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Turkey Tail Mushrooms: A Natural Immune Booster for Dogs

Turkey Tail Mushrooms: A Natural Immune Booster for Dogs
The turkey tail mushroom, known scientifically as Trametes versicolor or Coriolus versicolor, is a medicinal mushroom that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, called Yun Zhi. They are found all over the world, including in the United States.

More recently, it has gained popularity in the West as a supplement to support immune health in both humans and pets. This mushroom contains a number of unique compounds that have been shown to have anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties. 

While research is still ongoing, initial studies suggest turkey tail mushrooms are beneficial for strengthening the immune systems of dogs, supporting wellness, and may be used as an effective cancer treatment for dogs to extend life that may not require them to go to the veterinarian regularly, unlike chemotherapy treatments. 

Fortunately, turkey tail mushrooms have been extensively studied for their medicinal use, and you can rest assured that this is a great supplement to help your dog live a longer and healthier life.

An Overview of Turkey Tail Mushroom

Turkey tail mushroom grows abundantly worldwide. The cap of the mushroom has colorful concentric bands reminiscent of the fanned-out tail feathers of a turkey, giving it the common name turkey tail. Other names for this mushroom include cloud mushroom, or kawaratake in Japan, and many-zoned polypore.

The medicinal uses of this mushroom were first recorded in traditional Chinese medicine texts more than 1000 years ago. Traditional uses included supporting general health and vitality, tonifying the Qi, cleansing the blood, and treating respiratory infections. Turkey tail was commonly consumed as a tea or added to herbal formulations.

In modern times, the primary active constituents found in turkey tail mushrooms have been identified. These include polysaccharide compounds called beta glucans and triterpenoids. The polysaccharides can be identified and measured, so now you know the exact dosage needed in order to get all of the benefits of these incredible mushrooms.

The beta glucans found in turkey tail mushrooms, including PSK and PSP, have been the most extensively researched. These polysaccharides are thought to be responsible for stimulating the immune system. Triterpenoids like Coriolus versicolor polysaccharide peptide (CPSP) have also demonstrated immune-enhancing as well as anti-tumor effects.

Potential Benefits for Dogs

While human research on turkey tail mushroom is more extensive, studies in dogs suggest it may offer similar immune-supporting and anti-cancer benefits. Here is an overview of the key areas under investigation:

Supports Immune System Function

The beta glucans and other bioactive compounds in turkey tail mushrooms appear to stimulate and regulate the immune system. Some of the ways turkey tail may support immune function include:

  • Activating immune cells such as lymphocytes and natural killer cells
  • Increasing production of immune cytokines and immunoglobulins
  • Enhancing macrophage activity to clear pathogens and cellular debris
  • Supporting gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) function
  • Modulating overactive immune responses in autoimmune diseases

By stimulating immune cell activity and balancing immune system function, turkey tail helps strengthen immune defenses against infections and disease. This makes it a potentially useful supplement for senior dogs or dogs with weakened immune systems.

Anti-Cancer Effects

One of the most promising uses of turkey tail mushroom is as an anti-cancer agent. Compounds like PSP and CPSP have been shown to have anti-tumor properties such as:

  • Preventing development and spread of cancer cells
  • Reducing angiogenesis (growth of blood vessels to feed tumors)
  • Inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells
  • Enhancing the effects of chemotherapy drugs and radiation

In particular, turkey tail mushrooms may be helpful for canine cancers like hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, and mammary gland tumors. More research is needed, but turkey tail shows potential for both preventing cancer and slowing its progression as an adjunct therapy.

Supports Digestive Health

The polysaccharides in turkey tail function as prebiotics in the gut. Prebiotics provide “food” for beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species. This helps support a healthy microbiome by increasing populations of these good bacteria.

A flourishing population of probiotics has many benefits including improved digestion and absorption of nutrients, production of vitamins, and prevention of pathogenic bacterial overgrowth. Turkey tail’s prebiotic effects may be useful for dogs with digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and diarrhea.

Phytonutrients

Turkey tail mushrooms also contain health-boosting phytochemicals including the antioxidant phenolic compounds gallic acid, protocatechuic acid and catechin. These phytonutrients can help support liver function.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases in dogs. Turkey tail contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in various body systems. For example, turkey tail may help soothe inflammatory conditions in the digestive tract, urinary tract, respiratory system, joints, and nervous system.

