As pet owners, the health and wellbeing of our companions is a top priority. And with the world of holistic health gaining traction, pet owners are starting to explore more natural products for their pets. Navigating these products can be confusing, especially when we come across something we’ve never heard of before, such as functional mushrooms! We might not put ‘mushrooms’ and ‘dogs’ together in our mind, but you might be surprised at what all these little fungi can offer your pet in the way of health and wellbeing.

But, first things first. What are functional mushrooms? Are there certain types of functional mushrooms that work better for dogs? Is there any scientific evidence regarding functional mushrooms’ benefits for dogs? We’ll help with all of that.

An overview of mushrooms

Contrary to what you may have heard, mushrooms and functional mushrooms are not plants. They are macroscopic fungi and they belong to their own hidden kingdom, called Kingdom fungi.

For years, mushrooms were considered a part of the Plant Kingdom. However, once scientists took note that unlike plants (which use the sun’s energy to create their food), mushrooms and fungi depend on the mycelium –– the part of the mushroom that’s hidden underneath it. Wherever the fungi grow, they secrete enzymes that help them digest and absorb the nutrients of their food source. In other words, when you and your curious pup come across a mushroom on a dead tree log, it’s actually recycling the the dead tree’s materials as food.

For the most part fungi goes unseen. During a hike with your dog, depending on the time of year, you may see what scientists call the “flower” or “fruit” of the fungi, which commonly has a grayish or brownish stem and cap, otherwise known as a mushroom.

Keep in mind that not all mushrooms are safe for consumption. In fact, there are many mushroom species that can be highly toxic if consumed. But the ones we’re excited about are the ones that you can consume, of course. And the ones that offer a wide array of health-promoting properties. In particular, we’re talking about functional mushrooms – like shiitake, reishi, poria, turkey tail, and so on. But don’t worry – we’ll explain all those later!

So how can functional mushrooms help our four-legged companions?

Functional mushrooms for dogs

There are a lot of misconceptions floating around the internet that functional mushrooms are toxic, hallucinogenic, and poisonous for dogs. While we know that certain mushroom species are toxic for our four-legged pals, the edible, functional mushrooms we are discussing are non-toxic, non-hallucinogenic, and are not poisonous. On top of that, they may hold tremendous potential for our dogs’ health.

In fact, some functional mushrooms have been shown to support immune health, support a healthy inflammatory response, and fight free radical cells in our pet’s body. In other words, incorporating the right kinds of functional mushrooms in your dog’s diet may have positive impacts on their quality of life. So, what are the different types of functional mushrooms we should be giving our dogs?

Types of functional mushrooms

There are many types of functional mushrooms, some of which contain different variations of beta-glucan –– a compound found in functional mushrooms that is responsible for immune support and other effects. Different types of functional mushrooms will have different effects on the immune system.

For dogs older in age, or with unwanted health conditions, certain types of functional mushrooms may be more beneficial than others. That said, let’s explore the benefits of these different types of functional mushrooms.

Functional mushroom benefits

Shiitake –– These mushrooms have been used for hundreds of years in alleviating symptoms associated with the common cold. Shiitake is known as one of the most popular types of functional mushrooms consumed in the world. They’re known for antioxidant protection, supporting pets with seasonal allergies, and so. They’re amazing! If you’re curious about research regarding Shiitake mushrooms, you can find it here.

Reishi –– These mushrooms are most popular and have been for thousands of years. Reishi is most known for its bitter taste but exceptional health benefits. Reishi, like Shiitake, is also known for supporting pets with seasonal allergies, as well as enhancing the immune response, joint discomfort due to age-related issues, and even potentially helping with organ function.

Poria –– These mushrooms have been used holistically for thousands of years. Studies have shown that Polysaccharide occurs most abundantly in Poria cocos. According to studies they are most known for supporting healthy inflammatory responses, antioxidant protection, enhancing the immune response, and more.

Turkey Tail –– The brown and tan colored rings of these mushrooms give it its unique name, as it resembles the tail feathers of turkeys. These mushrooms can be found growing on dead logs around the world. Turkey Tail is known to help pets enhance bone health, maintain joint mobility, and helps maintain connective tissue. We love Turkey Tail!

Chaga –– the Chaga mushrooms in our hemp & mushroom oil is harvested from birch trees in the pristine woodland environments in the US. They may have a positive effect assisting the immune system. It can do this by helping the body balance itself through the immune system. Chaga mushrooms are also known to promote the body’s innate resistance to pathogens while leaving the healthy cells alone. Lastly, they can be very helpful in maintaining a normal inflammatory response.

While more research is needed, it’s evident that functional mushrooms may contain benefits for our companions. Packed with amazing things, functional mushrooms have been shown to support a wide variety of health aspects for both humans and our pets.

If you’d like to try giving functional mushrooms to your pup, we created a mushroom powder blend containing five certified organic mushrooms so your pup gets the best of ALL worlds. As with any new product, be sure to start slow and with low doses to avoid any adverse responses from your pup. Remember that each dog is different and it’s important to observe their behavior anytime you introduce a new product into their daily regimen.