While poisonous mushrooms in the wild are difficult to recognize, they can cause severe harm to dogs if not handled properly. Some mushrooms are dangerous and have warning signs like red caps that warn you to stay away, but others may look benign, similar to mushrooms found in the grocery store. While the mushrooms you buy at the grocery store are safe for dogs, those that grow wild in the woods are not.
Tina Wismer is a veterinarian and the medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. She explains that some wild mushrooms can be liver toxic and others may cause neurological problems. Even the less dangerous of these species could cause serious stomach issues.
Jennifer Good, DVM and staff physician at NYC’s Animal Medical Center says that owners must be always aware of the poisonous plants and fungi that are found in nature. Owners and vets must treat all mushroom ingestions as an emergency, given the difficulty of identifying what species may be encountered by a dog.
Read on to learn about some of the most common poisonous mushrooms you might encounter.
Poisonous liver-toxic mushrooms include:
– Amanita phalloides (Death Cap Mushroom)
– Amanita ocreata (Angel of Death)
– Lepiota (False Parasol)
Veterinarians call liver-toxic mushrooms the most dangerous mushroom for dogs. Good says that the most harmful mushrooms are those that contain hepatotoxic compounds, including amatoxins. These toxins are found in Amanita Phalloides (also known as Death Cap, Death Angel or Angel of Death), Amanita Ocreata and Galerina. They grow on mossy, forested or rocky areas following heavy rainfall. Good says that “this class of mushrooms is responsible for a large number of human deaths and animal fatalities around the world.”
The mushrooms in question are particularly dangerous because they not only attack major organs, but also show no signs until several hours later. Wismer explains that liver transplants are available for people who accidentally consume these mushrooms. However, we do not perform them on dogs. We can help them by protecting their liver. But if symptoms last for more than two or three days, then it is too late.
These liver-toxic mushrooms can also be found elsewhere in the United States. Veterinarians can induce vomiting in your dog and use activated carbon to block the toxic substances from entering the body.
Hallucinogenic Mushrooms include:
Mushrooms of the Conocybe, Gymnopilus, Psilocybe and Panaeolus species contain psilocin and psilocybin as their toxic components and are typically brown in color with differing cap shapes and patterns. Hallucinogenic mushrooms, also referred to as magic mushrooms, can cause hallucinations, temporary weakness, disorientation, howling, abnormal mental activity and/ or seizures in dogs. “Ingestion of these species by dogs results in clinical signs within 30 minutes to 4 hours,” says Good.
Your vet may give your dog a mild sedative to help keep him calm until the toxins have worked their way out of his system. “It can take a couple of days for your dog to get back to normal, but hallucinogenic mushrooms are rarely fatal,” says Wismer.
Toadstool Mushrooms include:
– Amanita pantherina (Panther Cap)
– Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric)
Ingestion of species Amanita paterna, also known as Panther Cap, and Amanita mucaria, also called Fly Agaric can affect your dog due to isoxazole toxin.
Good says that the toxicity can cause psychotropic symptoms involving central nervous system. These include confusion, dizziness, feeling stronger, convulsions, or delusions. The mushrooms are found in forests throughout North America. They have a cap that is red, but can be orange, yellow, or white.
Good says that “Clinical symptoms can appear within 30 minutes up to 12 hours after ingestion and may include excessive sedation (ataxia), difficulty walking (miosis), disorientation (miosis), rigidity, weakness, seizures (tremors), respiratory depression, or even death.” The prognosis is good for dogs who consume these mushrooms if they are treated early and aggressively.
Mushrooms Containing Muscarinic Agents
Mushrooms that include muscarinic agents include:
These toxins cause nerve end dysfunction in certain species of mushrooms, such as Inocybe and Clitocybe. These mushrooms are found in Western North America and can be white, light brown or even pale yellow. They have white spores as well as white or pale colored gills.
Good says that early diagnosis and treatment will give your dog a good to fair prognosis. In some cases, clinical signs may appear within just two hours after ingestion. You should be on the lookout for signs such as hypersalivation and diarrhea. Other signs include urinary incontinence or vomiting, abdominal pain and excessive tears. More severe symptoms may include difficulty breathing, wheezing, or coughing. Wismer advises that you should seek immediate help from your veterinarian. “Your vet may have an antidote called atropine to reverse these symptoms,” he says.
False Morel Mushrooms
False morel mushrooms include:
– Gyromitra esculenta (Beefsteak)
– Gyromitra caroliniana
– Mushrooms in the Verpa genre
– Mushrooms in the Helvella genre
Commonly found in areas with sandy soils under coniferous trees across North America, these species are slightly less poisonous in nature than the previously mentioned mushrooms. Typically, their caps will appear reddish brown, with a shriveled texture. The mushrooms contain hydrazines as their toxic substance, and clinical signs will generally appear within six to eight hours after ingestion, and are generally limited to gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea. “On rare occasions, central nervous system signs can present themselves, including seizures, lethargy and coma,” says Good.
Mushrooms That Cause Gastrointestinal Distress
These mushrooms include:
The least toxic poisonous mushroom species are found in the US. These include Boletus, Chlorophyllum, and Entoloma. The fast-acting mushroom species vary in size, shape and color. They are also gastrointestinal irritations which rarely cause life-threatening symptoms. Within an hour, you’ll notice clinical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms usually resolve on their own. Wismer says that you should still consult with your veterinarian, who may prescribe fluids or anti-vomiting medications to prevent dehydration.
Avoiding accidental mushroom consumption in dogs
If you are visiting an unfamiliar area, check out the North American Mycological Association. They have a list of poisonous mushrooms in each region. Off-leash walking makes it more difficult to prevent your pet from accidentally eating one. Wismer says that mushrooms will usually grow in areas where organic material has died in the soil. For example, under decaying wood, or on a compost heap. They will also typically appear after rain.
What to do if your dog eats a wild mushroom
Good says, “If your dog eats a whole or part of mushroom or you suspect it has done so, you should try and get a small sample to take to the vet hospital.” It will allow for quick identification, and the appropriate course of action. Good says to put the samples into a waxed-paper or paper bag and to keep them in the fridge until you can give it to your vet. Plastic bags are not recommended, because they may cause the samples to turn color or become liquefied, which can make identification more difficult.