The fantastic kingdom of fungi and its many tasty mushrooms have captured the imagination of folks everywhere. This has a lot of pet parents asking: Are mushrooms good for dogs and cats?
The answer to this question is an unequivocal and emphatic YES! Mushrooms are a superfood that contain high-quality protein, excellent fiber, and compounds that benefit human, canine, and feline health.
Advantages of Medicinal Mushroom Extracts
The cell wall of a fungus is made from two fibrous carbohydrates that are very strong. One type of fiber is called chitin, which also makes up the hard outer skeleton of crustaceans. The other type of fiber is beta-glucan, which is a long chain of sugar molecules that signal the immune system in your pet’s body to be on the lookout for pathogens and cancer.
While mushrooms are good for dogs, they’re also 90% water. In other words, you’d have to feed them A LOT of mushrooms to access enough healthy beta-glucans to help your pet live longer and help prevent disease.
The solution is to use an extracted mushroom product. These are much more potent (as long as you get a grain-free mushroom product) and can easily be mixed into each of your pets’ meals for concentrated health benefits.
A word of caution: some companies will skip a step in the cultivation of medicinal mushrooms. Rather than growing mushrooms, they grow mycelium (the fungal root structure) on grain. They then sell that product as a mushroom extract, even though there are no mushrooms in it. These products have low levels of desirable beta-glucans (less than 5%) and contain as much as 60% starch from the grain the mycelium was grown on.
Best Mushrooms for Dogs
Culinary mushrooms with the most beneficial compounds for your pets include maitake and shiitake. Beyond that, medicinal mushrooms that can benefit your pet in extract form include reishi, lion’s mane, turkey tail, and cordyceps. Each type has multiple unique benefits, but all of them will support your pet’s immune system and help stave off disease. The daily consumption of these fantastic fungi will benefit your pet’s health and longevity!
Important Tips for Feeding Pets Mushrooms
Mushrooms need to be cooked before your dog or cat can eat them. They’re very fibrous, so unless they’re cooked, they are hard to digest and many of their nutrients and health benefits won’t be released.
To cook mushrooms for your dog or cat, you can boil, sauté, or roast them for at least 15 minutes at about 200°F. The longer they’re cooked at temperatures around boiling, the more nutrients and medicinal properties are released.
Mushrooms to Avoid
Unless you’re an expert in mushroom identification, don’t give your dog mushrooms that you forage. Lots of wild mushrooms can look like edible mushrooms but are actually poisonous. Never let your dog eat a mushroom it finds growing—it might kill them. Never pick a mushroom unless you are 200% certain of its identification. Your safest bet is to stick with mushrooms you purchase at the market.