Who doesn’t marvel at watching a mushroom push through the dirt or leaf debris? These little umbrellas with caps of various shapes and colors seem to grow from nowhere. The wet and temperate weather of early fall can produce a bumper crop in your yard in a very short time. Like us, many dogs find mushrooms very tasty. But unlike cultivated mushrooms, most wild toadstools are poisonous. Sometimes, this can prove fatal for dogs.
Types of Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a type of fungus that has adapted to thrive with limited soil. With the right amount of moisture and proper temperature they can exhibit explosive growth. That is why they are easily cultivated and readily available in the supermarket year round. But their wild cousins are more likely to be poisonous. It takes a seasoned master to be able to tell non-toxic from toxic wild mushrooms. And yet there are reports of even these “experts” poisoning themselves by choosing incorrectly. It is best to consider all wild mushrooms in your yard or areas you walk and exercise your dog as poisonous.
Types of Mushroom Toxins
Mushrooms differ in the type of toxin they contain. Those in Category A are deadly and cause liver failure and/or kidney failure. These dogs often show symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea and the membranes of their eyes, inner ear, gums and skin are yellow or jaundice. Category B and C toxins cause neurological signs. These can vary from weakness, uncoordinated movements, hypersalivation or drooling and seizures. These patients generally recover with treatment.
An exception is a particular type of mushroom neurotoxin that can cause respiratory arrest and death. Category D toxins cause vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress. They seldom result in fatalities.
The problem is that early symptoms may not distinguish the toxin categories and the severity of toxicity. Also dogs with pre-existing conditions may be more susceptible to severe or fatal toxicity from category B, C and D mushrooms. Don’t guess. Seek veterinary care immediately. If possible bring a sample of the suspected mushroom to the veterinarian.
Although I do not regularly see mushroom toxicity in practice, it occurs enough that it is always on my list of possibilities when I treat dogs with vomiting, diarrhea or neurological symptoms.
How to Protect Your Dog From Mushroom Poisoning
1) Routinely inspect the yard for mushrooms, especially early sprouts
2) Avoid mushroom habitats on walks and exercise. These are typically shady areas with lots of leaf, grass or plant mulch or decaying vegetation type soil.
3) Minimize unnecessary watering or irrigation that promotes a constant moist soil environment. Divert and disperse water from areas that collect water.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN