Dandelion Herb for Pets

When most of us think of Dandelions, our first association may be: pesky weeds. Or, we may have pleasant memories of making wishes and blowing dandelion seeds into the wind.

Dandelion is a fairly ubiquitous plant that many of us take for granted.

However, it turns out that Dandelion can have quite a few health benefits both for us and for our pets!

(In this article, we will focus on pets. However, many of the same uses apply for humans).

Short History and Traditional Usage

The earliest recorded history of using Dandelion comes from the 7th century as a Chinese herbal medicine. In the 11th century, Arabian physicians referred to it as Taraxacon.

Its first recorded use in Europe was in 1485. At the time, a surgeon referred to it as a “dent-de-lion”, or translated from French to mean – a Lion’s Tooth, due to the shape of its leaves. This name eventually became the “dandelion” name that we use today.

Another common name for Dandelion at the time was “piss-a-beds,” showing that the diuretic qualities of Dandelion were known even back then!

Native Americans used Dandelion for food and for digestive problems.

In Italy, the sap was used for warts!

Some used Dandelion, as it is more traditionally used today, as a “digestive bitter” – to help improve digestion and for its mild laxative effects.1

Cat with dandelions

Uses for Pets

In holistic veterinary practice, we use Dandelion for two primary reasons: To assist digestion and increase bile flow through the liver/gallbladder as well as for its diuretic effects for animals with heart disease.

There is some confusion about how to use Dandelion for pets:

It turns out, that Dandelion root is most helpful for digestive and liver support, while the leaves have stronger diuretic properties.

I have seen quite a few pet owners use Dandelion root for a pet with heart disease and felt like it wasn’t helping. The root has some mild diuretic effects, but the leaves are actually more useful for this effect.

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root stimulates bile production and increases circulation thoughout the liver.

The liver is the organ responsible for filtering toxins and removing excesses from the body and blood. The liver also plays a critical role in digestion through its production of bile, bilirubin, and certain enzymes. When bile becomes stuck, we may see sludge form in the gallbladder (people may develop gallbladder stones, while pets are more prone to sludge).

In Chinese medicine, when energy or blood is stagnant in the liver, this can lead to certain emotional imbalances and physical disease. One of the most common emotional imbalances that results from liver stagnation is frustration and/or anger. If you want to learn more about this topic and how it shows up in pets, see my blog post here.

Due to its bile-moving effects, Dandelion root is a common herb used for improving digestion, cholecysteititis, and jaundice. It has also shown to be useful for some cases of constipation, pancreatitis, and triaditis (IBD) in cats.

** Dandelion Root is contraindicated in cases of acute bile duct obstruction, acute gallbladder inflammation and intestinal obstruction. Please speak with your holistic veterinarian if you have questions on this topic.

Dandelion Leaves

While the root is more useful for liver problems, Dandelion leaves have more of a diuretic effect, meaning that they help remove excess fluid out of the body.

This is particularly useful for animals with heart disease. When the heart pumps blood less effectively (for a number of reasons), excess plasma from blood vessels will seep out into the lungs.

This fluid in the lungs can cause a pet to cough more.

One of the common pharmaceutical approaches is to give Lasix, or Furosemide. This is a diuretic that helps to prevent fluid accumulation in the chest. However, Lasix can sometimes negatively affecting the kidneys.

I have not personally seen or heard of negative effects of Dandelion on the kidneys. While it efficacy for diuresis can be variable, dandelion appears to be a safe treatment for animals that cannot handle the negative side effects of Lasix.

Doses and Administration

There are some OTC commercially available versions of Dandelion for pets (See affiliate disclaimer at the end of this article).

If you are looking to support a pet with heart disease, then a combination of Hawthorne berries and Dandelion Leaf may be beneficial, such as the product Heart Care made by Amber Naturals.

If you are looking to support your pet’s gastrointestinal tract and liver, then a product with higher concentrations of Dandelion Root combined with Milk Thistle may be beneficial. One example is Hawaiipharm Dandelion/ Milk Thistle Combination. I like that this formula does not include alcohol.

Doses for both of these products are available on the bottle and given by weight.

If you would like to give Dandelion on its own, here are some other doses that may be useful:

Infusions and teas: 5-30grams per cup of water. Give 1/8 cup of tea per 20 lbs of body weight twice a day.

Leaf (Usually in 25% ethanol): 1:2 or 1:3 ratio; Give 0.5 ml per 20 lbs of weight twice a day

Root or whole plant (Usually in 25 – 70% ethanol) 1:2 – 1:3 ratios; Give 0.5cc per 20lbs of body weight twice a day

I hope you found this information helpful!

1Veterinary Herbal Medicine; Susan G. Wynn and Barbara Fougere; Mosby Press; 2007.

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