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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. Wendy on February 22, 2015 at 6:56 am

    I have a 16 year old dog showing signs of dog dementia. I have been reading about medicinal mushrroms and benefits to humans with cognitive disfunction. Lions mane is one they suggest but wasn’t sure about it’s use in dogs.

  2. 'Genie on December 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I also give my dog (Tiki; Belgian Malinois) the powder form of NuVet Labs
    product….it seems to work very well for her. I stopped giving it to her, and
    have since resumed. It does her well. I am also cooking for her and giving
    her supplements for cancer, so her immune system is already compromised,
    but again, the product, I feel, really helps.

  3. Stella on November 15, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Hello Dr. Dressler,

    My 7 year old Yorkie-maltese was diagnosed with lymphoma about 2 months ago. She has been receiving the CHOP protocol, but due to finances we had to switch to 3 week doxorubicin, and now I’m thinking that I may need to stop chemo all together. Fortunately, she responded very well and is in remission:) I’m currently researches the Medicinal Mushrooms. We are not ready to stop fighting. I need more time with my baby. So, my questions, which mushroom is best for lymphoma? and how do you feel about pairing up the reishi mushroom and green tea? I need a cure! It amazing that we can put a man on the moon, but can’t cure cancer.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on November 27, 2012 at 11:53 am

      Stella, please take a little time and read the Guide as all these questions are directly answered. There is no single mushroom that has been shown specifically better- you are better off with a blend of biactive beta glucans like K-9 Immunity with transfer factor or similar. There are better supplements than green tea or EGCG which is also discussed in the guide in the section “supplement hierarchy”. I’d start with apoptogens like apocaps with maybe low dose oral neoplasene before green tea extracts for a variety of medical reasons. Please be sure to discuss with your vet or oncologist before any treatment is changed.
      Dr D

  4. Beta Glucan-containing mushrooms in the news again! on September 25, 2012 at 4:59 am

    […] glucans in dogs with cancer is a good idea! (By the way, we have more information in other posts here and here and of course in the Guide).  We also discuss easy ways to get beta glucans into your […]

  5. Michelle on July 16, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I am curious what your opinion is regarding NuVet Labs…….they have a wafer made from MANY ingredients that they guarantee to shrink tumors and offer a money back guarantee. According to their website, it was developed by 3 vets, a nutritional scientist, a pharmacist and a physician over the course of 8 yrs and and over the last 15 yrs has helped over 300,000 dogs with cancer as well as allergies. The product is not expensive like so many others; it runs $55 a bottle for 90 wafers if you order from their website and I believe it is available on others sites less expensive than that. The directions state to give 2 wafers a day for 2 wks then 1 wafer a day for dogs 5 to 100 lbs. I have ordered the product but would deeply appreciate any advice you have regarding the product itself. My boxer has recently had 4 masses removed and a lymph node aspirated. I know that one was a mast cell tumor but not sure about the others until pathology comes in. I thought this would be helpful since the main concentration of the product seems to be to shrink tumors. Thanks for all the work you do to support our best friends.

    • Dr. Demian Dressler on July 24, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Dear Michelle
      I think it is a nice vitamin with some nice supplements.
      I don’t think it should be thought of as something that will shrink tumors reliably. You certainly can try it and see of course.
      Dr D

  6. agaricus on June 1, 2012 at 12:06 am

    all of the diseases are dangerous whether they are huge or little at a stage they are all deadly and we should be really carefull about them. its really good that you are informing people about them so no one gets seriously ill and damaged with these diseases.

  7. […] Dressler’s own blog post, “Fantastic fungus and dog cancer..medicinal mushrooms!?” has more information about how edible mushrooms help dogs fight […]

  8. Kellie on October 22, 2011 at 9:21 am

    We’ve had success with K-9 Immunity. Here’s our story:

    We have a ten-year-old lab-hound mix who has thrived for 20 months since being diagnosed with lymphoma. We did four different chemo protocols in the first eight months, and she kept getting resistance. She has a huge tumor on her side, so we could feel when the chemo would stop working – the tumor would grow quickly to tennis ball size. 12 months ago, we decided to stop chemo and focus only on quality of life. The oncologist said she would have two months to live at best. We started K-9 Immunity that week (the pills, not the chews). She is 70+ pounds and gets 7 capsules daily. In two weeks, the tumor had decreased from tennis ball size to ping pong ball size. We were stunned and had our vet confirm it. It has now stayed the same size for 12 months. We just played fetch yesterday, and she has not slowed down. The only other thing we do for her is feed Evo low carb food and give Olive Leaf Extract or Flagyl antibiotic to deal with chronic diarrhea that the chemo caused and she will have for life.

    Now our 11-year-old yellow lab has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma and had a hind leg amputed two day ago. Started the K-9 Immunity immediately. She already has lung metastasis, but we’ll do what we can. No coughing or panting yet. Still considering adding the metonomic protocol, Apocaps, and other stuff from the guide.

    Just thought this might help those who are considering K-9 Immunity. I also have a friend who just started it for her dog with a lung mass. It stopped the coughing and panting in two weeks.

  9. Darlene on October 17, 2011 at 2:55 am

    Can the AHCC be given with Prednisone? Or would the immune-stimulating mushrooms cancel out the immunosuppressive Prednisone, and vice-versa? My vet knows nothing about mushrooms or any alternative therapies, so therefore is not much help.


    • Dr. Demian Dressler on October 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      Dear Darlene,
      I commonly use these together. Cancer cells don’t respond like normal white blood cells to immune stimulation.

  10. Mary McDonald on September 10, 2011 at 9:58 am

    I was really excited about the prospect of starting our 2 yr old lab on a mushroom supplement until I read that you don’t recommend it if the dog has an immune mediated or inflammatory disorder. Farley has osteoarthritis as a result of OCD in all 4 limbs and had two Grade 2 mast cells removed (incompletely) last week. We see an oncologist on Monday. He had successful surgery on both elbows last year, but surgery on his hocks was inadvisable. As a result, the djd in his hocks is quite severe. We planned to have arthrodesis done at some point in the future as was recommended. I assume that osteoarthritis would be an inflammatory disorder that you referred to in the article. Could you please advise why you don’t recommend mushrooms for cancer dogs with inflammatory disorders?

    • DemianDressler on September 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      Dear Mary,
      there are many types of inflammatory disorders. Cancer is yet another if we look deep enough.. It is the immune mediated inflammatory joint diseases that I suggest avoiding with these supplements. This is because non specific immune stimulation can worsen a disease caused by immune attack of normal body cells. OCD is no problem most of the time. I would also have you consider your omega 3’s, the COX-2 inhibiting apoptogens including the luteolin found in Apocaps, dog cancer diet, and so on…more in the Guide. Make sure your vet is involved in all steps…
      I hope this helps

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