Every year on April 11th, pet lovers across the nation celebrate National Pet Day, a day dedicated to appreciating and promoting the well-being of our beloved animal companions. While we often spoil our pets with treats and toys on this special day, it’s also an opportune moment to focus on something even more crucial: their health and longevity.
In recent years, an intriguing topic has been gaining traction in pet healthcare – the use of medicinal mushrooms. Once reserved primarily for human health, these natural wonders are now being recognized for their potential benefits in our pets’ lives.
Medicinal mushrooms are not the everyday mushrooms you find in your grocery store. These are special fungi, revered for centuries in various cultures for their healing properties. As pet owners increasingly seek holistic approaches to animal wellness, these functional mushrooms have emerged as a promising avenue. They are believed to offer a range of health benefits, from bolstering the immune system to combating inflammation, and even potentially playing a role in cancer prevention.
What Are Medicinal Mushrooms?
The term 'medicinal mushrooms' refers to various mushroom types known for their healing properties. They have been used for thousands of years, particularly in Eastern medicine, for their therapeutic benefits. Today, they are the subject of increasing scientific interest for their potential in health and wellness, including pet health.
One of the key elements that make these healthy mushrooms unique is their rich content of bioactive compounds. These include polysaccharides, triterpenes, beta-glucans, and antioxidants, each contributing to the mushrooms' health-boosting properties. Polysaccharides, for instance, are known for their immune-modulating effects. Beta-glucans are a group of polysaccharide compounds extensively studied for their role in supporting the immune system and potentially fighting cancer cells.
The therapeutic potential of medicinal mushrooms lies in their ability to enhance the body's natural defences while providing a holistic approach to health. This aspect is particularly appealing for pet owners who are wary of the side effects of conventional medications and are seeking more natural options for their pets.
Mycotherapy for Pets
Cordyceps Mushrooms for Pets: Holistic Care
Cordyceps mushrooms have shown a wide array of benefits that are crucial for the overall health of pets, including cats, dogs, and other animals. This unique fungus is known for its potential to protect liver and kidney functions, boost energy levels, and fortify the immune system, all of which are essential for maintaining the health and vitality of our pets [1,2].
In managing conditions like diabetes, which can affect various pets, Cordyceps has demonstrated promising effects . For instance, studies have indicated that this mushroom can mitigate the damage to the liver, kidneys, and pancreas caused by prolonged insulin resistance, a common issue in diabetic pets . This is particularly significant, as maintaining the health of these organs is vital for the well-being of animals suffering from diabetes or other metabolic conditions, especially those with older animals or breeds prone to renal issues.
Tremella Mushrooms for Pets: Natural Remedies for Pets
Tremella mushrooms, known for their impressive health benefits in humans, are also emerging as a beneficial supplement for pets' overall well-being. Tremella has been recognized for supporting brain health, a crucial aspect for aging pets and those prone to cognitive disorders.
Its potential to protect against diabetes is particularly relevant, given the increasing prevalence of this condition in pets like cats and dogs. The hydrating and antioxidant properties of Tremella can be advantageous for pets' skin health, enhancing both its appearance and condition, which is vital for pets prone to skin issues.
In a notable study, extracts from Tremella's fruiting bodies were observed to induce behavioural and structural changes in the treatment group versus a placebo . This is significant for pets, as the study indicated Tremella's capacity to notably improve learning and memory functions. Such cognitive benefits can be particularly valuable for pets experiencing age-related cognitive decline.
Moreover, Tremella's role in alleviating the loss of ChAT (Choline Acetyltransferase) in the hippocampus is noteworthy [3,4]. ChAT is an essential marker for the functional state of neurons in both the central and peripheral nervous systems, which are key to pets' neurological health [3,4].
Interestingly, research involving Turkey Tail mushrooms, often conducted initially on animals for safety profiling, has yielded promising results directly beneficial for pets. A study from Penn State University focused on this mushroom’s impact on pets suffering from certain types of cancer . The study's results were significant, particularly for pets diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a cancer commonly found in dogs. The research revealed that the Turkey Tail mushroom extract significantly improved the survival times of these animals, recording some of the longest survival rates ever observed in pets with this condition .
This breakthrough underscores the potential of Turkey Tail mushrooms as a therapeutic option for pets battling cancer. It highlights the importance of exploring and understanding the benefits of medicinal mushrooms in the broader context of pet healthcare, beyond traditional human-centric research. Such findings open up new avenues for pet owners and veterinarians seeking alternative or complementary treatments, emphasizing the need for more pet-focused research in the field of veterinary medicine.
Reishi mushroom extracts, revered for their adaptogenic qualities, offer significant benefits for pets in managing stress and anxiety triggered by environmental factors. Pets, like humans, can experience stress from various sources such as loud noises, unfamiliar environments, separation from owners, meeting new people or animals, or encountering new scents. Reishi mushrooms can help mitigate these stressors, promoting a sense of calm and well-being in pets.
One of the notable uses of Reishi is in improving sleep . Research has shown that Reishi mushroom extract can positively impact sleep patterns in animals, enhancing sleep duration, quality, and onset. The effects of Reishi on sleep resemble those of benzodiazepines, but with a natural approach, offering a safer alternative for pets with sleep disturbances .
