Shroom Boom: Can Mushrooms for Cats and Dogs Improve Your Pet’s Health?
Mushrooms are trending! Whether it's in decor or supplements, you're guaranteed to come across them. But can mushrooms be good for your pet's health? Let's explore.
Cordyceps are real and your cats and dog can eat them — rather than, er, cordyceps eating you and your pets (IYKYK). There’s actually a whole slew of medicinal mushrooms for cats and dogs, which doesn’t include just any mushroom off the grocery store shelf, your backyard, or your favorite foraging spot.
Mushroom supplements are taking off (yes, I am drinking mushroom coffee), but do mushroom supplements for pets actually work?
What are medicinal mushrooms for pets?
The benefits of mushrooms for health have taken on a whole new popularity in the last few years, but they’re nothing new in other parts of the world. For one, Eastern medicine practices have been using mushrooms in soups, teas, tinctures, and powders to treat human ailments for literal centuries.
We spoke to Dr. Marcus Smith, DVM, MS, founder of Natchez Trace Veterinary Services who says pet parents want to see Eastern alternative veterinary medicine incorporated with Western traditional medicine, despite the approach not being taught in Western veterinary programs.
If you’re not familiar with Eastern medicine, it usually includes a holistic approach to healing a condition through therapies such as acupuncture, herbal and dietary medicine, and massage. It isn’t typically used for acute injuries or illnesses in pets, Smith says.
Instead, Eastern medicine is better suited for treating chronic diseases, like cancer, arthritis, and immune-related conditions. In these cases, Eastern medicine is generally used alongside traditional Western medicine (AKA chemotherapy and other traditional drugs).
Some of the most common medicinal mushrooms for pets include:
Formulas might be singly mushroom-based or include a blend of mushroom types. Depending on the condition at hand, your veterinarian can help choose the most appropriate mushrooms for your pet. Mushroom supplements may include either the fruiting body, the mycelium (root), or both since it all contains beneficial compounds.
Benefits of mushroom supplements for pets
For one, they have excellent anti-tumor and immune-modulating properties. Basically, studies in mice, humans, and rats suggest that mushrooms (specifically a polysaccharide called Beta-D-glucan), can help fight off cancer by activating the cells in the immune system that attack harmful cells.
In companion pets, anecdotal evidence of the benefit of mushrooms is rare but was captured by Penn State in a 2012 study. Dogs with invasive blood cell cancer that were treated with a compound made from the Yunzhi mushroom had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease, the study states.
While the benefits of medicinal mushrooms for humans are said to include improved cognitive function and cardiovascular health, gut stimulation, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties — the list goes on and they’re even in skin care products — the benefits for pets aren’t fully understood. However, we do know that some types of mushrooms, vitamins, and minerals are toxic to cats and dogs, so chat with your veterinarian before giving your pet any supplements.
Does your pet need mushroom supplements?
Pet parents are reaching for all kinds of supplements for their pets, whether they’re vet-recommended or not. And despite the widespread use of supplements for cats and dogs, there is very little regulatory oversight and research into their effects.
The bottom line, pets should get all the nutrients they require from a healthy, balanced diet. However, an extra supplement or two approved by your veterinarian may improve your pet’s overall health, which is especially true if your pet has been diagnosed with a medical condition.
“If someone walks in, I don’t tell them to use mushrooms for their pets. Usually, it’s a response to a problem in a pet, and commonly, that’s going to be cancer,” Smith explains.
What are some popular brands of mushroom supplements for dogs and cats?
If you're looking to dip your toe into this funky fungi trend, check out the brands below! Note: you should always consult your vet before giving your pet any new supplements. Do not take our recommendations as medical advice.
Janelle is a cat mum to two resident adventure kitties, Lyra and Atlas, and numerous cat and kitten fosters. Janelle and her furry family enjoy filling their days with hiking, kayaking, and seeking out the best cat-friendly destinations around the Pacific Northwest. You can follow Janelle, her adventure kitties, and adoptable fosters at @paws_pdx.