Few things are as terrifying as seeing a dog in the throes of mushroom toxicity. How can pet owners tell the deadly from the safe? A reader asked me that exact question — here’s her query and my reply:
Q: My chocolate Lab ate a poisonous mushroom and ended up needing five days of hospitalization. What types of mushrooms should I be concerned about, and how can I recognize them?
A: Thousands of the fleshy fungi exist around the world. Only a small percentage of them are toxic or deadly, but that’s not much comfort when it’s your dog who is suffering. Adding to the danger is that mushrooms are difficult to identify; toxic varieties may have only subtle differences from the delicious edible species.
Toxicologists separate toxic mushrooms into eight categories depending on their type of toxin and the effects they produce, according to my colleague Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, at the University of Illinois. The mushrooms that most commonly kill pets belong to the cyclic peptide group, the best known being Amanita phalloides (death cap). A single mushroom cap can kill a dog or cat. They are found in most areas of the United States and in southern Canada. Other mushrooms that can be deadly to pets — or at least make them really sick — include members of the genus Tricholoma, hallucinogenic mushrooms such as Psilocybe and Conocybe, false morels and members of the genera Clitocybe and Inocybe.
Unless you’re a mycologist (mushroom expert), though, this information probably isn’t going to be of much help to you. The best thing you can do, if you know or suspect that your dog has eaten a mushroom or toadstool, is to seek veterinary help immediately. If possible, bring a sample of the mushroom — either one like it or a piece that your dog has thrown up. Dogs don’t learn from past experience, so if your property has a lot of mushrooms, you may have to limit access to them by having him wear a muzzle when he’s outdoors, or supervise him closely.
Read more, including pet blood pressure and how to get your children involved with animals, in this week’s Pet Connection!