Many species of mushrooms have popped up in my yard over the past couple of weeks. In addition, reports from dog owners, mainly those with puppies, of mushroom ingestion have started rolling in to our veterinary clinic.
Thousands of mushrooms species exist, and the majority of them are non-toxic. Many are even edible. But because of the potential deadly effects of a pet eating a toxic mushroom, most veterinarians take reports of mushroom ingestion quite seriously. Many edible mushrooms have unsafe look-alike imposters, making identification of mushrooms difficult. Indeed, determining which mushrooms are safe and which are not is best left to a mycologist, a mushroom expert.
But short of becoming mushroom-identification pros, here’s what pet owners need to know about mushrooms and keeping our animals safe:
First, dogs are at most risk for ingesting mushrooms. While cats can experience mushroom toxicity too, I’ve never seen a cat brought in for this in my years of veterinary practice. Cats tend to be more discerning than dogs about what they eat.
Dogs affected by poisonous mushrooms usually show symptoms quickly, often within minutes of ingesting them. Initial signs often include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and neurologic indications such as tremors, lack of coordination and seizures. Liver and kidney functions can be compromised following toxic mushroom ingestion, too.
Dogs with these signs should get to the veterinarian immediately to have their blood levels checked and to monitor organ function. Your vet may administer activated charcoal to help bind the remaining toxin as it moves through your pet’s GI tract. There is no specific antidote for mushroom toxicity. Instead, veterinarians provide supportive care for the animal as it recovers.
If you see your pet eating wild mushrooms, immediately remove him or her from the area. Collect a sample of the mushroom and contact your vet. Even if you see no symptoms, your vet may suggest inducing vomiting in your pet as a safety precaution. If your pet already is showing signs associated with toxic mushroom ingestion, you need to bring your pet to the vet as soon as possible.
As with most toxins, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to poisonous mushrooms. I suggest you look around your yard to see if you have any mushrooms and, if so, remove them.
If you live near the woods or other areas where removing mushrooms is difficult or impossible, keep your pets away from those areas during peak mushroom growing periods such as the one we’re experiencing now in the Northland.