mushrooms

The consumption of mushrooms dates back to ancient times, with cultures all over the world quickly realising the benefits that these fungi could bring to the body.

While many people readily enjoy mushrooms themselves, they tend to avoid sharing these delicious morsels with their dogs, believing that mushrooms are toxic.

Is this true?

Not at all!

Not only are certain mushrooms totally safe for your dog to eat, but they can also really boost the health and well-being of your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Mushrooms?

There are four main types of mushrooms out there:

  • Toxic
  • Hallucinatory
  • Culinary
  • Medicinal

It is absolutely safe for your dog to eat medicinal mushrooms, with this type being the one that boasts the greatest benefits.

Which Mushroom are Medicinal?

There are actually so many different varieties out there, but the medicinal mushrooms that are most readily available, as well as most commonly used for both humans and pets, include:

  • Reishii – one of the most respected immune tonics in the world, thanks to the way in which it boosts the immune system and liver, while helping the body to fight against cancer
  • Maitake – the most effective mushroom at preventing tumour growth
  • Shiitake – inhibits certain cancers while reducing inflammation. Also helps the body to produce and make use of vitamin D
  • Cordyceps – protects the liver and kidneys while lowering cholesterol. Also contains antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-asthma properties
  • Lion’s Mane – supports the nervous system and brain, and can enhance a variety of cognitive functions
  • Chaga – prevents cancer and boosts the immune system
  • Turkey Tail – maintains and restores immune health

Rather than just choosing one of these mushrooms to feed to your dog, try to incorporate a few different mushrooms into your dog’s diet. This will greatly enhance their individual effects, allowing them to work together to really boost your dog’s overall health.

Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms

mushroom

Some of the benefits of medicinal mushrooms have already been touched upon above, but there is so much more to mushrooms than that.

Here are just a few of the ways in which eating medicinal mushrooms could benefit a dog:

Boost In Immune Health

Small dog

Mushrooms have been shown to give the immune system a huge boost.

How do they do this?

By supporting your dog’s gut health.

Wondering how gut health and immune health are related?

Well, 70% of the immune system actually lives in the gut, meaning that taking care of the gut is one of the best ways to nurture your dog’s immune system.

Thanks to some of the powerful enzymes within mushrooms, they are able to help with digestion, as well as GI tract function, in a number of ways, including:

  • Protease – helps to digest protein, while cleansing the blood of any undigested protein particles
  • Amylase – breaks down starches and provides your pooch with energy
  • Lipase – breaks down fats
  • Cellulase – breaks down fibre, which is vital when it comes to bowel health

The way in which mushrooms help your dog’s body to break down all of these dietary components encourages your dog’s body to then put all of these nutrients to better use.

Not only that, but mushrooms also enhance the survival of the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s body, protecting these natural probiotics from damage. This is all thanks to their prebiotic properties, which are able to feed the probiotics within your dog and enable them to flourish.

Does your dog suffer from Allergies or Arthritis?

If your dog suffers from allergies, or has an autoimmune disease such as arthritis, then chances are that your answer is yes.

Well, mushrooms can help with this too!

How?

Thanks to the way in which they can slow down an immune system that is working overtime, helping to prevent it from overreacting to environmental triggers.

Aids the Body in Fighting Cancer

Labrador dog

Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs?

In fact, one in three domestic dogs will end up developing some sort of cancer.

Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to prevent this from happening to your pooch, one of which is to start supplementing your dog’s diet with specific medicinal mushrooms.

Certain varieties, such as chaga and reishii, are able to help the body combat cancer cells.

How?

By stimulating T cells to release cytokines, which then go on to fight tumour cells, while leaving healthy cells alone.

If your dog has already undergone chemotherapy or radiation, mushrooms can help to reduce the toxicity that these traditional treatments bring to the body.

Packed with Antioxidants

Adorable Dog

Mushrooms are a fantastic source of antioxidants.

What do antioxidants do for a dog?

