Ultimate Dog

By Sara Seitz - Reading Time: 10 minutes
Yucca root for dogs

Yucca Root for Dogs: Benefits and Drawbacks

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It’s a sad truth that most commercial dog foods only contain the bare minimum nutrition our dogs need to thrive. If your dog’s digestive tract isn’t working at 100%, there's a good chance they're missing out on valuable nutrients. Even if you feed a high-quality diet that has more of these nutrients to offer, digestive inflammation and malabsorption could be preventing your dog from reaping all the benefits.

The answer? Researchers and dog food companies agree it's yucca root.

This simple herb has been gaining popularity of late in the dog world. But its use as a digestive aid and medicinal herb goes back thousands of years. Despite this, there is still a lot of concern over the safe use of yucca for pets.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what yucca root is, its proven benefits for dogs, and how you can safely use it to improve your pup’s digestion and overall well-being. 

What Is Yucca Root?

When we talk about yucca root as a supplement, we're talking about Yucca Schidigera, a flowering desert plant native to the Southwest and Mexico.

What we are not talking about is cassava, the starchy root from the Manihot esculenta plant, which is also commonly called yuca or yucca. While both can be found in dog food, it is the former we are interested in for its medicinal value.

Important Compounds Found In Yucca

Yucca root contains a long list of nutrients that make it a healthy additive to dog food. But it’s the unique compounds found in it that give it its unique medicinal qualities.

The most important are a group of compounds known as saponins. 

Saponins are found in many vegetables and herbs, including alfalfa, beets, beans, quinoa, and yams. These compounds create a foamy discharge when mixed with water, very similar to soap. Like soap, saponins have surfactant characteristics that allow them to interact with cell membranes.

Yucca root also contains phytosterols that work with the body’s natural steroids to increase growth hormones and support the immune system. It's also thought that these compounds help to reduce inflammation in the body, particularly in the gut and joints.

Yucca Root Benefits for Dogs

Native Americans who inhabited the southwestern deserts used yucca root for many medicinal purposes. Human herbalists today still call upon this plant frequently to help their patients. But it isn’t just alternative medicine proponents who know the value of yucca. 

This root can be found in about 25% of commercial dog and cat foods. Why? Because it has been proven to reduce fecal waste and diminish foul odors in feces and urine.

But this is just one of many yucca root benefits for dogs.


The saponins in yucca root create a soap-like foam when they mix with liquids in the gut. This foam interacts with the mucus membrane of the intestinal wall, allowing more nutrients to penetrate and be absorbed by the body. 

This not only helps reduce the amount of waste that comes out of your dog, but it also has a profound impact on the amount of nutrients absorbed and utilized by the body.

Research into yucca root use in livestock has found that even small amounts of the supplement can lead to extra weight gain in cattle, more eggs laid in chickens, and more milk produced by dairy cows. These results likely have roots in both the way saponins act as a digestive aid and in the steroid-like activity of yucca root’s phytosterols.

For dogs, yucca root provides an easy way to ensure all the nutrients in their food are being put to use. Because of this, it can help improve coat health, support a stronger immune system, and reduce how much waste ends up in your backyard.

Odor Reducer

In addition to reducing the amount of waste that comes out of your pup, yucca root can also reduce the odor that comes with it. 

When yucca is added to food, the amount of anhydrous ammonia, which gives urine and feces its notable scent, is significantly reduced. This likely has to do with the interaction of saponins with bacterial enzymes in the gut.

In studies, yucca root has been found to reduce dog and cat excrement odor by around 50% on average.

Arthritis Support

Another well-studied use of yucca root is its potential for helping people and pets with arthritis.

The saponins in yucca are believed to suppress intestinal protozoa known to increase joint inflammation in the body. Additionally, the polyphenolics in yucca have anti-inflammatory properties. This is mainly due to their ability to reduce the formation of nitric oxide in the body by affecting transcription pathways in cells. Phenolic compounds in yucca are also rampant free-radical scavengers with high antioxidant properties. 

All of these components are believed to work together to reduce joint inflammation, joint damage, and pain caused by arthritis. Veterinary herbalists report that yucca root is especially beneficial for dogs with knee and hip pain.


Many of the same components of yucca root that make it effective for arthritis also help to reduce inflammation elsewhere in the body.

