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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Fantastic fungus and dog cancer..medicinal mushrooms!?

Updated: April 13th, 2021

Yes, you read that right.  Certain kinds of mushrooms have immune boosting and anti-cancer effects. Some examples of these mushrooms include Shitake (yes, the same one we eat in Chinese restaurants), Maitake, Reishi, Cordyceps, Coriolus, Agaricus and Cordyceps. The good folks over at Aloha Medicinals have known about this forever.  I spoke with Dr. John Holliday who spearheads their research a while back to get the lowdown on this very interesting area.  Subsequently, I began using their products on my patients.

And I found they work.  They extend life, slow progression, and keep life quality high in dog cancer patients beyond traditional care expectations.

They do this in three main ways.  First, they are immune enhancing.  Second, they stimulate the immune system.  Lastly, they help with the toxic side effects of chemo and radiation.

Coriolus contains two interesting compounds that have attracted major interest in China, PSK and PSP.  PSK has made it all the way to stage 3 clinical trials (out of 4). Taken together, PSK and PSP  improved survival times significantly for cancers of the  lung, stomach, ovary, breast, colon, rectum, the nasal-throat area, and cervix. In addition, they improved life quality, decreased pain, boosted the immune system, and decreased side effects of chemo and radiation. Here is the link. These compounds are very exciting and are found in Aloha Medicinal products, as well as other medicinal mushroom blends.

An extract of Maitake taken by mouth was shown to help human patients live longer and suffer less cancer symptoms in a study out of Japan.  Patients with cancer of the liver, breast and lung showed the most improvement, while those with leukemia, stomach cancer, and brain cancer showed minimal improvement.  This paper also showed that the immune system was more active in the patients receiving the Maitake extract.

Cordyceps extract did slow the growth of tumors in mice, and was able to protect mice from some of the side effects from the chemo drug taxol in another study.  In particular, the mice were able to regenerate their white blood cell counts, as white blood cell suppression is a frequent side effect seen with chemo. Cordyceps was also able to mitigate the effects of radiation toxicity in mice in a further study.

Immune suppression is a big part of cancer progression, and these mushrooms help overcome this problem via immune stimulation.Coriolus, Shitake, Maitake, Reishi, Cordyceps, Agaricus and others contain a carbohydrates in the beta-glucan family.  Beta-glucans stimulate white blood cells (lymphocytes including T cells and NK cells, and macrophages) through several mechanisms.

Shitake extract taken orally was shown to increase red and white blood cell formation following radiation in mice. This may have positive effects for chemo agents that cause anemia and low white counts (which many do).

A clinical study is published in the Aloha Medicinals website, showing the benefit of a blend of different medicinal mushrooms in late stage cancer patients.  Although they have an vested interest, it is still useful to consider.

I believe these mushrooms (K-9 Immunity, available through Aloha Medicinals), along with their boosting supplements (Transfer Factor) should be considered for a part of the full-spectrum care plan for dogs afflicted with cancer. According to Dr. Holliday, who is collecting large amounts of data on their supplement, he is possibly most impressed with the effects of these products for dogs with osteosarcoma.

Most of the whole mushrooms have an antioxidant effect, which may interfere with chemo and radiation.  The use of these mushrooms should be timed after consultation with your vet or oncologist.  Additionally, like any supplement taken orally, digestive upset is possible.  They should probably be avoided in dogs with immune mediated diseases or other inflammatory disorders.  Please discuss this with your vet or oncologist.

Leave a Comment

  1. Melanie on October 10, 2022 at 2:33 am

    Morning Dr. Dressler,
    Quick question- in Jan 2022 my dog , Chester, was diagnosed with HSA of the tongue I immediately started him on a low sugar, low carb , low starch , protein forward homemdade diet and also gave him ground mushrooms from dried whole turkey tails, corydceps, maitake, shitake, reishi & chaga ( as of March 2022)
    in May 2022, I noticed that Chester had a lot of black tarish looking substance in his ear everyday and still has it up to today . I did stop the mushrooms for a bit ( 1 mth) and then continued off and on. All the while he still has had the black ear “gunk”. Do you know the best method to relieve him of this ? And is it possible that he will keep this fungus within his body forever?
    Many thanks
    Melanie asking for Chester

    • Kate Basedow, LVT on October 10, 2022 at 8:48 am

      Hi Melanie! The ear gunk is likely unrelated to the medicinal mushrooms you were giving Chester. The fungi that can cause ear infections are a different group of “critters” than edible and medicinal mushrooms. The black gunk is most likely a bacterial infection, but could also be ear mites and/or a yeast infection. Your vet can easily diagnose this by taking a swab from each ear and looking at it under the microscope. Then the staff will clean your boy’s ears out thoroughly and send you home with the right ear meds to resolve the issue. If he hates getting ear meds, ask about a long-acting option. Good luck!

  2. Jane Mimbs on August 12, 2020 at 11:07 am

    My dog has cancer .A tumor. Need all the natural approach books I can get and best supplements.

    • Molly Jacobson on August 13, 2020 at 10:16 am

      Hi Jane! I use several supplements: Apocaps, modified citrus pectin, medicinal mushrooms, transfer factor, EverPup for a multi-vitamin for home-cooked food. You should definitely pick up a copy of Dr. Dressler’s book — it covers both conventional and the best supplement, diet, and mind-body recommendations. Use it in good health and take care. Don’t forget to breathe as you research and make a plan!

  3. Susan Kazara Harper on February 22, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Wendy, Bless your heart and your beautiful 16 year old ‘pup’. You can find so many thingson the internet, and I have to say that whatever you find there are really important aspects to look for….. Does the ‘proof’ include real trials with animals, particularly dogs? Can the substance be taken by mouth, and does it survive the digestive process (is it bioavailable)? This part is left out a lot by markting departments. I recommend you look at EverPup. EverPup ( was designed by Dr Dressler after his nutraceutical Apocaps had such good results with dogs who had cancer. Clients asked “how can I keep my healthy dog, healthy?” EverPup is packed only with good, natural ingredients in the highest quality, and one of the benefits (besides joint helath, digestive health, good digestion and shiny coat) is improved cognitive function. In other words, improved braing function. Dr D’s own dog showed improvement within a few weeks of starting EverPup. It was an aspect not expected. You can find EverPup at the website, at Amazon, and one of the best deals is through the EverPup Club ( Take a look at the ingredients and teh reasons for including them, and I think you’ll find it worth a try. Big hugs to your beautiful dog. Good luck!

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