Good sleep helps in maintaining a strong immune system, proper brain function, and emotional balance in pets, just as it does in humans. Therefore, incorporating Reishi mushroom extracts into a pet's regimen can be a holistic way to address not only stress and anxiety but also to improve their sleep quality, contributing to their overall health and happiness.
Chaga Mushrooms for Pets: Natural Pet Health
Chaga’s impressive defence against oxidative stress is crucial for pets, as it can significantly reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases common across various animal species. Extensive research highlights the rich antioxidant content of Chaga, including phenols, flavonoids, and melanin. These compounds are particularly effective in scavenging free radicals and neutralizing reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are known to contribute to cellular damage and aging in pets [7,8].
By integrating Chaga mushroom supplements into a pet's diet, pet owners can potentially bolster their pets' natural defences, contributing to a healthier, more vibrant life for their animal companions. This approach is especially beneficial in potentially prolonging the health and vitality of pets, ensuring they maintain a high quality of life as they age.
How to Incorporate Mushrooms into Pet Diets
Introducing medicinal mushrooms into your pet's diet can be a game-changer for their health. However, it’s vital to do it correctly to ensure safety and efficacy. The most common way to include these fungi in a pet's regimen is through supplements, which are available in various forms such as powders, capsules, or by creating infused treats.
Holistic veterinarians recommend sprinkling mushroom extract powders onto your pet’s food up to two times a day according to their weight in the following serving sizes:
· Small (1-30 lbs) = 1/8 tsp (250 mg)
· Medium (31-75 lbs) = ¼ tsp (500 mg)
· Large (76+ lbs) = ½ tsp (1000 mg)
When starting with mushroom supplements, it's crucial to begin with a small dose and gradually increase it, observing your pet's reaction. Some pets may have sensitive stomachs or allergies, so close monitoring during the initial phase is essential.
Additionally, the specific needs and health conditions of your pet must be considered. For instance, a pet with a pre-existing health condition may require a different approach compared to a healthy one. Consultation with a veterinarian is important in these cases.
Lastly, quality is key. Choose high-quality, organic mushroom supplements from reputable brands to ensure your pet receives the full benefits without any harmful additives or contaminants. By taking these precautions, you can safely introduce medicinal mushrooms into your pet's diet, contributing positively to their overall well-being.
Celebrating National Pet Day with Holistic Animal Health
National Pet Day is the perfect occasion to reflect on our pets' overall health and wellness. Beyond considering medicinal mushrooms, explore other healthy practices such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation. This holistic approach ensures that we're not only treating specific health issues but also proactively contributing to our pets' long-term well-being. Let’s use this day to start new health-positive routines that enrich the lives of our beloved animal companions.
Pet Disease Prevention: Mushroom Supplements for Pets
Medicinal mushrooms can be a valuable addition to your pet’s health regimen. While they offer numerous benefits, it’s crucial to approach their use thoughtfully and safely. Always consult with your veterinarian and opt for high-quality products. Let’s celebrate National Pet Day by making informed, health-conscious choices for our pets.
 Huajie Zhao, Qiangqiang Lai, Jianjun Zhang, Chunyan Huang, Le Jia, "Antioxidant and Hypoglycemic Effects of Acidic-Extractable Polysaccharides from Cordyceps militarison Type 2 Diabetes Mice", Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2018, Article ID 9150807, 15 pages, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/9150807
 Dong Y, Jing T, Meng Q, Liu C, Hu S, Ma Y, Liu Y, Lu J, Cheng Y, Wang D, Teng L. Studies on the antidiabetic activities of Cordyceps militaris extract in diet-streptozotocin-induced diabetic Sprague-Dawley rats. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:160980. doi: 10.1155/2014/160980. Epub 2014 Mar 11. PMID: 24738047; PMCID: PMC3967809.
 Hyun-Jung Park, Hyun Soo Shim, Yong Ho Ahn, Kyung Soo Kim, Kum Ju Park, Woong Ki Choi, Hyo-Cheol Ha, Jung Il Kang, Tae Seok Kim, Ik Hyun Yeo, Jin Su Kim, Insop Shim, Tremella fuciformis enhances the neurite outgrowth of PC12 cells and restores trimethyltin-induced impairment of memory in rats via activation of CREB transcription and cholinergic systems, Behavioural Brain Research, Volume 229, Issue 1, 2012, Pages 82-90, ISSN 0166-4328, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2011.11.017.
 Oda Y. Choline acetyltransferase: the structure, distribution and pathologic changes in the central nervous system. Pathol Int. 1999 Nov;49(11):921-37. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1827.1999.00977.x. PMID: 10594838.
 Chu QP, Wang LE, Cui XY, Fu HZ, Lin ZB, Lin SQ, Zhang YH. Extract of Ganoderma lucidum potentiates pentobarbital-induced sleep via a GABAergic mechanism. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2007 Apr;86(4):693-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2007.02.015. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17383716.
 Zheng W, Miao K, Liu Y, Zhao Y, Zhang M. Phenolics from Inonotus obliquus and their antioxidant and antitumor activities. Food Funct. 2018;9(7):3420-3431. doi:10.1039/c8fo00090a
 Wang Y, Liu Y, Du X, Ma H, Yao J. Inonotus obliquus polysaccharide regulates gut microbiota of chronic pancreatitis in mice. AMB Express. 2020;10(1):130. doi:10.1186/s13568-020-01068-4