Lion’s Mane mushrooms are well named. These beautiful white, “toothed” mushrooms really do look like a lion’s mane!
They may be beautiful … but what makes them USEFUL is their ability to protect and improve brain and nerve function.
This makes the Lion’s Mane mushroom essential for senior dogs, dogs with degenerative myelopathy, and dogs with nerve-related disorders.
Let’s take a quick look at Lion’s Mane, then I’ll talk about its special benefits …
It Tastes Like Lobster!
The botanical name for Lion’s Mane is Hericium erinaceus. And it has a few other colorful names too … bearded tooth mushroom, hedgehog mushroom, satyr’s beard, bearded hedgehog mushroom, and pom-pom mushroom. In Chinese, they’re called Hou Tu Gu, which means monkey head mushroom.
As entertaining as those names are … they aren’t the best thing about Lion’s Mane mushrooms. Neither is the fact that they’re delicious and taste like lobster (add some butter)!
No … what’s really special about these fungi is their healing abilities.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used them for thousands of years for their long list of medicinal benefits:
In ancient China, Lion’s Mane were such prized medicinal mushrooms that they were reserved just for royalty.
Healing with Lion’s Mane
Lion’s Mane is especially famous for its ability to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF).
Its neurotrophic properties can help manage some challenging health issues. In fact, another of its nicknames is Nature’s nutrient for the neurons. I’ll talk more about that soon.
Other healing constituents of Lion’s Mane include polypeptides and fatty acids. Enzymes and oleanolic acids, polysaccharides and adenosine … can support immune and digestive health, and have anti-inflammatory effects.
That means Lion’s Mane can have some powerful therapeutic actions.
Researchers seem to love investigating Lion’s Mane. So there are an overwhelming number of studies showing what these mushrooms can do.
I tried to sift through some of the studies … and came up with some key reasons to use Lion’s Mane for your dog.
Top 5 Reasons To Give Your Dog Lion’s Mane
1. Improve Brain and Neurological Functions
As dogs age, they can often start to show some mental changes. In dogs this is CCD, or canine cognitive dysfunction. Some people call it doggie Alzheimer’s.
Senior dogs can get a little disoriented. You might see your dog stuck in a corner or behind furniture … or he may forget to go outdoors to pee. If you spot some of these signs, Lion’s Mane may help.
Prevention is important for doggie dementia. So giving Lion’s Mane to your younger dog may also help keep his brain working at its best.
Lion’s Mane are amazing mushrooms for boosting the brain and nervous system. The brain boosting benefits are by far their most famous medicinal property.
Lion’s Mane can actually improve brain function and memory.
It can also stimulate nerve growth … and even help regenerate damaged nerves.
Here are just a few of the studies.
- Japanese researchers Kawagishi et al published a 2004 study showing that Lion’s Mane supplementation improved functional capacity in a group of patients with mild dementia.
- Another Japanese study in 2009 found that test scores of participants who took Lion’s Mane tablets improved during the trial. (The trial showed they declined afterwards. … so long term use may be best.)
- In other research, Kawagishi et al also found that extracts (erinacine A from Lion’s Mane mycelium, and hericenones from fruiting bodies,) can pass through the blood-brain barrier and stimulate NGF (nerve growth factor) production.
This is one of the most important benefits of Lion’s Mane. NGF helps neurons in the brain survive.
And low NGF is linked to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Help For Degenerative Myelopathy?
Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a devastating, progressive disease. It’s not painful, but dogs with DM gradually lose mobility and become paralyzed in their rear legs.
Lion’s Mane might offer some hope for dogs with DM (which is a similar disease to MS or Multiple Sclerosis in humans).
Myelin is a lipid that forms a sheath around certain nerve fibers in the central nervous system. In MS, myelin sheaths can be damaged, preventing nerves from sending and receiving messages from the brain.
In Degenerative Myelopathy, your dog’s immune system attacks the myelin sheath. The chronic inflammation damages the myelin sheath.
This leads to progressive nerve tissue damage and loss of motor control.
Lion’s Mane may help with remyelination.
There are no studies in dogs … but fruiting body extract shows promise in degenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The extract works by improving myelination in patients with this immune-mediated disease.
Most conventional vets consider DM to be completely incurable. But holistic vets often find ways to help slow its progress or improve symptoms.
Here’s veterinarian Donna Kelleher DVM finding Lions Mane mushrooms growing in the woods. She talks about some of its benefits for nerve and spinal disease:
Lion’s Mane may also be useful in preventing and managing cancer.
Like other medicinal mushrooms. Lion’s Mane may have a role in supporting cancer patients.