These anti-inflammatory effects can be seen in how yucca supports healthy digestion and eases inflammation caused by food allergies and intolerances. Its ability to suppress nitric oxide production helps to reduce inflammation associated with respiratory disease, gut abnormalities, and toxicity.

One study found that the anti-inflammatory effects of yucca were so powerful that they reduced brain damage markers in quails exposed to lead. 

Allergy Relief

The phytosterols and steroid saponins in the yucca root assist the body in the natural production of corticosteroids. The synthetic form of these steroids is often given to dogs who suffer from itchy and inflamed skin due to topical or food allergies.

Yucca root has been used successfully in place of these drugs to help reduce itchiness associated with allergic reactions. It has also been theorized to help balance and maintain healthy autoimmune and immune reactions, which can help reduce the effects allergens have on the body and potentially prevent new allergies from forming.

Cancer Fighter

Yucca root and bark contain several phenolic compounds, including resveratrol, which has been studied extensively for its anticancer activity. 

Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant and has anti-mutagenic properties. It's believed that these two characteristics help to inhibit cancer mutations and growth in the early stages. There is also evidence that it inhibits certain transcription pathways associated with cancer development and impedes certain carcinogenic-induced cancers.

Blood Lipid and Glucose Regulator

The saponins found in yucca have been researched for their ability to affect blood lipid and glucose levels. 

In studies where rats and mice were fed high-fat diets, those who were also given yucca extract showed much lower blood cholesterol and blood lipid levels than those who did not receive the extract. Similarly, when yucca extract was given to diabetic mice, those mice showed lower blood glucose and higher insulin levels than the control group.

Side Effects

There is some concern around yucca root supplementation in dogs because many saponins are toxic. Additionally, any saponin can cause digestive upset when taken in high amounts.

With high doses or continuous dosing for long periods, yucca may cause issues. Yucca root side effects in dogs generally include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling

If too much yucca root is given or accidentally ingested, it can cause toxicity. Signs of yucca poisoning include loss of coordination, dilated pupils, excessive drooling, increased heart rate, and weakness. If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your vet right away.


The correct yucca root dosage for dogs depends on whether you're using powdered root or yucca extract.

In either case, it's recommended that, when giving the supplement for more than a few days at a time, you take regular breaks from it. Giving the supplement for four days and then taking three days off is usually recommended. This will help prevent your dog’s intestinal lining from becoming irritated by the saponins in yucca.

Powder Supplement

Yucca root supplements for dogs often come in powdered form. These are typically given based on the amount of food fed per meal rather than the weight of the dog. 

Always refer to the dosing information on the label of your dog-specific yucca supplement. In general, though, the dosage is ¼ tsp per each pound of food fed per meal. For focused therapeutic use, you can give up to ½ tsp per pound of food.


This supplement is also commonly found in extract form. Yucca root extract for dogs is similar to human formulations but generally doesn’t contain alcohol.

Again, we recommend following the dosage guidelines on the product. But, in general, small dogs should get between 0.5 and 1.0 ml, medium dogs should get 2.0 ml, and large dogs should get 3.0 ml. The dose should be given with each meal.

A Final Word on Yucca Root Safety in Dogs

Unlike many other herbal supplements, yucca root has been studied widely for use in humans and pets. 

Research has confirmed its value as a digestive aid to help your dog absorb more nutrients from their meals and reduce the amount of waste produced. There's also good evidence that yucca has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can be an effective treatment for arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. While less conclusive, there is also some evidence that yucca root may have cancer-fighting properties and help reduce allergy symptoms, lower blood lipids, and help stabilize blood sugar.

In general, herbs containing saponins should be used with caution. However, many herbalists and researchers have demonstrated that yucca root can safely be used for dogs. The key to avoiding side effects is to use the correct dose and take the occasional day off from use to avoid irritating the gut lining.

Whether your dog is dealing with painful joints or itchy skin, or you just want to ensure they get the most out of their diet, yucca root can be a powerful ally. 


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Sara Seitz

Sara Seitz worked in the pet industry for over a decade. In addition to being a certified dog trainer, Sara gained experience working as the general manager of a dog daycare and boarding facility, as the creator and manager of a pet sitting company, as a groomer, and as a dog behavior evaluator. She also has a bachelors in animal behavior from CSU. Currently, Sara works as a freelance writer specializing in blog, article and content writing.

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