A Fungus Among Us: Mushroom Ingestion in Dogs

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Mushroom ingestion by animals is dangerous, causing toxicities that can progress from severe to deadly in a matter of hours. While strolling through the woods or even in your backyard, your pet might encounter these intriguing “pseudo-plants” and cause unexpected dangers to our canine companions. Today we delve into a topic that is important for every dog owner to understand: mushroom ingestion.

In this blog, we will uncover the hidden risks associated with mushroom ingestion in dogs. From identifying toxic varieties to recognizing symptoms of poisoning, our journey will equip you with the knowledge to protect your pet. We will also discuss immediate actions to take if your dog consumes a mushroom and discover how timely veterinary intervention can be lifesaving.

The Growth of Mushrooms: A Concern for Pet Owners

Mushrooms, a diverse and often mysterious group of fungi, thrive in various environments, particularly in moist and nutrient-rich conditions. They can appear overnight in a variety of places, including lawns, parks, woods, and even our backyards. They often grow in areas rich in organic matter, such as under trees, near stumps, or in decaying leaves. The combination of moisture and organic material provides the perfect breeding ground for these “fun guys."

As pet owners, it is wise to be vigilant at all times. Due to the recent rains in some regions, unexpected mushroom growth requires us to be more attentive during our pets' outdoor activities. Ingestion of even a small amount of a mushroom can have serious health implications, so keeping a watchful eye to ensure your pet does not inadvertently taste-test any mushrooms is important.

amanita mushrooms. dog mushroom toxicity

Mushroom Types and Toxicity

A number of mushroom species are toxic to animals (and people too). The ones of greatest concern can cause organ failure (e.g., liver and kidney) or gastrointestinal distress. There are also mushrooms that can be toxic to the neurologic system. While fascinating in their diversity, mushrooms can be deceptive in appearance, making it challenging to distinguish between safe and toxic varieties. The toxic mushrooms that pose a significant risk to dogs fall into several categories, each with its own set of toxins and resultant clinical signs.

  • Amanita Mushrooms: These are perhaps the most notorious, including species such as Amanita phalloides (Death Cap) and Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric). They contain potent toxins that can cause severe liver and kidney damage. Clinical signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, seizures, and in severe cases, can lead to coma or death.
  • False Morels: Resembling the edible “true” morels, these mushrooms contain hydrazine toxins. Consumption can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and neurological signs like dizziness and seizures.
  • Inocybe and Clitocybe Species: These mushrooms contain muscarinic agents. Dogs that ingest them may experience excessive drooling, tear production, urination, diarrhea, and neurological symptoms.
  • Psilocybin Mushrooms: Also known as magic mushrooms, these can cause hallucinations, altered perception, and a range of neurological disturbances in dogs.
  • Gyromitra Species: Often mistaken for morels, these mushrooms contain gyromitrin, a toxin that can cause vomiting, seizures, and liver damage.
  • Scleroderma Species: Commonly known as earthballs, these mushrooms can cause severe gastrointestinal upset and, in some cases, liver failure.

Given the difficulty in identifying mushroom species and the risk they pose, the best course of action is to prevent your dog from ingesting any wild mushrooms. If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxic mushroom, immediate veterinary attention is crucial. Quick and appropriate medical intervention can make a difference in the outcome of these potentially life-threatening situations.

If your animal has inadvertently ingested mushrooms, or you suspect the possibility that they may have, it is vital that you contact the ASPCA Poison Control Center and seek veterinary emergency care immediately.

Dog Mushroom Ingestion Effects

It is important to note that clinical signs of mushroom poisoning can vary widely depending on the type of mushroom ingested and the amount consumed. Clinical signs can range from mild gastrointestinal upset to severe organ damage and even death. The onset of clinical signs can also vary, from within a few hours to several days after ingestion.

