One of the world’s most popular mushrooms in the kitchen also has a thousand-year-old reputation for its medicinal value. Plus they’re easy to find, easy to prepare and easy to feed to your dog. So why wouldn’t you start including it in your dog’s diet today?
If you haven’t been giving your dog the many benefits of the magical shiitake mushroom, it’s time to start.
What Are Shiitake Mushrooms?
The shiitake mushroom is an edible mushroom and part of the Lentinula edodes species. It’s native to East Asia. The nutrient-rich shiitake has been a staple in diets for hundreds of years. Like many plants and herbs, these mushrooms are important in traditional herbal medicine.
Shiitake mushrooms are used for their antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. And they’re a good source of zinc. Dogs can have a zinc deficiency that leads to skin and digestive issues. They need to have a constant source of zinc in their diet and shiitake mushrooms are a good source. A cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms has almost 2 mg of zinc.
Shiitake mushrooms are easy to find in fresh, dried or powdered form. The powdered form is more concentrated so it has a higher nutritional value. And it’s an easier way to feed your dog shiitake mushrooms. You can find powdered and dried shiitake mushrooms through online retailers. But to be sure your dog is getting the medicinal benefits from the powdered form, it needs to be double extracted. That makes them safe and nutritional for your dog too.
If you want fresh, you can find shiitake in the produce section of supermarkets. They’re also in specialty markets, health food stores and some bulk food stores. They’ll be where you find ingredients for soup. But for mushrooms to be safe and nutritional for your dog, they need to be cooked. That goes for the dried mushrooms too. You need to rehydrate them and then heat them. After that you can slice, blend and mix them into your dog’s food.
Shiitake mushrooms are a high protein source and contain many of the same amino acids as meat. Whether fresh or dried, shiitake mushrooms contain a long list of beneficial nutrients. This includes vitamins and minerals, enzymes, fiber, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
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Are Shiitake Mushrooms Safe For Dogs?
Absolutely. Shiitake mushrooms are safe for dogs, and they’re great for dogs. Shiitake mushrooms aren’t found in the wild. So you don’t have to worry about getting poisonous mushrooms. You can also grow them, with some effort. But it’s easiest to get them at the supermarket.
And shiitake mushrooms aren’t just safe … they can help improve your dog’s health.
10 Reasons To Feed Your Dog Shiitake Mushrooms
Let’s look at some of the benefits your dog will get from shiitake mushrooms …
1. Immune Function Support
Shiitake mushrooms are full of nutrients that support immune function:
- Vitamin D
- Protein including the amino acid glutamine
Shiitake also have lentinan, a beta-glucan that’s only found in shiitake. It boosts the immune system by increasing production of killer T cells and NK cells. Subjects in a study ate 2 dried shiitake mushrooms a day for a month. Results showed that their immune levels increased and inflammation dropped.
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2. Cancer Fighting Properties
The lentinan in shiitake mushrooms can also fight cancer. It increases the production of cancer-fighting alpha interferon.
In one study, injected lentinan inhibited the growth of leukemia cells. Another study showed that mycochemicals from shiitake mushrooms caused apoptosis … cancer cell death. Other studies show shiitake suppress and treat gastric cancer cells in humans. And they can improve the outcome of conventional chemotherapies.
Shiitake mushrooms can also help control inflammation in your dog’s body. This is important because chronic inflammation can lead to cancer and other long-term health problems for your dog.
3. Weight Control
Have you heard of The Green Bean Diet? It’s what many dog owners suggest when your dog needs to lose weight. Instead, add shiitake mushrooms to your dog’s meal. Shiitake mushrooms increase satiety (the feeling of fullness) making them great for weight loss.
This is because shiitake mushrooms contain soluble dietary fiber. One component is beta-glucan. It increases satiety, reduces food intake and delays the absorption of nutrients. Shiitake also contain phytonutrients that support heart health and immune function.
Researchers found that rats on a diet with a high dose of shiitake mushrooms had a 35% lower body weight gain. This was better than rats on low or medium mushroom diets. The rats on the higher dose of shiitake also had a lower total fat mass and lower fat accumulation. Adding mushroom powder to a high fat diet still resulted in weight loss.
4. Antioxidant Properties
Shiitake mushrooms have large amounts of mycochemicals, which are compounds unique to fungi. This includes important antioxidants that prevent and address chronic diseases. Shiitake also has ergothioneine (an amino acid) and selenium, which are antioxidative.
These potent antioxidants control harmful free radicals and preserve cellular health. They capture free radicals in your dog’s body and neutralize them. Free radicals are damaged cells. Left unchecked, they can continue to damage other cells. Antioxidants prevent damage that can cause premature aging, cancer and inflammatory diseases.
5. Cardiovascular Support
Shiitake mushrooms are a heart-healthy food. They’re low in sodium and free of saturated fats. And they contain linoleic acid. This is an omega-6 essential fatty acid needed to support heart health. Lentinan also supports the heart.