The same thing they do for humans…

Each and every day, free radicals are created in the body, due to contact with everything from UV light to pollution.

Simply put, free radicals are atoms and molecules that are missing an electron. In order to compensate for this, they begin attacking nearby cells to steal their electrons and to try to heal themselves, therefore turning those cells into free radicals too.

These free radicals cause so much damage to the body, resulting in everything from cancer to accelerated aging to arthritis, none of which you want your pooch to be dealing with.

Antioxidants help to put a stop to all of this.

How?

Thanks to the way in which they contain several spare electrons, which they are able to donate to free radicals. This then neutralises them, preventing them from causing any more damage.

There are many synthetic antioxidants out there, but many of these are believed to be carcinogenic, which is why dog owners are trying to seek out natural sources of antioxidants whenever possible.

There are quite a few different antioxidants to be found in mushrooms, such as selenium and polyphenols, but one that is especially unique is L-ergothioneine.

In fact, there is no other food source out there that contains L-ergothioneine in the same concentration as mushrooms do.
L-ergothioneine is often referred to as a master antioxidant, because not only does it have the same powerful effects as other antioxidants, but it also lasts in the body for about 30 days. On the other hand, other antioxidants tend to stick around for just 30 minutes or so.

A Great Source of Vitamins and Minerals

Dog Running

In addition to all of the antioxidants you will find in mushrooms, these fungi are also packed with a wide range of vitamins and minerals.

In particular, mushrooms are especially high in the B vitamin complex, including:

  • Thiamine (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Pantothenic Acid (B3)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12

Why does your dog need these B vitamins?

They are vital for your dog to be able to make use of proteins and fats, and help to encourage the biochemical reactions in your dog’s body that give your pooch energy.

Many commercial dog foods are actually lacking in B vitamins, due to the high amount of processing that they go through.

If your dog has a B vitamin deficiency, you may notice a number of symptoms, such as:

  • Excessive shedding
  • Easily picks up ticks and fleas
  • Readily attracts flies
  • Dirty and decaying teeth
  • Hair loss
  • Poor reaction to vaccines and medications
  • Weight gain

Vitamin D2 is another one found in mushrooms.

This is a plant-based form of regular vitamin D, and is responsible for the way in which your dog’s body absorbs calcium and phosphorus.

Research shows that dogs who have low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to cancer, making it important to keep your pooch’s vitamin D levels well topped up.

Not only do mushrooms contain plenty of vitamins, but they are also packed with certain minerals that could really benefit your dog.

These include:

  • Selenium – essential for your dog’s body to function properly, while also containing anti-cancer and antioxidant properties
  • Copper – important when it comes to the formation of bones, collagen, and connective tissue, while also encouraging the absorption of iron
  • Potassium – required in order for the muscles, nerves and enzymes in your dog’s body to function properly
  • Phosphorus – one of the main components of your dog’s bones and cartilage

Is your dog suffering from any joint issues?

If so, mushrooms could help with this too.

How?

Thanks to their glucosamine content.

You may have already heard of glucosamine when it comes to dog’s supplements, but nothing quite beats feeding this to your pet in its whole, natural form.

What does it actually do?

Glucosamine is naturally found in your dog’s body, and is required to create and repair body tissues. As your dog ages, the amount of glucosamine naturally produced declines, leading to stiffness and pain in the joints. This is why glucosamine is such a popular supplement when it comes to treating canine arthritis.

How to Incorporate Mushrooms Into Your Dogs Diet

There are a few different ways in which you can incorporate mushrooms into your dog’s diet.

Whichever you choose, keep in mind that you should always cook mushrooms before feeding them to your dog, rather than feeding them raw.

Mushroom Tea / Broth

shiitake mushroom

Cooking up a mushroom tea or broth is one of the easiest, as well as the most effective, ways of adding mushrooms into your dog’s diet.

How do you do this?