Antioxidant Properties

Turkey tail mushroom contains antioxidants such as phenols and flavonoids. These compounds counter the effects of oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals damage important cellular components like DNA, proteins, and cell membranes.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, limiting this damage. Providing antioxidant support with turkey tail mushroom may therefore help reduce risk and progression of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, osteoarthritis, and other inflammatory conditions.

May Support Neurologic Health

Some research indicates turkey tail mushroom contains compounds that can protect nerve cells and support nervous system health. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatories may help reduce damage to neurons and nerve tissue. More studies are needed, but turkey tail shows early promise for dogs with age-related neurologic decline or neurodegenerative diseases.

Research on Turkey Tail for Dogs

While human trials make up the bulk of the research on turkey tail mushroom so far, a handful of canine studies have produced promising results:

  • Antioxidant effects: A 2012 study found that giving dogs turkey tail extract increased blood levels of the antioxidant glutathione and reduced markers of oxidative stress. The researchers concluded turkey tail shows potential for protecting dogs against oxidative damage.
  • Safety and tolerability: A safety study in 2004 administered turkey tail extract to healthy dogs for 6 weeks. No adverse effects were observed on blood cell counts, blood chemistry, or other measured parameters. The extract was well tolerated.
  • Anti-tumor effects: A small 2006 study looked at using turkey tail extract in combination with chemotherapy for dogs with hemangiosarcoma. The combination appeared to reduce metastasis and prolong survival times compared to chemotherapy alone.
  • Immune stimulation: An in vitro study in 2017 found that a polysaccharide fraction from turkey tail stimulated activity of canine immune cells including T lymphocytes and macrophages. This provides evidence that turkey tail mushrooms can enhance immune function in dogs.

While more extensive clinical trials are still needed, these early studies demonstrate the potential benefits of turkey tail mushroom for dogs, particularly for supporting immune function and anti-cancer activity. Research in humans and rodent models also helps support the use of this medicinal mushroom for dogs.

Choosing and Administering Turkey Tail Supplements

When choosing a turkey tail supplement for your dog, look for a reputable brand that uses certified organic mushrooms. Extracts should be standardized to contain a guaranteed level of active compounds like PSP (Polysaccharopeptide) and Peptides. Make sure the product does not contain unnecessary fillers, additives, or preservatives.

The optimal dosage of turkey tail extract for dogs is still under investigation. However, most sources recommend 100-300 mg per 10 lbs body weight per day. For example, a 50 lb dog could take 500-1500 mg daily. It’s best to start with a lower dose and gradually increase over 2-3 weeks to ensure tolerability.

Turkey tail mushroom can be given in capsule, tablet, or powder form. Dogs should not eat raw mushrooms, as they can damage the liver in their raw form. Powders are the easiest to administer and gauge for correct dosage - simply sprinkle the appropriate amount over your dog’s food. Providing the supplement with a meal will not only make it easier for your dog to eat, but it will also help to reduce potential stomach upset and short-term digestive problems.

Turkey tail is very safe for dogs with few reported side effects. However, some dogs may experience mild digestive upset. If this occurs, reduce the dosage and be sure to administer with a full meal. Seek veterinary supervision for appropriate dosing, especially when giving turkey tail in conjunction with prescription medications or chemotherapy.

Turkey Tail for Other Pets

While there haven’t been studies done on the benefits of turkey tail mushrooms for other pets, due to the very low chance of side effects, turkey tail mushrooms are also an excellent immune booster and supplement for your cats as well. Simply use the appropriate dosage instructions for the size of your cat.

The Bottom Line

While still considered an alternative therapy, turkey tail mushroom shows great promise as a supplement to support immune function, digestive health, and anti-cancer activity in dogs. Its long history of use in traditional medicine, combined with modern research showing immune-stimulating and anti-tumor properties, makes turkey tail an excellent option to promote wellness in dogs. Head on over to our products page to learn more about our amazing immune support supplements utilizing this incredible mushroom.

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Disclaimer: Pet Wellness Direct does not intend to provide veterinary advice. We help pet owners to better understand their pets; however, all content on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice, care, diagnosis, or treatment. If you suspect that your pet needs medical assistance, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.