Dogs and wild mushrooms don’t mix. Sadly, this is what American-Canadian actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson discovered back in 2015 when his pet dog ate a mushroom that popped up in his garden (when he wasn’t looking).
Within a few hours of eating the mushroom, the pup’s liver and immune system were wrecked beyond repair. Johnson decided to have life support taken off to end his little dog’s suffering. He then shared his experience on his social media accounts, warning the public about wild mushroom poisoning: “I encourage all of you… to be mindful of mushrooms in your yards, parks, or anywhere outside [where] your dogs play.”
But these are “wild” inedible mushrooms. What about the edible mushrooms we buy from the grocery — are they safe for our dogs? Can dogs eat white mushrooms like the ones we eat?
- 1 Dogs can eat them, but…
- 2 White mushrooms
- 3 Nutrition and health benefits
- 4 Extra safety tips
- 5 Summary
Dogs can eat them, but…
Yes, dogs can safely eat any type of mushroom that is edible to us. That includes those white canned or store-bought mushrooms.
But you need to remember a few things before you start serving mushrooms to your dog:
1. Cook well and chop finely.
Remember, dogs are primarily carnivores. The natural fiber present in mushrooms can still be a bit of a digestive challenge for them. You must cook mushrooms until they’re very soft and chop them up into small pieces before it becomes easy for your dog to digest them.
2. Keep it simple.
Dogs also can’t take much of the other ingredients we typically slather on mushrooms. It’s best to just bake, boil, or sauté them in a non-stick pan or a tiny amount of vegetable oil.
Here’s what to avoid when serving your dog mushrooms:
- Too much salt. Don’t drench a mushroom treat with salt like the way we tend to do for our French fries. You’re going to get him used to lots of salt (a bad habit!) and introduce too much sodium in your dog’s bloodstream and system, which is unhealthy.
- Too much butter or oil. Dogs already get all the essential fat they need from the meat they eat. Don’t add extra (saturated) fat or cholesterol by adding these to the cooked mushrooms.
- Any black pepper or chili. Dogs can’t take the pungency of biochemicals like capsaicin (in chili peppers) and piperine (in black pepper). Unlike humans, they have a harder time developing a tolerance for them. If your dog ingests some, the poor thing will feel the hot pain on his tongue and stomach.
- Any garlic or onion. (Or any other allium herb, like chives.) We love garlic or onions with our mushrooms. But these are part of the allium family of plants, which are toxic to dogs and can cause serious gastroenteritis and anemia.
Among edible mushrooms, the pale or white ones tend to be more tender than the other species of mushrooms. They make safe, nutritious additions to your dog’s diet. Here are a few examples:
1. Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)
These are delicate, fan-shaped fungi that are white, off-white, gray, or light brown, and grow on fallen logs or the trunks of trees. They have a delicate flavor that goes well with East Asian dishes.
While these are usually sautéed, stir-fried, or boiled in soups, for your dog it might be best to sauté or stir-fry the ultra-delicate oyster mushroom to keep its shape and moisture. That way, your fur baby has something substantial to bite into.
These are sometimes called “champignon de Paris.” These are the immature versions of the brown “portobello” or “portabello” mushroom (which is also edible). These white caps are the mildest-flavored and most common mushroom you’ll find in groceries and markets, whether fresh or canned. You, the human, can eat this raw or cooked. But for your beloved fur baby, you need to cook these.
Most canned button mushrooms are cooked. But to be on the safer side, if you’re using canned mushrooms, drain them well out of the brine solution they were stored in. (You can also put the mushrooms in a sieve and run some water over them to wash off excess saltiness.) Then quickly sauté them, cool them, and chop up into tinier bits before giving them to your dog.
3. Enoki mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes)
These are also called winter mushrooms or “enokitake” in Japanese. Enoki mushrooms actually come in two forms — the wild enoki and the cultivated enoki.
Wild enoki grows on trunks or tree stumps in Japanese forests during the winter. These look more like classic short forest mushrooms and come in a range of colors from reddish-brown to brown. Meanwhile, cultivated enoki is usually grown in a carbon dioxide-rich indoor environment, which causes it to form long, white stems. (For dogs, we’ll be focusing on the white cultivated enoki.)
White enokis have a distinct flavor of their own and are often eaten raw or blanched in Japan. But for your dog, it’s best to serve only blanched enokis. To do that, bring some water in a pot to a rolling boil. Then turn off the source of heat and submerge the enoki mushrooms in the water for about a minute.
4. Hedgehog or “sweet tooth” mushrooms (Hydnum repandum)
These are winter-growing fungi found throughout Europe. Off-white to yellow and with irregularly-shaped caps, the hedgehog mushrooms have a sweet and nutty flavor when harvested young. Chefs and gourmet cooks like to use hedgehog mushrooms as a replacement for the European chanterelle mushroom in French recipes.
The best way to prepare hedgehog mushrooms for your dog is to stir-fry them in high heat. These mushrooms have a relatively high water content, so you need to cook them for about 3 minutes until they’re toasted and easy to chew.
Nutrition and health benefits
Cooked mushrooms can give your dog an extra shot of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (Pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6
It’s the stuff that can round out your dog’s diet and help boost his immune system and overall energy. Other health benefits of mushrooms include:
- Better liver and kidney function
- A more stable metabolism and blood sugar levels (which help maintain proper weight)
- Lower cholesterol and healthier blood pressure (and thus, lower chances of heart disease)
- Lower risk of developing cancer
Extra safety tips
Once your dog gets a taste for the occasional cooked mushroom treat, he’s bound to get even more curious about other mushrooms he may encounter elsewhere. Make sure you:
1. Weed out your garden.
Control the growth of any other mushrooms that might pop up in your garden. Whether those are toxic mushrooms or edible wild mushrooms, it’s best to uproot them or keep them out of your dog’s reach.
2. Watch over your dog during walks.
Each time you and your dog go walking out in the city park or go camping out in the wild — or anywhere else mushrooms can grow — watch what he stops to sniff at. The moment he starts licking or nibbling at anything, stop him and check out what it is. If it’s anything that resembles fungi, keep away from it. (Don’t uproot it; you’re not on your property.)
3. Know what mushroom poisoning looks like and what to do when it happens.
The symptoms of mushroom poisoning in dogs are quite distinct and immediate. If your dog eats any toxic mushrooms, he’ll display the following symptoms in under an hour after consumption:
- Excess tear production and salivation
- Frequent urination
- Loss of physical coordination (i.e., acting dizzy)
- Lethargy or weakness
- Tremors and seizures
- Sudden and severe stomach upset (causing vomiting and diarrhea)
- Abdominal pain
Mushroom poisoning is an extreme medical emergency. When you see these symptoms in your dog, you must bring him immediately to the veterinarian’s clinic, veterinary hospital, or veterinary poison control center for treatment. If your dog doesn’t get help in time, he will fall into a coma, have kidney and liver failure, then die.
Even better: if you see your dog swallow an unknown mushroom before you’re able to stop him, don’t wait for the symptoms to appear. Bring him to the hospital immediately.
If you can, bring a sample of the toxic wild mushroom your dog ate and present it to the vet. This can help the vet determine the best way to save your dog.
So don’t worry — your dog can safely eat a few cooked edible mushrooms now and then, as long as you don’t mix in other ingredients like garlic or onion. You may occasionally mix these into his dog food for variety, too. Just don’t replace most of the meat in his diet with mushrooms. (Save most of those delicious mushrooms for yourself!)