Poison for Dogs or Not?
For an average pooch, Chaga Mushroom is not only something they can eat but also has a range of potential health benefits, such as boosting their immune system and pain relief from inflammation. The main thing to be wary of is feeding Chaga to dogs with diabetes due to the mushroom’s effect on blood sugar levels. If in doubt, check with your veterinarian before feeding Chaga to your dog.
As with just about anything in life, there is an element of “all things in moderation” about giving your canine friend Chaga. If only because even dogs have preferences in the taste department, and giving them too much of this remarkable mushroom might cause them to refuse to eat it if they are not keen on the taste. This may seem like a fantastical concept to some dog owners—especially those with a labrador—but yes, even dogs can refuse to eat sometimes.
Now, you might be reading this with no idea what Chaga Mushrooms are. There are plenty of health benefits associated with Chaga, so it’s entirely possible you ended up here after searching for foods to promote your pet’s health. In that case, don’t worry, just keep on reading because we’re going to cover it all!
What are Chaga Mushrooms?
Chaga Mushrooms grow primarily on Birch tree trunks, taking the appearance of a growth on the side of the bark, even forming an outer crust that resembles the bark itself. They can be a little tricky to harvest, needing a little bit of a heavy touch with an axe or something similar, and they need a bit of preparation in order to get the nutritional goodness out of them, but that nutritional goodness is worth the effort.
Chaga Mushrooms are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and a host of other ingredients that can contribute to a more effective immune system, lower cholesterol, less inflammation, and is even thought to be helpful in battling certain types of cancer.
There are different ways in which the benefits of Chaga Mushrooms can be consumed, but one of the most popular ones by far is in the form of tea, as hot water extraction is by far the easiest way of getting those nutrients out.
Feeding Chaga Mushrooms to Your Dog
The first thing to note when looking to feed your dog Chaga is that if you are harvesting the Chaga yourself, it will need any bits of tree bark and the tough exterior removing beforehand. You will also want to give the Chaga a good cleaning, especially if you intend to use some of this particular haul for yourself.
Your next step will be to dry the Chaga out, which can be done in a dehydrator, an oven (though it’s not the most cost-effective way of drying your Chaga out), or even just laying it out evenly spaced and leaving it where it will get plenty of sunlight for a few days.
As a Tea
As for consuming Chaga, we mentioned above that tea was the most popular way of extracting all that nutrition, and the same is true for dogs. The cell walls of the mushroom are made of chitin, which is inedible. By dropping the mushroom into some boiling water and letting it simmer for a while, you can transfer some of those nutrients into the water where it can be lapped up by your furry friend—as well as yourself.
In making tea, you can grind your pieces of Chaga Mushroom into a powder that can then be left to steep in water, or you can use the larger chunks directly. As a general rule, the more surface area of the mushroom you expose, the more flavor and nutrients you can get out of a smaller amount, which makes grinding the mushroom into a powder the most efficient method. That being said, if you opt to use larger chunks of Chaga Mushroom, you can get multiple uses out of the same chunks before they become too weak to make further brews.
It should go without saying that you will need to let the tea cool before you give it to your dog. Granted, most dogs will realize that the liquid is too hot before they go sticking their nose in it, but you don’t want to run the risk of your dog being a little too eager and getting a burnt tongue or snout.
You may also need to tweak the amount of Chaga you use in any teas for your pup. As we mentioned, even dogs have preferences when it comes to taste, and if your dog isn’t too keen on the taste of Chaga, you’ll have to dial it back a bit until you reach a point where they’re happy to gulp it down.
In the interests of saving you time, rather than brewing multiple teas at different strengths, just brew your tea at a strength that you yourself are comfortable with so that you can enjoy it as well. If that’s too strong for your dog, simply dilute their bowl with some regular water.
As a Tincture
We’re not going to lie to you; the other popular way of consuming Chaga Mushrooms is considerably more work. Chaga tinctures are a great way to consume Chaga Mushrooms when you—or, in this case, your pooch—are not overly fond of the taste. A Chaga tincture is essentially a highly concentrated Chaga liquid that can be added to a larger meal. Mixed in with regular dog food, for example, it would barely be noticeable in terms of flavor, but you could get the same amount of Chaga goodness out of a few drops of tincture as you could out of a whole mug of Chaga tea. The catch being, as we said, it’s not nearly as easy to make.
First, you want to grind your Chaga into powder, drop it in a one-gallon glass jar, and then fill it with water to about two inches from the top. Next, top that jar off with vodka. The next part requires a bit of patience, but you need to let that sit for between four to eight weeks.
Once that time has flown by, strain out the contents of your jar, being sure to keep the liquid to one side—you’re going to need it later. Drop the Chaga powder (or chunks if you went that route) into a saucepan or clay pot. Add in an amount of water that equals the amount of liquid that you have just strained out of your jar, and mark your pan or pot so that you can easily tell how much water was in there. Next, add the same amount of water again so that now your pan or pot should contain your vodka-soaked Chaga powder and twice as much water as was left in the jar when you strained it.
Bring the water to boil and then turn the heat down, leaving it to simmer until the water has returned to the amount it had when you marked it. Next, turn the heat off and leave the mix to cool for around twenty-four hours. The next day, add in another load of water equal to the amount you strained out of the jar, boil the water, and reduce to simmer until the water has returned to the mark again. Leave to cool and for twenty-four hours once more, and on the following day, repeat the process one more time.
On the fourth day, strain out the now thoroughly stewed Chaga powder and pour the remaining water into a container, add in the alcohol you strained out of your jar, let that sit for a day or two, and you have one jar of Chaga Mushroom tincture.
Okay, we admit, this part isn’t necessarily anything to do with your dog, but we thought it worth mentioning that, due to the growing awareness of the benefits of Chaga Mushrooms, there has been a lot of growing demand for this remarkable fungus, which in turn has led to some less than ethical practices in harvesting it. If you are buying your Chaga, be sure to source it from ethical suppliers who use sustainable methods. And if you’re lucky enough to be able to go out and get your own, be respectful of nature in general, and only take what you need. Try to leave at least a third of the Chaga Mushroom intact.
Chaga Mushrooms are a great natural resource for looking after your pup’s health. Whether you are looking to ease any inflammation, they are suffering from, manage their cholesterol, or just give them a nice vitamin boost; this can be a great way to do it. And, even though the science is out on whether Chaga helps prevent or fight cancer, there are certainly signs pointing in that direction, and there’s no harm in trying it. Just remember to be careful with diabetic dogs. Your dog’s life isn’t worth gambling on uncertainty. If you’re not sure, check with your vet before giving it to your dog.