Dandelion For Dogs: Is It Good for Your Pooch
Yes, dandelion is a beneficial herb for your furry friend. This plant has been providing the face of the Earth beautiful yellow, green, and white colors for more than 30 million years. Throughout ancient and contemporary history, man valued dandelions as an important part of his cuisine and medicinal needs. It would not surprise us one bit if you see Fido munching on some fresh dandelions out in the field. After all, this is an herb that’s packed with nutrients and antioxidants. The compounds can make for an excellent and inexpensive alternative to chemical-laden commercial dog supplements.
Knowledge Bits about Dandelions
The name “dandelion” has its origins from the French word ‘dent-de-lion’, which translates to ‘lion’s tooth’. This is an obvious allusion to the herb’s coarsely-toothed leaves. It is one of the most abundant wild flowers in the world, owing to the ease of dispersion of its seeds. Mature seeds can travel in the wind for up to 5 miles, starting a new life elsewhere.
Throughout ancient times and in modern history, man relied on dandelion-blanketed fields for their food and medicinal needs. Dandelions formed an important part of Chinese traditional medicine as well as European and North American folkloric medicinal practices. The herb forms part of the traditional treatment for infections, liver problems, and biliary issues. Many cultures also serve it as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, and liver and kidney detoxifier.
Health Benefits of Dandelions for Dogs
The many benefits of dandelions to mankind extend well into the lives of man’s best friend – our dogs. These benefits are as follows:
- Improves the Function of the Liver and the Gallbladder
One of the most popular functions of the liver is the detoxification or removal of waste products and toxins. Anything that the dog ingests will reach the blood. These compounds go to the liver to undergo detoxification. Unfortunately, if the dog consumes too much of these compounds, its liver may not be able to cope with the increased demand. Its cells may tire and may not function as efficiently as before.
Dandelion can help the liver remove these toxins by improving and maintaining the integrity of the hepatic ducts. Clogging of the ducts can lead to an abnormal accumulation of toxins and other waste products. This can further tax the liver.
There is another more important reason why dandelion is good for the dog’s liver. This herb can increase the production of bile by up to 50 percent. Bile is a bitter compound that’s composed of 97% water and 3% bile salts, bilirubin, inorganic salts, and fats. The fat component of bile is one of the most crucial parts as they aid in the emulsification of fat molecules in the intestines.
As the liver increases its production of bile, it pushes this fluid into the gallbladder where bile gets stored. The pushing effect also clears the ducts in the hepatobiliary system. This is how dandelion can help improve the function and maintain the health of both the liver and the gallbladder.
- Improves Canine Digestion
We said above that dandelion increases the production of bile by as much as 50 percent. Bile then gets stored in the gallbladder, waiting for signals from the small intestines. What triggers the release of bile from the gallbladder is the presence of fat molecules in food. Chemical receptors that line the walls of the duodenum send messages to the gallbladder to release bile.
What is important to realize is that fat is quite difficult to digest even in the presence of pancreatic lipase – an enzyme that breaks down fat. The fat molecules in food require emulsification before the enzyme can break it down. It is the bile’s responsibility to emulsify any fat molecule that’s present in the dog’s small intestines.
This can help improve your canine friend’s digestion. It also helps prevent bloat as fat molecules in canine food can get digested a lot better. This also minimizes gastrointestinal upset and reduces the risk of diarrhea associated with fatty meals.
- Enhances the Removal of Toxins and Wastes in the Kidneys
Dandelion root is a well-known diuretic. What this means is that it increases the rate of urine production by the kidneys. How does this help, you ask?
The principal function of the kidneys is to produce urine. What many don’t know is that the composition of urine is water, electrolytes, and compounds that the body no longer needs. As blood enters the kidney, it gets filtered. The kidneys separate the good stuff that the body still needs and the bad ones that it needs to remove from the system. Throughout the series of tubes in each nephron, urine gets formed. It is stored in the urinary bladder, awaiting removal during urination.
As a diuretic, dandelion increases the amount of urine production by the kidneys. Hence, it also increases the rate of removal of toxins and waste products in the blood. There is another benefit to increasing urine production. It clears the different tubes in the urinary system, preventing the formation of stones that can block these passageways. The excess water removed from the system also helps ease the workload of the heart, leading to more efficient cardiovascular function.
One issue that pet parents raise about diuretics is its tendency to remove potassium from the blood. However, in human medicine, such a phenomenon only occurs with a class of diuretics known as loop diuretics. Given that dandelion is not a loop diuretic, there should be no issue of hypokalemia at all. Regardless, if one is concerned about low potassium levels, it would be interesting to note that the leaves of dandelions are also rich in potassium. This should balance everything out.
- Promotes Healthier Blood Sugar Levels
Dandelion roots contain about 40% inulin. It is a soluble fiber that also serves as a prebiotic for the good bacteria that resides in the dog’s intestines. This can help in improving the dog’s digestion.
A more important use of inulin is in the management of blood glucose levels. Since normal canine digestive processes cannot break down inulin, this substance passes through the intestinal tract without getting absorbed into the blood. And since the dog’s stomach cannot process it into the monosaccharide fructose, inulin can help in maintaining lower levels of blood glucose. This can be beneficial to dogs that are at risk of diabetes.
There are two other compounds in dandelion that can aid in regulating blood sugar. These are chlorogenic acid and cichoric acid. These polyphenols improve the secretion of insulin, allowing the body to move glucose in the blood for cellular metabolism. At the same time, these two compounds also improve glucose absorption in the muscles. Chlorogenic acid and cichoric acid also limit carbohydrate digestion so that most of it will pass through the dog’s intestines without getting absorbed in the blood.
- Aids in Optimum Nutrition
Dandelion leaves contain the vitamins A, C, and K as well as the minerals calcium, manganese, potassium, and iron. On the other hand, its flowers are known for being a good source of powerful antioxidants that have anti-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory activities. The roots of the dandelion are where you can find the prebiotic and soluble fiber, inulin.
In addition to these nutrients and helpful compounds, dandelion also features lutein. This is a natural carotenoid that has amazing antioxidant benefits. An ounce of dandelion greens can provide your dog with up to 3,900 milligrams of lutein. The whole dandelion plant also contains chlorogenic acid and cichoric acid. We already know how these two substances can help in the regulation of blood sugar.
- Soothes Skin Irritation and Inflammation
The polyphenols present in dandelion give the herb exceptional anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It is not surprising if pet parents turn dandelion leaves into tea as disinfectant for superficial wounds.
This can be a handy first aid solution for pet parents who love hiking with their dogs. Hounds can suffer wounds and scrapes when trekking in the wild. Since dandelion is “everywhere”, disinfecting and soothing a wound should be very easy.
How to Give Dandelion to Dogs
There are a few ways you can give your dog dandelion. The easiest is to obtain a tincture of dandelion and add a few drops of this in your pet’s food. An alternative will be to mix dried dandelion to the dog’s food. The recommended ratio is a teaspoon of dandelion for every 20 pounds of the dog’s weight.
Another option is to make tea. To make dandelion tea, boil a cup of water and add a teaspoon of dried dandelion. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes. The usual dose is 1/3 cup for every 20 lbs of the dog’s weight. Give this three times every day.
Word of Caution
While dandelion is very safe for dogs, you should be very careful where you gather fresh dandelions. The open fields today are no longer as safe as they once were 50 to 60 years ago. Many of them may already be contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that can be dangerous to your dog.
Dandelions are good for dogs. It is beneficial in improving the function of the digestive, hepatobiliary, and urinary systems. It can also provide antioxidant activity and glucose regulation.