High Risk Of Liver Failure

As I mentioned above, there are species of mushrooms that can cause fulminating liver failure. These tend to be the death cap or death angel (Amanita phalloides) mushrooms, but there may be others. The Amanitins are ubiquitous across North America including the Pacific States. This species may vary geographically, so a veterinarian should evaluate any mushroom exposure to ensure your pet's well-being.

The Amanitins cause acute liver failure. The clinical signs associated with toxicity may not occur immediately and not be evident for 6-12 hours, giving owners a false sense of security. If assessment and treatment for mushroom ingestion are not performed immediately, and by the time your pet shows clinical signs, they may have organ changes that progress to liver failure and possibly death, despite treatment in severely toxic cases.

dog looking closely at mushroom. dog mushroom toxicity

Other Mushroom Affects: Gastrointestinal Issues

Many mushroom species can cause gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. These clinical signs may range from mild to severe. Some of these mushroom species will also cause heart rate changes and increased salivation together with a set of clinical signs referred to as SLUDDE: Classic salivation, lacrimation (tear production), urination, defecation, gastrointestinal distress, and emesis (vomiting).

However, as with liver-toxic mushrooms, do not wait for clinical signs to appear if you suspect, or are certain, that your animal ingested mushrooms. Be proactive and call the ASPCA Poison Control Center hotline and seek veterinary care immediately for your pet.

Treatment For Mushroom Ingestion And Toxicity

If your dog consumes a mushroom, the first step is to seek veterinary care immediately, even if your pet is not showing any clinical signs. Time is of the essence in these situations, as the quicker the response, the better the chances of a positive outcome. Here is what you can expect when you visit the vet:

  1. Initial Assessment: Your veterinarian will begin with a thorough examination of your dog to assess their overall condition and any immediate symptoms. They will likely ask questions about the mushroom ingestion, such as the time of ingestion, the amount consumed, and any clinical signs you have observed.
  2. Inducing Vomiting (emesis): If the mushroom was ingested recently and your dog is stable, the veterinarian might induce vomiting to prevent further absorption of toxins. This is usually done within a couple of hours of ingestion.
  3. Activated Charcoal: After vomiting is induced, activated charcoal may be administered. This substance binds to toxins present in the digestive tract and prevents further absorption of toxins into the bloodstream.
  4. Blood Tests and Analysis: Blood work is necessary to assess the dog's liver and kidney function (and establish a baseline of values for monitoring purposes), as these organs are commonly affected by mushroom toxins. These tests may also help in determining the severity of the poisoning.
  5. Supportive Care: Depending on the severity of the clinical signs and the type of mushroom ingested, your dog may require hospitalization for supportive care and monitoring. This can include intravenous fluids to support kidney function and combat dehydration, medications to control clinical signs such as vomiting or seizures, to minimize or counteract liver damage, and close monitoring of vital signs.
  6. Observation and Monitoring: Continuous observation and monitoring are crucial, especially in the first 24 to 48 hours due to the possible delayed effects. Monitoring will likely include rechecking liver, kidney, and electrolyte values as well.

The rapid onset of adverse effects on organs warrants immediate veterinary intervention. It may be helpful to take a picture of the mushroom ingested, but identification of mushrooms requires expert mycologists and immediate identification may not be possible. Having a veterinarian treat your pet with decontamination and symptomatic care in the face of mushroom intoxication is of greater importance than identifying the mushroom they may have, or did, ingest.

A Not So Fungi

As pet owners, understanding the potential dangers and acting swiftly in the event of mushroom ingestion can make a life-saving difference for our pups. Always be cautious during mushroom-growing seasons and in environments conducive to their growth. Regularly inspect your yard and walking areas to ensure they are free of these fungal hazards.

Educate yourself and your family about the risks, keep a watchful eye on your pets while outdoors, and maintain open communication with your veterinarian. They are your best resource for information on local mushroom varieties and risks and guidance on what to do in an emergency. By working together, we can help keep our pets safe and healthy.

If you have questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at 650-535-3557, or you can email us at clinic@northpenvet.com. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram.

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  • Dog Emergency Care