Friday, November 8, 2013

Case Study: Wild Mushrooms – Playing Roulette if You Eat Them for Dinner

Friday, November 8, 2013
By Beth Davidow, DVM DACVECC

It’s that time of year when all of us start seeing more mushrooms around. The combination of sun, rain, and increased organic material on the ground is perfect for fungal growth. This year in particular has been very good for mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest and those mushroom hunters who know what they are doing, have had a banner year. However, the conditions that make for amazing edible chanterelles, also lead to more of the poisonous variety as well.

Last weekend, we saw several cases of mushroom toxicity in dogs. Molly, a six-year-old female spayed Labrador, was seen to eat mushrooms in the yard. She vomited some mushrooms and began having diarrhea within the hour. However, she then became wobbly when walking and was comatose when she presented to our emergency hospital in Renton a few hours later. Molly was intubated (tube was placed in her throat to protect her airway) and we initiated breathing for her. We pumped her stomach to try to remove mushrooms and also gave her enemas, which removed even more mushrooms. She was placed on intravenous fluids as well as supportive ventilation. She needed to be ventilated overnight but by the next morning, she started to wake up and could breathe on her own. She continued to improve, was fairly normal by dinnertime and was sent home that evening, about 36 hours after arrival. She continues to do well with no organ injury.

The mushrooms were identified by a mycologist as Amanita muscaria. They are part of the family of “death cap” mushrooms, but unlike Amanita phalloides, they do not cause kidney or liver failure. Their appearance can vary making identification tricky. While the signs caused by Amanita muscaria are extremely dramatic, all the dogs we have treated with this ingestion have done well, but needed 24-48 hours of very intensive care. More information on this mushroom type can be found :

Amanitas are not the only poisonous mushrooms in this area. Other toxicities seen with mushrooms can include severe tremor syndromes, dangerously low heart rates, and severe gastrointestinal signs. Our veterinarians have treated pets with all of these different syndromes.

A general rule is that if your pet gets sick very quickly after eating a mushroom, they probably won’t have longterm damage but if they get sick hours later, it could be extremely serious. If you see your pet eats a mushroom, it is best to contact your veterinarian right away. If there are other similar mushrooms in the same vicinity, you can use a paper bag to pick a few for identification. Mushrooms are very tricky to identify but it is easier when they are stored in paper rather than plastic bags. The best way to keep your pet safe is to get rid of any mushrooms you see in your yard and to prevent them from eating any mushrooms they might find on a walk. 

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