It’s simple, just follow these steps:

Chop the mushrooms into small chunks, so that they are around one inch (2.5cm) in size

Place the mushrooms into a pot of water, and bring this to a boil

Turn the heat down and leave it to simmer for at least an hour, as this gives the water enough time to extract the bioactive compounds within the mushrooms. The water will be a red/brown colour once the broth is ready

Strain the broth into a mug or a bowl, or simply blitz the whole thing up in a blender

Leave to cool before feeding some to your dog, or freezing for future use

How much of this broth should you be feeding your dog each day?

Begin with around 1 tablespoon of broth per 10kg of dog.

If you would like to freeze the broth in ice cube trays for easy access, keep in mind that one ice cube is equal to around two tablespoons.

To add even more value to the broth, don’t be afraid to throw in a few extra herbs.

Some that would be especially beneficial include:

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
  • Oregano

You are best off adding these in once your broth has cooled slightly, as cooking can degrade some of their beneficial properties.

Mushroom and Vegetable Scramble

mushrooms and vegetables

If you would like to really pamper your pet, try cooking up a mushroom and vegetable scramble.

All you need is:

  • ½ cup of sliced or chopped mushrooms
  • ¼ cup of finely chopped kale, chard or spinach
  • ¼ cup of finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons of organic butter or olive oil
  • ½ cup of bone broth
  • 4 eggs, raw and beaten

To begin, simply add your broth to a deep frying pan and heat this up to a medium-high heat.

Add in the celery and mushrooms and keep cooking until the liquid has reduced by about a half.

Add in the eggs and stir them until they are cooked.

Wait for the meal to cool to room temperature before feeding some to your dog.

Check out KeepTheTailWagging for another great mushroom broth recipe

How much should you feed?

This depends on the size of your dog, as well as what the rest of your dog’s diet consists of.

For small dogs, you can add about a quarter of the scramble into your dog’s food for the day. For medium sized dogs, go with half, while larger dogs will be able to tolerate the whole amount.

Keep in mind that this is not something you should be feeding your dog every single day, and should instead save it for a weekly treat.

Where Do the Mushrooms Come From?

Organic Mushroom

Whether you are purchasing fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms, or a mushroom supplement for your dog, it is important to be aware of its origin.

Why?

Because, just like with any other plant-based food, the growing environment has a huge impact on the final outcome of the product.

If mushrooms have been grown in a polluted environment, they end up absorbing heavy metals. At a high enough concentration, these can end up being toxic to your dog.

In fact, certain mushrooms that have recently come from China have been shown to contain high amounts of arsenic, lead and more, all of which come from water, soil and air pollution.

If you can, try to purchase organic mushrooms when cooking for your pet. While these are still grown with a small amount of chemicals, this is a miniscule amount compared to the chemicals used for non-organic mushrooms.

Fresh Mushrooms vs Dried Mushrooms vs Canned Mushrooms

Dried Mushrooms

When it comes down to it, fresh mushrooms will always be best.

Why?

Because they contain higher levels of minerals, such as magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, than dried or canned mushrooms.

Of course, dried mushrooms can definitely be useful, especially when fresh mushrooms are not in season, so it would always be a good idea to stock a few of these in your kitchen cupboard.

Mushroom Supplements

If you don’t want to cook the mushrooms yourself, you have the option of purchasing mushroom supplements for your dog.

There are two main types out there:

  • Mushroom Extract Supplements – these consist of mushrooms that have been boiled for a long period of time, concentrating some of its compounds. However, this results in the majority of antioxidants, enzymes, fibre and protein all being lost
  • Whole Food Mushroom Supplements – these contain the mushroom in its whole form, meaning that your dog will be able to enjoy all of the health properties within the mushrooms

For more information on mushroom supplements, check out Dr. Karen Becker’s Mushroom Complex.  

Mushrooms that are Poisonous for Dogs

There are thousands of mushroom varieties out there, but not all of them are safe to eat.

Just like with humans, if a dog eats the wrong mushroom, this can lead to some serious problems…

So, which mushrooms are actually poisonous?

