Mushroom poisoning a serious threat to your pet


Last updated 6/22/2022 at Noon

Ever hear the expression “curiosity killed the cat?” Mushrooms can do that. Kill your cat or dog. Hundreds a year, according to PetMD. And thousands end up in vet clinics, often on an expensive, emergency basis.

There are some 10,000 fungal species that have been identified from all over North America. Roughly 10 to 20 percent of mushroom species are edible, 5 percent have medicinal properties, 20 percent can make you sick, and about 1 percent are known as deadly.

Here in Sisters Country mushrooms fruit all year round, differing by species with each variety having around a two- to three-month season. Living as we do among the pines there is an abundance of edible mushrooms with boletes including King boletes, hedgehog mushroom, matsutake, chanterelle, slippery jack, and other suillus varieties.

Dogs, for unknown reasons, have a fondness for toxic mushrooms, especially amanita aprica. Lawn mushrooms can be fatal to your dog. Unless you are 100 percent sure, vets say, assume every mushroom is potentially lethal. May through July is when local veterinarians see most cases but a number of cases happen in the fall.

With the wetter, cooler spring, mushrooms may linger longer this summer.

How serious is mushroom poisoning?

The severity of mushroom induced illness depends on the type and number of mushrooms ingested. Sometimes a pet may have mild gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms that resolve at home. Other times, pets become extremely sick and require hospitalization. Unfortunately, some pets die despite therapy.

Diagnosing the toxins which have been absorbed in your pet’s system must be done quickly in order to increase your dog’s chances of survival. Historically, mortality from the ingestion of the amanita species is 50 percent to 90 percent, thus indicating the need for early aggressive decontamination therapy before symptoms progress.

If you are able to bring a sample of the mushroom to the veterinarian, diagnosis will be much easier.

What does mushroom poisoning look like?

There are many types of toxic reactions to mushrooms. Signs vary with the mushroom species and amount of mushroom ingested by the pet. Toxins are generally divided into three categories.

Gastrointestinal toxins: Many mushroom varieties cause upset stomach. Pets may become ill within 15 minutes of munching or symptoms may be delayed for up to 6 hours. The muscarinic mushroom is a noted variety that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Pets may become weak and dehydrated. Out-patient treatment may suffice, but hospitalization is often required to stop vomiting and diarrhea and restore fluid balance. These mushrooms can also cause a slow heart rate and respiratory problems.

Hepatotoxic: These mushrooms affect the liver. With names like death cap or death angel, amanita mushrooms sound really ominous and they are! Amanitas cause liver failure that can be deadly. Owners may see their dog or cat eat this type of mushroom, but do not become concerned because their pet looks fine immediately afterward.

Then six to 24 hours later, GI symptoms start to occur. Some pets appear to get better for a while, giving owners a false sense of security. However, the underlying liver failure continues to progress. The pet becomes jaundiced, weak, lethargic, and sometimes comatose. What starts as mild stomach upset quickly progresses to full-blown liver failure, which can result in death in a matter of days. If not treated quickly and aggressively, liver failure is irreversible.

Magic mushrooms: There are three main groups of mushrooms that cause neurological signs, including hydrazines, isoxazole, and psilocybin (hallucinogenic) mushrooms. The onset of illness is fast, with signs occurring in 30 minutes up to six hours. Signs include weakness, lack of coordination, tremors, hallucinations, vocalizations, disorientation, agitation, and seizures.

Such toxins can also affect the kidneys and liver, causing a myriad of problems.

Blood and urine samples are taken to determine organ function. Stomach contents may also be collected to help identify the mushroom ingested. Since some mushroom toxins have a delayed effect on organs, liver and kidney function tests may be repeated every 24 to 48 hours to monitor function.

Treatment for mushroom poisoning

As with any case of poisoning, prompt treatment is critical to a successful outcome. Minimizing absorption of the toxin is essential, so identifying the mushroom becomes a secondary, albeit important, priority.

Decreasing the amount of toxin in the bloodstream can be accomplished by several methods. If your pet gets to your veterinarian soon after ingestion, the vet may induce vomiting to remove mushrooms from the stomach. Activated charcoal that will bind with the toxin and prevent its absorption may be administered. Sometimes, the doctor may perform a gastric lavage to eliminate any remaining mushrooms from the stomach.

Your pet will also be given intravenous (IV) fluids to combat dehydration and flush toxins from the body. Fluids also support kidney and liver function while toxins that have already been absorbed are processed.

Note: Black Butte Veterinary Clinic, Broken Top Veterinary Clinic, and Sisters Veterinary Clinic contributed valuable insight and guidance for this story. Their collective admonition: keep a watchful eye and seek medical attention if at all in doubt.


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