Why Mushrooms Are So Good for Your Dog’s Gut Microbiome

From Lion’s Mane to Maitake, edible mushrooms are rich in prebiotic fiber and other nutrients that help improve the health of your dog’s gut microbiome.

Shiitake, Maitake and oyster mushrooms are considered some of the world’s tastiest edible mushrooms — and they’re just a few of the flavorful fungal delights available worldwide. But mushrooms aren’t just delicious. They also provide solid nutrition to your dog (and yourself!) thanks to their high levels of good quality protein and fiber, and their low levels of carbohydrates and fats. And it doesn’t end there. The high fiber content of mushrooms — which consists mainly of the non-digestible polysaccharides, chitin and beta glucan — is also a prime food for the “good” bugs that make up your dog’s gut microbiome.


The fiber nutrients in mushrooms that feed the good bugs in your dog’s microbiome are called “prebiotics.” The high levels of this prebiotic fiber, along with the immune-enhancing benefits of beta glucan fiber, means that mushrooms are very effective at helping to improve microbiome health. A number of published studies in dogs have shown that this fiber promotes the growth of beneficial microbes that power the health of your dog.


A recent study conducted in Japan showed that adding a small amount of dried, powdered Lion’s Mane mushroom to a commercial dry pet food significantly improved microbiome health in aging dogs. Lion’s Mane was chosen because it has historically and traditionally been found to improve a number of GI issues, including gastritis and esophagitis in the upper GI tract, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the lower bowel.

The four-month study involved 18 female dogs, all 11 years of age and all approximately the same weight, from three different breeds (Schnauzers, Poodles and Maltese). The dogs were broken into three groups of six. One group was fed a low potency test diet containing 400 mg of Lion’s Mane per kilogram of body weight; the second a high potency test diet with 800 mg of Lion’s Mane per kilogram of body weight; and the third a control diet with no Lion’s Mane.

The results showed that the two diets containing Lion’s Mane had some numerical differences but were statistically the same, meaning that 400 mg of Lion’s Mane per kilogram of body weight was as effective as 800 mg. The ratio of gut microbes changed from a higher number of Firmicutes to a higher level of Bacteroidetes, indicating an improvement in the microbiome health of the dogs eating food containing Lion’s Mane.

Another interesting finding from this study was an increase in a specific genus of bacteria called Blautia. This bacterial genus has been associated with visceral fat accumulation, and its presence indicates that Lion’s Mane has a potential anti-obesity effect on the microbiome. Other studies have also found that Lion’s Mane has an anti-obesity effect.

Understanding the Microbiome

  • The gut microbiome consists of bacteria, yeast fungi, and even some protozoa. Literally hundreds of different species of these microbes live in your dog’s bowel, and the total number of these bugs is in the trillions! It’s said there are more bugs in the bowel than there are cells in the body. Your dog’s skin (as well as your own) also has its own microbiome.
  • The health of the microbiome is measured by the relative and absolute numbers of the different “classes” of microorganisms it contains. For example, in a healthy microbiome, we have higher numbers of a group of bacteria called Bacteroidetes. Conversely, an unhealthy microbiome has higher numbers from the Firmicutes group, which is represented by bacteria such as the Streptococcus species. Another group of bacteria found in an unhealthy microbiome include Campylobacter, also known as a food-borne pathogen and common cause of diarrhea.
  • We now know that a healthy microbiome doesn’t just provide a healthy digestive system; it can also affect other systems within the body. We also know that as an individual ages, whether human or canine, the composition of their microbiome changes, predicting health and longevity or leading to age-related diseases

Selecting a Mushroom Product

Although the study outlined in this article was performed using Lion’s Mane mushroom, all mushrooms contain substantial microbiome-friendly fiber from their sturdy fungal cell walls. Any mushroom that’s properly extracted can provide benefits similar to those of Lion’s Mane. So there’s no need to switch to Lion’s Mane if your dog is already on a good mushroom supplement. The best mushroom products for the microbiome are 1:1 extracts. This type of extract has both the fiber that’s so crucial to a healthy microbiome, along with the beta glucans, terpenes, and all other active molecules commonly found in mushrooms.

Along with Lion’s Mane, many other mushrooms contain the prebiotic fiber and other nutrients necessary for supporting a healthy microbiome in your dog. Not all products are created equal, though, so it’s important to choose a quality extract that’s going to do the job. Given how important good microbiome health is, not only to digestive wellness but to overall well-being, it’s worth exploring what mushrooms can do for both yourself and your dog!




Dr. Robert J. Silver is a 1982 graduate of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He has pioneered the use of diet, herbs and nutraceuticals in his small animal integrative practice in Boulder, Colorado for the past 25 years. He writes and speaks both domestically and internationally to veterinary audiences on the value of blending holistic modalities with conventional medicine, and is a consultant to the pet food industry. He is also the Chief Medical Officer of Real Mushrooms for Pets.

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