The arrival of spring means more time outside with our dogs. As the days become warmer and spring showers fall, trees and shrubs put out new leaves and flowers bloom…and mushrooms pop up in lawns, parks and forests. Puppies, like young children, explore the world by tasting things, but even an older dog may be attracted to some mushrooms. Mycologists (mushroom scientists) suspect the attraction may be that some mushrooms have a fishy smell; also, an aspect of mushroom flavor is what the Japanese call umami, a meaty taste imparted by glutamate and certain other amino acids.Only rarely will your dog encounter a poisonous mushroom, because only about one percent of all known mushrooms are toxic. But a few can be very poisonous. (Mushrooms bought at the grocery or natural-foods store are as safe for dogs as they are for humans; it is wild ones that may be dangerous.)Dogs seem to take a special interest in mushrooms from the Amanita family, which includes the well-known “toadstool” with a bright red, shiny cap that has flaky white polka dots on it. Dogs also like some Clitocybe and Inocybe mushrooms, which contain the toxin muscarine. Muscarine is not deadly to humans, but it can be lethal to dogs. If you think your dog can eaten a wild mushroom, you should act immediately. Here is some critical advice from the North American Mycological Association (NAMA):
- If your pet may have been poisoned by mushrooms, try to get a sample of the same mushroom,or mushrooms from where they were found. This will help aid in identification.
- Place any available material in a paper bag or waxed paper, not plastic, and refrigerate until it can be examined.
- Note where the mushrooms were collected in case the mushrooms may have been contaminated by uptake of pesticides or heavy metals from lawns, roadsides or industrial areas.
- Next, contact your veterinarian or the animal poison control center. You may also wish to refer your vet or the animal emergency hospital where your dog is treated to this resource for veterinarians (http://aspcapro.org/sites/pro/files/zd-vetm0207f_095-100_.pdf ).
It is very important for you and your vet to know that there may be a lag time between when the dogs ingests the mushroom and the appearance of any symptoms. For example, dogs typically go into a deep coma-like sleep a few hours after eating Amanita muscaria or Amanita pantherina mushroom species. Recovery is generally complete after about 6 hours (but as long as 72 hours) later. While doctors never euthanize humans while in a coma-like sleep, sometimes the decision to euthanize is made with dogs. In most cases, the dog will recover — so patience is advisable.
From left to right, toxic Amanita varieties: Amanita Muscaria, Amanita Phalloides, Amanita Pantherina,Marilyn Shaw is one of the top mushroom toxicologists that poison control centers nationwide call when humans or dogs suffer mushroom poisoning. She makes the following points:
Animals have the same progression of symptoms as humans have from A. muscaria. For years there were a lot of dog deaths all over the country from this species (dogs love them!). It turned out that vets thought they were suffering when they were in the coma-like state, with legs twitching, and euthanized them. I finally got the point across that if they were kept under close observation to be sure they didn’t aspirate vomit while unconscious, they would wake up a few hours later and be just fine.
I’ve handled many of those dog cases and only one of mine died. That involved an owner who had to drive about 30 minutes or more to get to the 24 hour emergency vet in west Denver. The dog aspirated vomit on the way and the vet was not able to clear its lungs.Finally, after your dog is receiving care, make a report to NAMA to help document poisonings. Please file a report even if your dog suffered only a gastrointestinal upset, since NAMA’s data on poisonings helps veterinarians better understand what to do in a great variety of cases. To report, go to www.namyco.org and look for the NAMA Poison Case Registry.