Why do my dogs love goldenrod?

Both of my dogs love to eat goldenrod (Solidago spp.) While I was taking my dog for a walk yesterday, she found a few patches of goldenrod and started chowing down– hitting nearly every plant in the patch for a taste. She chews the leaves off with her back teeth.

This plant should not be confused with the toxic Rayless goldenrod (Haplopappus heterophyllus) that grows out west.

my dog thinking about goldenrod

I pinched off a few leaves and smelled them– the plant has a strong, spicy scent. I tasted it (because I do things like that. I knew it wasn’t toxic, but was less sure about whether it tasted good or not). Surprisingly, it really wasn’t bad. It’s a unique flavor, but the texture and flavor combined remind me more of an herbal tea than a nasty, sour/bitter wild plant that I shouldn’t be eating. The spicy scent made me think that maybe dogs are attracted to it for parasite or bacterial control. Dogs are known for eating plenty of nasty, buggy things, and plants produce volatile oils (what we call their scents or essential oils) to ward off parasites and pathogens. That’s why many aromatic herbs are also beneficial to humans.

After some research, I found that  indeed, goldenrod is a useful herbal plant, most commonly used for its diuretic properties. There’s no indication that it’s a parasiticide, at least not according to anything I’ve read so far, but it is supposedly somewhat anti-bacterial. The literature doesn’t really explain to me exactly why my dogs might seek it out, but I’m sure there’s some sort of therapeutic benefit.

goldenrod
A honey bee on the golden rod. The bees are crazy about these flowers too.

I saw that other people have noticed the same behavior in their dogs. It’s funny to me that some people on the web were speculating that the dogs and plants communicate in a supernatural way, and that’s how they know it’s a useful plant. I’m not opposed to the idea of supernatural communication, but communicating through smell is, to me, amazing enough. Dogs, of course, have a sense of smell up to 100,000 times more powerful than our own. That probably makes this aromatic plant quite attractive.

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6 thoughts on “Why do my dogs love goldenrod?”

    1. They eat the leaves throughout the season, long before the flowers emerge. For that reason I don’t think that it’s just the flowers that they are after. I haven’t ever seen them eat the flowers, but they go crazy over the leaves. All 3 of my dogs eat them now.

  1. My dogs love goldenrod leaves too! However, my greyhound will throw up if I let him eat too many. Guess he knows what he needs…..

  2. I have a nearly 12 year old Bouvier des Flandres. She is starting to have some incontinence issues. I’ve started giving her Goldenrod extract, which I hope will help. It is commonly used in humans to avoid bladder infections.

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