It’s that time of year when preventing canine flu and kennel cough become a top priority. One of the best ways to do this is through the use of functional foods – foods that benefit your dog’s health beyond basic nutrition.
When it comes to fighting off infection, mushrooms are a must-have. They’re immunostimulating, antibacterial and antiviral. Together, these properties act as an immune boosting sidekick that can help protect your dog from getting sick.
So today I’ll talk about some of the best mushrooms you can use to prevent kennel cough and canine flu. And I’ll tell you how to safely add them to your dog’s dish.
How Mushrooms Protect Your Dog
Mushrooms live in some pretty harsh environments, so they’ve had to build up their natural defenses. When your dog eats mushrooms, these defenses are passed on to him.
Mushrooms contain many vitamins and minerals that boost your dog’s overall health. And they’re full of potent antioxidants that …
Mushrooms also have a polysaccharide (soluble fiber) called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is found in the cell walls of mushrooms and is a prebiotic that feeds the healthy bacteria in your dog’s digestive tract. In return, the bacteria secrete metabolites that boost your dog’s health. The beta-glucans found in certain mushrooms also bind to and stimulate immune cells to enhance the immune response. All of this helps strengthen your dog’s immune system, which means he’ll have a better chance of preventing kennel cough and other infections.
The Best Mushrooms To Prevent Kennel Cough
Now that you understand why mushrooms can help protect your dog from kennel cough … let’s look at which mushrooms you should reach for.
1. Shiitake (Lentinus edodes)
Shiitake is a good mushroom to start with because you can find it in most grocery stores. It’s a popular choice for adding flavor to dishes but shiitake’s benefits go beyond that. It’s also an immune boost that can help prevent kennel cough and other infections.
In 2015, shiitake proved effective in increasing human immunity and reducing inflammation. In another study, researchers found that shiitake can slow virus growth and boost the immune system. This helped increase the survival rates of mice infected with influenza.
2. Miatake (Grifola frondosa)
Miatake are known as adaptogen mushrooms. This means they can help regulate stress and hormones.
Stress can take a toll on anyone, including your dog. It drains important nutrients and interferes with critical systems, including the immune system. Helping your dog to minimize stress through diet will help him fight off infection.
Miatake also stimulates the cellular and humoral immune reactions to improve immune response. Other studies show that miatake may help protect against influenza and other virus. And it can reduce cold symptoms.
3. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi is the mushroom of immortality, which makes sense when you consider all their benefits. And there’s a lot of research to back up their benefits when it comes to fighting off viruses.
The polysaccharides in reishi mushrooms inhibit viral replication. This slows the virus’s growth rate and gives the immune system a better chance to fight off infection. Reishi also acts as an immune booster. It does this by reducing inflammation and protecting the liver from toxin overload.
4. Turkey Tail (Trametes/Coriolus versicolor)
Many studies have looked at turkey tail’s antiviral and immune-boosting benefits. In a recent study, turkey tail increased the release of antiviral molecules and immune-supporting anti-inflammatories. This can be very helpful in preventing kennel cough.
5. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)
Chaga mushrooms grow on birch trees. They aren’t the prettiest of mushrooms but they sure do pack a medicinal punch. Research shows that chaga can help fight many viral infections including:
While not all these viruses can infect dogs, it does show the strong antiviral benefits of chaga. And that means it may help prevent kennel cough.
Researchers believe chaga is so beneficial because it increases cytokine production. Cytokines tell white blood cells how to behave. The more cytokines there are … the more effectively white blood cells can target infections.
6. Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)
In the wild, cordyceps grow on caterpillars. But, the ones you buy are most likely cultivated by growers. Cultivated cordyceps aren’t as potent as wild ones but they are less expensive. And they still offer many of the same benefits, including keeping kennel cough at bay.
Cordyceps can help with lung and bronchial conditions. Studies also show that cordyceps have an anti-influenza effect in mice. This is because they increase the number of immune cells. Especially those responsible for an immediate reaction when your dog’s body detects an invader.
Now you know which mushrooms are best suited for preventing kennel cough and disease. Next I want to talk about how to add them to your dog’s meals.
Never Feed Your Dog Raw Mushrooms
Before you feed your dog mushrooms, be sure to cook or dehydrate them. There are two important reasons for this …
- Mushrooms have a chitin wall. This protects the beneficial nutrients and compounds inside of the mushroom but it also makes it harder for your dog to digest them. To release the beneficial compounds, the mushrooms must be warmed.
- Even the safest mushrooms can cause digestive upset or be toxic when raw.
How To Choose The Best Mushrooms
While some mushrooms are easy to find in a local grocery store, others are much more difficult.
That’s why your best bet is usually a mushroom supplement but … you need to be picky when you look for a supplement. Otherwise, they won’t provide the benefits needed to prevent kennel cough.
Beta-glucans are one of the main reasons mushrooms are such powerful immune stimulators. The problem is, most mushroom products use mycelium grown in rice and not the whole body. Mycelium is the vegetative body of a mushroom … you can think of it as the root.
But mycelium only has trace amounts of beta-glucan. And because mycelium products are often grown in rice or grain, they’re beta-glucans aren’t as potent. That’s because the beta-glucans from the rice and grain lack the immunostimulating properties.
In fact, researchers compared the labels of 19 mushrooms products to their contents. Only 5 out of the products actually had the beta-glucan content listed on their labels.
For the best results, steer clear of products made from mycelium. Look for full body mushroom products that are grown the way nature intended.
If you do decide to feed your dog whole mushrooms, be sure to buy organic. Mushrooms can absorb toxins and pesticides, which will then get passed on to your dog. (And remember … they must be cooked).
No matter how you choose to feed them, mushrooms can be a powerhouse of benefits for your dog. Why not add them to his dish?