- Korean research in 2011 and 2015 found Lion’s Mane helps fight leukemia. Further studies have shown Lion’s Mane can help activate apoptosis (cancer cell death).
- Lion’s Mane extracts helped prevent metastasis to the lungs in colon-cancer transplanted mice.
Several medicinal mushrooms are known for their immune-boosting abilities. Turkey tail mushrooms are especially known for their cancer-fighting strengths. And Lions Mane could be a valuable addition to your dog’s supplements to help both prevent and manage cancer.
3. Gut And Immune Health
Lion’s Mane can also support your dog’s digestive health, which supports his immune health.
More than 80% of your dog’s immune system lives in his gut, so gut health is the foundation of all health for your dog. Lion’s Mane research has shown immune system benefits in mice.
Lion’s Mane may also help regenerate the intestinal lining and may prevent or repair leaky gut. And it’s been shown to have anti-ulcer effects as well as control IBD.
- A 2013 Malaysian study found that Lion’s Mane had an anti-ulcer effect in rats. A Chinese study in 2015 confirmed this anti-ulcer success.
- Lion’s Mane extracts also improved symptoms of gastritis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IVD).
- In a 2017 Chinese study … polysaccharides in Lion’s Mane increased cell-mediated and humoral immunity in mice. Immune functions like NK (natural killer) cell activity and macrophage phagocytosis also improved.
This makes Lion’s Mane a valuable member of your dog’s gut and immune support team!
4. Heart Health
Lion’s Mane can support cardiovascular health by reducing chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to heart problems … and other related issues like diabetes.
Lion’s Mane may also help with fat metabolism. It can help control obesity, a contributing factor in heart disease. And it can limit oxidative stress to the arteries, reducing the chance of heart attack and stroke.
- Mice on a high fat diet lost weight when fed Lion’s Mane extracts.
- Malayan researchers found Lion’s Mane helped prevent oxidative stress that leads to vascular disease.
- Hericone B extracted from Lion’s Mane helped prevent blood clotting and could lower the risk of stroke.
If your dog has any risk factors for heart disease, is diabetic or tends to gain weight, give Lion’s Mane a try!
You always want to avoid using antibiotics for your dog’s infections. Antibiotics kill the bacteria causing the infection. But they destroy bacteria indiscriminately, so they also damage your dog’s microbiome.
Lion’s Mane looks like it has some powerful antibacterial properties.
MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a stubborn infection that often affects hospital patients. Antibiotic resistance makes MRSA very hard to ger rid of. Dogs can get a different strain of bacteria called MRSP – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus pseudointermedius. And, like MRSA, it can be very hard to treat.
These type of infections are more common in immune-compromised dogs.
MRSA or MRSP in dogs can lead to chronic problems like:
- Wounds that are slow to heal or get infected
- Persistent skin infections or abscesses
- Chronic UTIs, ear or eye infections
So it’s encouraging to see some studies showing the antibacterial effects of Lion’s Mane.
- A 2005 study published in the International Journal Of Medicinal Mushrooms found that extracts of Lion’s Mane fruiting bodies and mycelium had anti-MRSA activity. The researchers were then able to isolate the anti-MRSA compounds from the fungus.
- Lion’s Mane polysaccharides are also shown to have anti-H.pylori activity.
So, if your dog struggles with stubborn bacterial infections, Lion’s Mane may help fight them.
These are just a few of the many benefits Lion’s Mane can bring your dog.
How Much Lion’s Mane For Dogs
Lion’s Mane grows in many parts of the world. In North America, you might be lucky enough to find it if you’re on a hike in the Pacific Northwest.
If you find it growing wild, you can cook it and give your dog the whole mushrooms.
You could also buy Lion’s Mane growing kits and produce the mushrooms yourself. But be aware these won’t be as effective as Lion’s Mane that grows naturally on a tree … because they’ll contain mycelium. (See Caution below.)
Note: Always cook mushrooms for your dog. They can be indigestible and cause upset tummy if you give them raw.
But for the best results, give your dog a good Lion’s Mane supplement. Choose a mushroom supplement with no fillers.
Caution: Make sure your supplement is made from whole fruiting bodies, not mycelium. Many mushroom supplements are just mycelium. Mycelium is higher in starch and lower in the beta glucans that make medicinal mushrooms so healthy! Much of the research cited above was done with extracts from whole fruiting mushrooms.
Lion’s Mane Dose
If you buy a product made for dogs, follow the label dosing instructions. But most Lion’s Mane supplements are made for people. In that case assume the dose is for a 150 lb person and adjust for your dog’s weight.