Cholesterol is also a risk for your dog’s heart, especially since many dogs eat a diet high in fat. Luckily, shiitake mushrooms contain many compounds that fight cholesterol. They contain eritadenine, which inhibits an enzyme that produces cholesterol. The beta-glucans in shiitake also lower cholesterol. And shiitake have sterols that stop cholesterol absorption in your dog’s gut.
One study even showed a 25% cholesterol reduction in rats that ate shiitake mushrooms for one week.
Finally, the potassium in shiitake mushrooms may help reduce blood pressure. This is important for dogs with kidney disease or Cushing’s that may have high blood pressure.
6. Antimicrobial Properties
Shiitake mushrooms are being tested against bacteria. One study found shiitake extract was effective against 85% of the bacterial organisms tested. Shiitake also controlled yeast and mold.
There was a test of shiitake mushroom extract on gum disease. It showed the mushroom extract lowered pathogenic organisms. And it did it without damaging the organisms needed for good health.
7. B Vitamins For Energy And Brain Function
Shiitake mushrooms might be helpful in aging dogs who experience cognitive disorders. That’s because they contain high amounts of B vitamins. And B vitamins convert into energy and improve cognitive performance.
The B vitamins also balance hormones and support adrenal function. Your dog’s adrenal glands produce steroids that are important in regulating his organs and body systems.
8. High Vitamin D Content
When left in the sunlight, shiitake mushrooms have the highest content of vitamin D of any plant food. In the sun, they’ll produce ergosterol, or vitamin D2. You’ll only find higher amounts of vitamin D in fish, fowl, meat and eggs. Then you can include more vitamin D in your dog’s diet without resorting to synthetic vitamins.
Your dog needs this important vitamin for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Your dog also needs vitamin D for bone health and immune system support. And it’s needed to avoid heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and some cancers.
Feeding your dog vitamin D as a food source is the best way to give nutrients. And whole mushroom includes cofactors and other nutrients that boost absorption.
9. Selenium For Coat & Skin Health
Shiitake mushrooms contain the trace element selenium. It contributes to the health of your dog’s skin and coat. And with their zinc content, shiitake mushrooms can also improve skin healing. Selenium also helps in hormone balance and immune function. And it can reduce cancer, decrease DNA damage and improve joint health.
10. Digestion And Gut Health
Shiitake mushrooms contain fiber that supports digestion and gut health. These fibers also inhibit inflammation in the gut. And that helps maintain a healthy microbiome. They also contain up to 30 different enzymes that help digestion. One of the enzymes is amylase. It helps break down starches. That’s helpful for dogs on a high-starch kibble diet.
How To Feed Shiitake Mushrooms
Like most vegetables, mushrooms contain fiber. Dogs don’t have the enzymes to break down fiber so you cook the mushrooms or rehydrate and heat dried mushrooms. The powdered version should be double extracted to give your dog full nutritional and medicinal benefits. That’s a good thing because some dogs, like kids, don’t like the texture of mushrooms. In fact, powdered mushrooms make it easy to mix into their food.
Buy shiitake mushrooms dried or dry them yourself and grind them in a spice mill or blender. Then you can add a daily dose to your dog’s dinner. A tablespoon or 2 would be equal to 3-4 small mushrooms.
You can also get supplements in powder and capsule form. Just make sure they’re made from whole mushrooms … not just mycelium. A whole mushroom has a high content of beta-glucan. And that provides many of the medicinal effects. The mycelium is like the root and doesn’t have much beta-glucan. Mycelium is usually grown on grain. This increases the starch content and lowers the beta-glucan. Your dog would be missing out on anti-cancer and immune-supporting properties.
Follow the directions on the package to give it to your dog. If it’s for humans, calculate it for a 150 pound person and then adjust it for the weight of your dog.
Add shiitake mushrooms to your dog’s food. You’ll be giving him a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals with a long list of benefits to keep him healthy and happy.
Beelman, Robert, et al. Is ergothioneine a ‘longevity vitamin’ limited in the american diet? J Nutr Sci. 2020 Nov 11;9:e52.
Dai, Xiashuang., et al. Consuming lentinula edodes (shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: A randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults. J AM Coll Nutr. 2015;34(6):478-87.
Islam, Tahidul, et al. New insight into mycochemical profiles and antioxidant potential of edible and medicinal mushrooms: A review. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2019;21(3):237-251.
Fang, N., et al. Inhibition of growth and induction of apoptosis in human cancer cell lines by an ethyl acetate fraction from shiitake mushrooms. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Mar;12(2):125-32.
Ciric, L. et al. In vitro assessment of shiitake mushroom (lentinula edodes) extract for its antigingivitis activity. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2011;2011:507908.
Hearst, R., et al. An examination of antibacterial and antifungal properties of constituents of shiitake (lentinula edodes) and oyster (pleurotus ostreatus) mushrooms. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2009;15:5–7.
Sharadamma, K.D., et al. Role of selenium in pets health and nutrition: A review. Asian Journal of Animal Sciences. 2012 Apr 22;5:64-70.
Ina, Kenji., et al. The use of lentinan for treating gastric cancer. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Jun;13(5):681–688.