medicinal mushrooms for dogs

Did you know medicinal mushrooms can have a powerful affect on your pet’s health?

Mielle was diagnosed with a bleeding hemiangiosarcoma of the spleen. The 14-year-old standard poodle was weak from blood loss and had not eaten in a few days. She also had osteoarthritis in her knees, as well as spondylosis, and could hardly stand. The attending veterinarian thought her case hopeless and suggested it might be time to think about euthanasia.

Her family brought Mielle to me to for a second opinion, and I prescribed Chinese herbs to quell the bleeding and a tonic for the blood loss. We put her on a formula of the three power mushrooms (Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake) as well as antioxidants.

Mielle recovered her strength and appetite and now takes short walks. The tumor is stable, her color and pulses good, and she is maintaining a good quality of life. The tumor has not gone away, but the “life” and the “light” have come back.

For centuries, various cultures around the world have used mushrooms for medicinal purposes. Modern research backs up what ancient healers and scientists learned through practical experience – studies indicate that medicinal mushrooms (MMs) contain polysaccharides, lysozymes and triterpenes, which have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-tumor properties. Some mushrooms contain compounds that stimulate the immune system, and assist healing of the liver, kidneys, and heart tissues.

Medicinal mushrooms for cancer

The most common use of medicinal mushrooms is in the treatment and prevention of cancers. Results compiled from research suggest that whole-mushroom extracts contain compounds that modulate tumorigenesis and carcinogenesis at different stages. Because they have many different mechanisms and modes of action on cancer cells via the immune system, medicinal mushrooms could potentially provide additive benefits and synergistic effects in the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Besides being Qi (life energy) tonics in general, medicinal mushrooms can support the treatment of TCM symptoms categorized as Excess Dampness, Damp Phlegm or Damp Heat, which include edema, diarrhea, urinary tract infections, uterine infections, prostate problems, diseases of the kidneys, and inflammation.

In addition to having phytotherapeutic actions, these fungal wonders of nature contain many different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein and sterols. They are easily administered with little or no side effects.

The powerful three: Reishi, Maitake, and Shiitake


Reishi, Ling Zhi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Reishi, often called “The Herb of Immortality”, is my favorite mushroom, both for personal use and to dispense in my practice in various forms and combinations with other mushrooms, herbs, and antioxidants. TCM regards the fruiting body as a nourishing Qi tonic. The “actives” are found in the polysaccharide, lysosomal enzyme, and triterpene constituents of the fungus. Reishi also contains more germanium than any other plant or mushroom. Germanium increases oxygen utilization of the blood, making it useful in the treatment of altitude sickness and heart disease.

Maitake (Grifola frondosa)

Maitake means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese, or “chicken of the woods” in the West. It is commonly found growing in the eastern USA, Europe and Asia. Rarely, it is reported in the Pacific Northwest. The name probably comes from the fact that this mushroom grows in overlapping groups that resemble butterflies in a wild dance. Japan grows these mushrooms commercially, since wild-crafted mushrooms are now endangered, if not extinct, in many areas.


Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

Shiitake is an edible mushroom highly appreciated for its nutritional and medicinal properties. In Japan, it has always been considered an “elixir of life”, possessing the ability to enhance vital energy and cure colds. Shiitake contain 30 enzymes, ten amino acids, and is high in many minerals. Recent studies report that substances in this popular fungus can reduce blood pressure, decrease blood cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease, and fight cancer. Other studies show its potential antibiotic actions. In general, Shiitake stimulates WBCs, antibodies and interferon, and inhibits prostaglandins.

Mixing mushrooms

By using Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake together, their individual positive effects become enhanced. Other mushrooms, Chinese herbs, and antioxidants may also be added to this synergistic base. For example, Trametes versicolor can be added to treat lymphoma or bone cancer, and Cordyceps sinensis can be added to help support the treatment of kidney problems, liver cancers, and hepatitis.


I use both whole herb mushroom extract powders and a few formulations (combinations). The powder forms can be simply added to food. As with anything else, consult with a holistic or integrative veterinarian for the correct usage and dosage for your own animal’s individual requirements. Administered properly, medicinal mushrooms are powerful healers that can help with many diseases and conditions in both dogs and cats.

Common Uses for Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake

• Geriatric diseases with chronic debilitation complex: muscle atrophy, cardiac problems, and weakness (Qi Deficiencies)

• Alone or in conjunction with chemotherapy for cancer patients (synergistic effects)

• Side-effects of cortisone therapy (adaptogenic and hepato-protective)

• Supportive care with Cushing’s disease (adaptogenic)

• Weak puppies or kittens with severe parasitism

• Cats with compromised immune systems (FIV, FIP, FeLV) or kittens with viral upper respiratory tract infections

• Hepatitis, liver failure, mushroom poisoning

• Adjunct to antibiotic or anti-fungal pharmaceuticals (synergistic effect)

• Acute and chronic cystitis (used with Poria cocos and Polyporus umbellatus)

• Urinary incontinence (used with Cordyceps )

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Veterinarian Dr. Ihor Basko graduated from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine with a focus in internal medicine, cardiology, and bone surgery. He managed a busy emergency animal hospital in San Jose, California. In 1971, he participated in the first acupuncture study to test the efficacy of holistic modalities on physical ailments in pets, at the University of California in L.A. Since then, Dr. Basko has been devoted to the study and practice of acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, homeopathy, massage, and other alternative therapies. He is one of the founders of the VBMA, and authored Fresh Food & Ancient Wisdom.