There are so many, and the varieties you will encounter depends on where in the world you are located.

Nevertheless, these are some of the most common poisonous mushrooms that your dog could accidentally ingest:  

  • Amanita Muscaria – with their red cap along with white spots and a white stem, these mushrooms, which are known as classic toadstools all over the world, will usually cause disorientation
  • Amanita Phalloides – known as the Death Cap, small amounts can be fatal to your dog, and symptoms can sometimes take up to 24 hours to appear. It is vital that you immediately seek veterinary attention if your dog has consumed one of these
  • Galerina Marginata – small and brown, these mushrooms pop up in so many areas, and are just as toxic as the death caps mentioned above
  • The Inocybe Species – these mushrooms contain a toxin called muscarine, which dogs are uniquely susceptible to
  • The False Morel – while not fatal, these mushrooms can cause vomiting and diarrhea, as well as seizures in severe cases

Now, unless you are a mushroom expert, you are unlikely to know what each of the above mushrooms look like, and will also not be able to accurately identify the many different mushrooms that pop up in your backyard and on walks.

So, how do you actually know which mushrooms are poisonous to dogs?

The answer here may be a cliché, but it couldn’t be more true…

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

When it comes to wild mushrooms, you are best off making sure that your dog never consumes these. Even if you think that a certain mushroom may be edible and safe, there are likely to be toxic varieties that look extremely similar.

Unless you can identify mushrooms at a professional level, keep your dog away from all wild mushrooms.

What should you do if your dog has eaten a wild mushroom?

wild mushroom

You will need to immediately take your dog, along with a sample of the mushroom that was eaten, to your vet. They will be able to then determine the best course of action.

Make sure that you wrap the mushroom in a paper, rather than a plastic, bag. If you have to wait before heading to the vet (which you really shouldn’t!), store the mushroom in a refrigerator, as this will help to preserve its appearance so that your vet will be able to properly identify it.

Suspect your pooch may be suffering from mushroom toxicity?

Symptoms will include the following:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoeathe earlier this happens, the better, and the less dangerous the mushroom is. Although a vet is still needed, the fact that your dog’s body is removing these toxins itself is a good sign
  • Neurological/ behavioural changes – this tends to be caused by hallucinogenic mushrooms, and symptoms include abnormal behaviours, a loss of balance, muscle tremors, seizures, air biting, and depression
  • Constricted pupils and a slowed heartbeat – this is extremely serious and requires immediate veterinary care
  • Liver and kidney damage – these symptoms mean that it could possibly be too late to help your pet. Signs of liver and kidney damage include a loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination, and jaundice, all of which will require intense veterinary care

There are certain mushroom species that can also lead to your dog going into a deep sleep, almost as though your pooch is in a coma. This usually lasts for about six hours, although it can sometimes drag on for up to 72 hours.

If this occurs, you need to be careful about the medication administered to your dog. Certain drugs, such as atropine, are commonly used for mushroom poisoning, but, in these cases, they can intensify the sleep and increase chances of death.

Wondering how your vet will treat mushroom poisoning in your dog?

This all depends on the actual symptoms that your dog is experiencing, as well as the mushrooms that were consumed.

Generally, the priority will be decontaminating your dog’s body, which usually requires a vet to induce vomiting. This encourages your dog’s body to purge the toxins from the mushrooms.

Some holistic vets will also turn to homeopathic remedies to reduce the toxicity level in your dog’s body. Again, this depends on the exact symptoms, but results are usually quite promising.

Brown Shiitake Mushrooms

When it comes down to it, the same mushrooms that are poisonous to humans are also poisonous to dogs. On the other hand, the mushrooms that are beneficial for humans have the same effect on dogs, making it easier to determine which ones your dog should and shouldn’t eat.

With so many different health-boosting benefits, mushrooms really do make such a fantastic addition to your dog’s diet, and it won’t be long before you notice the positive changes in your pooch.

Have you had any success with mushrooms or mushroom supplements for your pets?

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