As our dogs age, they often require a little more health attention to keep them feeling young and spry. That may mean supplements for joint health or eye health, or even changes to lifestyle and exercise needs. Specific medicinal mushrooms are important foods for our senior dogs to address stress, the immune system, and quality of life.
Among other things, mushrooms provide a wealth of benefits to our canine companions, many of which are especially important right now, when we’re all feeling the impacts of this global pandemic.
Stress in Senior Dogs
Senior dogs experience more stress than their younger counterparts. They can become increasingly irritated, agitated, or anxious. They may feel more vulnerable as their mobility decreases. Their hearing and senses change too, leading to increased anxiety of things like fireworks and thunderstorms, things that may never have bothered them before.
When a dog is stressed, their body releases the stress hormone cortisol as part of the flight or fight defense mechanism. Cortisol is kind of like your dog’s (or your own) built-in alarm system. When the body senses a disruption, cortisol works with certain parts of your brain to formulate some sort of response.
This increased cortisol has many impacts on your dog’s body. Dogs who experience chronic stress have elevated cortisol levels that can affect the immune system. Elevated cortisol levels can increase weight gain. Ongoing stress affects the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, causing imbalances in the gut microbiota.
Ongoing stress can also lead to imbalances in the normal inflammatory response. Increasing foods high in antioxidants such as fungi, can help the body protect itself from free radical damage.
Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms
Including specific medicinal mushrooms like Cordyceps and Reishi are important for senior dogs to help keep their health in check and to help manage new (and existing) stressors.
As mentioned, there are several important benefits of medicinal mushrooms, especially for our senior dogs, including:
- stress support
- immune support
- energy and vitality
- antioxidant support
- anxiety support
Two of our favorites are cordyceps and reishi mushrooms!
Cordyceps mushrooms provide immune support and are also used in veterinary complementary medicine to support small animal respiratory disorders. Some holistic practitioners refer to it as a “quality of life enhancing mushroom.” Cordyceps also enhance energy and well-being.
The reishi mushroom is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as the mushroom of immortality. How’s that for a powerful name! Reishi is an immune modulator. Research notes, “Agents that enhance the functioning of the host immune system could be expected to enhance health in terms of improved resistance and, thus, removal of malignant or premalignant cells.” Reishi helps to reduce anxiety and increase feelings of well-being. It also provides antioxidants for balanced inflammatory support.
If you’re looking to help reduce your senior dog’s stress levels, medicinal mushrooms are a great addition to the diet.