Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Key Takeaways

Mushroom poisoning occurs as the result of ingestion of a toxic dose of a poisonous mushroom. 

Mushroom toxicosis is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention

• Symptoms vary depending on the type of mushroom but may include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and/or neurological symptoms

• Treatment depends on the quantity ingested and the type of mushroom

• Prognosis varies depending on how soon treatment is initiated after ingestion and what type of mushroom was ingested

• Cases of mushroom toxicosis occur more frequently in spring and early autumn when wild mushrooms are accessible to dogs in outdoor settings

• Taking photos or saving samples of an unidentified, ingested mushroom is helpful in determining an appropriate treatment plan

A Closer Look: What is Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs?

Given their indiscriminate eating habits, dogs are particularly susceptible to mushroom poisoning. The most common source of mushroom poisoning is Amanita phalloides, which is highly toxic and can be life-threatening. It is the most common cause of mushroom-related deaths globally. 

Symptoms of mushroom poisoning are an emergency, as a number of mushroom species can be deadly to dogs. Prompt treatment is essential in increasing the chances of the animal’s survival. There is no safe way to induce vomiting in a dog at home.

Different body systems are affected depending on the type of toxin, resulting in a wide and varying range of symptoms. Toxicosis may impact the liver, nervous system, gastrointestinal (GI) system, or kidneys.

Mushrooms known to impact the liver include the Death Cap Mushroom, the Angel of Death, the False Parasol, and the Galerina. If ingested, these kinds of mushrooms cause irreversible liver failure and in most cases the prognosis is very poor. 

Neurotoxin mushrooms include the Conocybe, the  Gymnopilus, the Psilocybe (magic mushrooms), and the Panaeolus. While in most cases the prognosis is good, ingestion of Gymnopilus leads to a guarded prognosis, as the toxin affects most of the body. 

Ingestion of muscarinic mushrooms causes gastrointestinal distress. These include the Inocybe and Clitocybe species. In the case of ingestion, prognosis is good if proper treatment is administered.

Ingestion of fungi from the Cortinarius species causes kidney damage. These species are rarely found in the United States. Prognosis is uncertain, and depends on the severity of the damage

Risk Factors

Mushrooms are the fleshy bodies of fungi. In temperate climates, they generally grow in spring and early fall during periods of high precipitation. Many species of mushrooms produce toxins that are poisonous to dogs. These mushrooms are found globally, and dogs may encounter them on walks or other outdoor activities. 

Mushroom poisoning is potentially life-threatening and must always be treated as an emergency as it is difficult to reliably differentiate between toxic and non-toxic species. Dogs witnessed eating an unidentified mushroom require immediate veterinary care to induce vomiting before toxin absorption occurs. In some cases, dogs eat mushrooms while unsupervised. These situations are particularly concerning, as full absorption of the toxin occurs and the type of mushroom is unknown.

Possible Causes

Ingesting a toxic dose of a poisonous mushroom is the cause of mushroom poisoning. The severity of the symptoms is linked to the type and quantity of the toxic mushroom. Symptoms vary depending on which internal system is impacted by the toxin.

Main Symptoms

Symptoms of mushroom toxicosis vary depending on the system impacted by the toxin. 

Symptoms of toxicosis impacting the liver include:

• Mild vomiting • Mild diarrhea • Weakness • Jaundice • Coma 

Symptoms of toxicosis impacting the nervous system include:

• Weakness • Tremors • Seizures • Hallucination • Vocalization • Incoordination • Disorientation 

Symptoms of toxicosis impacting the GI system include:

• Vomiting • Diarrhea • Dehydration • Weakness • Difficulty breathing 

Symptoms of toxicosis impacting the kidneys include:

• Increased urination • Increased thirst • Dehydration • Vomiting • Nausea

Testing and Diagnosis

If ingestion of a known toxic mushroom is witness, the diagnosis is self evident. Ingestion may occur without a witness but it can leave evidence such as signs of chewing on the remaining mushrooms and traces of mushroom in vomit.

A dog suspected of having ingested a toxic mushroom will undergo the following diagnostics: 

• Physical examination • Blood test • Urinalysis • Stool analysis 

If possible a sample of the ingested mushroom should be presented to the veterinarian, as this can help in identifying the correct treatment.

Steps to Recovery

There is no antidote to mushroom poisoning. Treatment is mainly focused at decontamination and supportive care. 

Typical treatment for mushroom poisoning includes: 

• Gastrointestinal decontamination • Fluid therapy • Blood transfusion • Oxygen therapy • Antibiotics

• Anticonvulsant medication • Gastrointestinal protectant medication

Prognosis for mushroom poisoning varies widely, in accordance with the amount and identify of the ingested toxin. In mild cases, mushroom poisoning may cause moderate gastrointestinal upset and resolve without the need for medical attention. In severe cases, the prognosis is poor and the animal may die despite medical attention. In all cases, prompt medical attention is crucial to increase the likelihood of recovery.

Prevention

Mushroom poisoning is not contagious. It is prevented by avoiding ingestion of mushrooms. Strategies to control exposure to toxic mushrooms include:

• Regular inspection of the backyard prior to letting the animal out 

• Elimination of any mushrooms found in the dog’s outdoor environment, as it is difficult to reliably differentiate between toxic and non-toxic species

• Keeping dogs on a leash during hiking or other outdoor activities

Is Mushroom Poisoning Common in Dogs?

Mushroom poisoning is only common in dogs that have access to and consume mushrooms. It is more likely to occur in wooded areas. As most fungi fruit during periods of abundant moisture, mushroom poisoning is more prevalent during and after wet weather. In warmer climates mushrooms grow all year round, while in temperate climates they primarily grow in spring and early autumn. Local veterinarians and agricultural extension offices often have information regarding regional toxic mushroom species.

Typical Treatment

In most cases, typical treatment of mushroom poisoning includes:

• Gastrointestinal decontamination • Fluid therapy 

Further treatment depends of the kind of toxin ingested

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