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.
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.
**Please note: this is NOT an endorsement for medicinal use of essential oils. EO’s can cause terrible skin rashes and other ill effects and have not been shown to be any better or safer than conventional medicine. There are some in-vitro studies about antibacterial effects of EOs but these do not imply safety or effectiveness in humans.**
After some reading, I found that indeed, goldenrod has been traditionally 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 seems to be anti-bacterial. The literature doesn’t really explain to me exactly why my dogs might seek it out.
I’ve noticed this is a common behavior in dogs (who will sometimes eat poisonous plants to, so beware if your dog is eating things you’re unfamiliar with!). 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. 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 to them on natural grounds, alone.
Maybe they just like the taste and smell of it!