Medicinal mushrooms have become increasingly popular as an alternative therapy and supplement for humans in recent years. Derived from mushroom mycelium or fruiting bodies, medicinal mushroom extracts contain a wide array of bioactive compounds that may provide health benefits. Some pet health companies have launched their health brands such as Real Mushrooms, Wild Earth, North Hound Life, Fera, Four Leaf Rover, Dr. Mercola and so on. With growing interest in natural and holistic pet care, some dog owners are now wondering if these mushroom extracts could also benefit our canine companions. In this article, we’ll explore the potential uses and safety considerations for giving medicinal mushroom extracts to dogs.
What are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are fungi that produce bioactive compounds thought to have health-promoting properties. Some of the most well-studied include reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, lion’s mane, and cordyceps. These mushrooms contain polysaccharides, peptides, antioxidants, and other substances that may help modulate immunity, reduce inflammation, fight cancer cells, balance hormones, and protect nerve cells. The therapeutic effects come from the mycelium (root-like fibers) and fruiting bodies (mushroom “caps”) which are carefully standardized and extracted into supplement formulas. Research on medicinal mushrooms has focused mainly on human applications, but some early studies have looked at potential veterinary uses as well.
Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms for Dogs
Preliminary research suggests certain medicinal mushroom extracts may benefit dogs in some of the following ways:
Balance the immunity: Compounds like polysaccharides in reishi and turkey tail mushrooms may help strengthen immune cell function. This could help fight cancer and infections. One study found turkey tail increased immune cells and disease-fighting antibodies in dogs with osteosarcoma.
Joint Health: As our four-legged friends age, joint health becomes crucial. Certain mushroom extracts, like Chaga, have been linked to anti-inflammatory properties that could potentially support your dog’s joint comfort and mobility. The triterpenes in reishi are natural anti-inflammatories, which reduce inflammation and may ease joint pain and discomfort associated with arthritis or injuries in older dogs.
Cognitive Function: Lions Mane mushroom extract is gaining attention for its potential cognitive benefits. Just like humans, dogs can experience cognitive decline with age, and Lion’s Mane might help support their mental sharpness and overall brain health. It contains hericenones and erinacines that stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF) production. For senior dogs, this may help preserve cognitive function and protect against dementia.
Heart health: Triterpenes in reishi mushrooms act as antioxidants in the cardiovascular system. They may help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol while improving circulation.
Liver protection: Components of medicinal mushrooms reduce liver inflammation and fibrosis. This may benefit dogs with liver disease. Always consult a veterinarian before starting supplements.
Help the dog fight cancer: Polysaccharide complexes are thought to inhibit tumor growth. One study saw anti-tumor effects of turkey tail extract in dog cancer cells. More research is underway for cancer-fighting effects.
Medicinal Mushrooms Safe for Dogs?
Of course, not only can dogs eat mushroom powder, but it’s also good for their health! While there are theoretical benefits, it’s important to consider safety first when giving dogs any new supplement. Here are some key points on the safety profile of medicinal mushrooms:
- Choose organic mushrooms sourced from reputable supplement brands to avoid contamination.
- Reishi can act as a blood thinner so careful monitoring is needed. Follow product labels or consult your vet.
- Dosing guidelines are limited but smaller dogs should start with even lower doses. Most mushrooms are well-tolerated by dogs, with few side effects at appropriate dosages. Some ingredients like alpha-glucans may interact with chemotherapy.
- Use caution when giving medicinal mushrooms to dogs with cancer and taking other medications. Be mindful of potential allergies and reactions to mushrooms.
- Avoid ingredients like grain fillers, sugars or preservatives. Discontinue use if any concerns arise. Look for mushroom-only or dual mushroom extract formulas. Extracts are safer than giving whole mushrooms.
While more research is still needed, mushroom supplements appear relatively safe for healthy dogs under veterinary guidance. Gastric upset and diarrhea is possible. As with any supplement, balance potential benefits against any risks.
The diverse bioactive compounds found in medicinal mushrooms show promising health benefits ranging from immune support to anti-aging for dogs. While still an emerging area of study, early research supports the safety and efficacy of medicinal mushroom extracts for dogs when used cautiously under veterinary supervision. As research continues, medicinal mushrooms could become an increasingly viable natural supplement option for enhancing well-being and longevity in our senior dogs. Always consult your vet before starting any new supplement regimen with your pet.