problems, it is natural to worry about their future and to want them stay healthy and active for many more years to come. When you think about living a very long life, you might think it requires expensive treatments, medicines and large veterinary bills. But if like most people you aren’t a millionaire, you can look into the health benefits of wild flowers and herbs instead. Adding dandelion to your dog’s diet, for example, could keep their digestive system running better than most expensive supplements!
What Is The Dandelion Plant?
You probably know dandelions best as the weeds you would play with as children as they are one of the most familiar plants in America. When you blow the flower, the small and light seeds disappear into the wind, traveling up to 5 miles to find a new place to settle and start a new plant.
With approximately 34 different names, the dandelion is a herb made up of leaves, a flower and its roots. The most common name, ‘dandelion’, serves as a description of the flower and comes from the french for ‘Lions Tooth’ – ‘Dent de Lion’. The flower has one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant in the US. Like many plants, it has been used for centuries for a variety of health benefits in humans. It can be used to help conditions, such as:
- Joint Pain
- Upset Stomachs
- Loss of Appetite
- Intestinal Gas
- Muscle Aches
- Poor Digestion
Some of these uses date back thousands of years, as evidence of dandelion use has been found in Ancient Chinese, Greek, Roman and Egyptian cultures. It has also been used to make coffee, wine, beer, and to dye fabrics. These diverse usages and its endurance motivated European settlers to bring this Eurasian plant to North America.
The Health Benefits of Dandelion
Although they are primarily founded on knowledge of the human digestive system, many of the historical uses of dandelions can also offer potential health benefits for your dog. The most crucial of these are the various digestive benefits that come with consuming the plant, but there is also nutritional value, and it may help manage diabetes.
1. A Bitter Tonic
Bitter tonics are consumed before meals to aid digestion. The principle is that the metabolism is kick-started by a bitter herb, increasing salivation and bile production in the stomach. This often occurs in nature as many herbivores start their day with a bitter plant to aid the digestion of the food they will graze on that day.
If your dog suffers from chronic indigestion, offering them a dandelion leaf or a few drops of a tincture before a meal could help smooth the digestion process. Chronic indigestion can offer a variety of symptoms, such as undigested food in their stool or excessive gas.
2. A Diuretic
A healthy digestive system requires efficient diuresis, which means that excess water and waste is excreted to allow the maximum amount of nutrients absorbed. If diuresis is not balanced, your dog might start to suffer from heart failure, arthritis, kidney stones, pulmonary edema, or gall bladder disease.
There are plenty of diuretic drugs that can help your dog achieve efficient waste removal. However, while they often have an immediate impact on your dogs health, some may also target potassium, a nutrient which your dog needs, as a waste product. If you choose a veterinary drug solution, you must consult your vet about potassium supplements. Alternatively, dandelion leaf is a natural diuretic which is already rich in potassium. Some studies have shown that dandelion tea is a gentler solution that can work just as well as diuretic drugs.
This is not to suggest it is the perfect solution for all dogs. It can have a slower impact on your dog’s health and your dog may not take to drinking a strong tea or tincture, making it difficult to administer. An urgent issue with your dog’s diuresis process may still require a fast-acting medicine. You may be able to use both, considering the additional potassium benefit of the dandelion, but you must consult with a vet to ensure there will not be any side effects.
3. A Liver Tonic
Dandelion root also has great health benefits. Specifically, the root can help the digestion process in the liver. The liver’s role in digestion is that it produces bile and the enzymes that break food down. Unfortunately, the ducts that create these products can become blocked. If you aren’t producing enough, you can suffer from jaundice, constipation, eczema, dandruff or a number of rheumatoid conditions.
Dandelion root stimulates the production of bile by approximately three or four times. It also stimulates the gall bladder to produce more bile. Having more bile allows your dog to get rid of toxins and waste in their blood, helping them to absorb only good nutrients. Once again, it is crucial to consult with your vet as liver problems are often a result of persistent dietary problems or conditions. Advanced liver disease may require a stronger solution than dandelion, and you may need to make further dietary changes to best help your dog.
4. A Nutritional Food
We’ve already mentioned that dandelion is a good source of potassium, but it also has further nutritional value. It has vitamin A, C, K, D and B-complex. Not to mention protein, manganese, iron, and phosphorus. To put this in perspective, compared to other greens dandelion has double the protein content of spinach and 1.5 times the amount of Vitamin A that an adult human needs to survive.
While no one food can be relied on for all your dog’s nutrition needs, dandelions are a convenient source of nutrients that can healthily supplement any diet. Some vitamin supplements for dogs provide such a high concentration of the vitamin that their body struggles to absorb the full amount before it exits the digestive process. This is not the case with dandelions, as the nutrients exist in manageable quantities.
5. A Diabetic-suitable Food
Another of the many useful nutrients in dandelion is inulin. Approximately 40% of a dandelion’s roots are made of this carbohydrate fiber, which could offer two crucial properties to help diabetics. Firstly, it may be able to convert sugar into energy, and secondly, it is mainly made of fructose.
Diabetics primarily suffer from a lack of insulin. Insulin has a crucial role in the digestive system as it converts sugar into energy or glucose. Without it blood-sugar levels are difficult to maintain and a person, or a dog, may suffer from fatigue and other physical conditions. While not sufficient as a replacement for insulin, inulin can also convert sugars into energy, making it a helpful addition to the diet of a diabetic dog. Similarly, fructose is a very simple sugar, which is easier to absorb than most other sugars.
These two properties make dandelion root a healthy option to consider if you have a dog that needs to watch their blood-sugar levels. We must highlight, however, that inulin is not a sufficient insulin replacement and you must keep up with any injections or treatments that your vet prescribes. Head over to our review of diabetic dog food for more choices.
6. A Mild Disinfectant
If you are in need of a natural disinfectant, you can consider using a dandelion. The leaves can make a tea that disinfects wounds, and you can combine this with a sterile saline solution to bring relief to conjunctivitis. The roots can also be consumed for their mild immunostimulant qualities, helping your dog to stave off future viruses alongside a balanced and healthy diet.
There are many other natural disinfectants that works better than dandelion. However, as many of these can be difficult to find due to over-harvesting in the wild, in a pinch you can use dandelion to soothe and disinfect a wound. For example, if you are on a camping trip or a hike and are miles from the nearest vet, you can use dandelion to soothe your dog’s distress until you can get better aid.
How to Administer Dandelion
- Gathering Dandelion: You might think this is easy, but there are some sunflowers that you may mistake for dandelions. The crucial properties to look for are a lack of branches and a lack of spines. Dandelions always sprout from one smooth stalk at a time.
- Making A Tea: One teaspoon of dried dandelion to one cup of water or broth. Boil it and then simmer for 20 minutes. Give them a third of a cup of tea for every 20 pounds of your dog’s weight, three times a day.
- Adding To Food: One teaspoon of dried dandelion to their food for every 20 pounds of your dog’s weight.
Using Dandelion Safely
- Be careful using diuretics. You don’t want to turn constipation into diarrhoea. Also, make sure your dog is free to do their business whenever they need to as it might be more often than you are both used to.
- Watch out for herbicides and pesticides. For most people, dandelions are a persistent weed, so many have traces of the poisons people use to try and kill them. These are harmful to your dog. You should only pick dandelion you can trust. Is it from your own chemical-free garden? Or did you find it near a farm that uses pesticides? Regardless, you should wash it, but washing alone is often not enough to remove dangerous chemicals.