Mushrooms are the fruiting body of the fungi. They appear when the climate is warm and wet; particularly in the spring and fall. Mushrooms are widespread in the Pacific Northwest and can be found on lawns, in fields, or growing on trees and from the ground in forested areas. If you live in the PNW and have a canine friend, there are some basics you should know when it comes to mushroom toxicity and dogs!
The effects of mushroom poisoning in canines ranges from mild gastrointestinal upset to hospitalization and sadly, sometimes death. Symptom onset ranges from 15 minutes to 24 hours and depending on the type of toxin ingested, may include: vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, dehydration, salivation, eye watering and lethargy. Psychoactive mushrooms will present as lack of coordination, tremors, hallucinations, vocalizations and seizures.
Now, let’s debunk some common myths about mushrooms:
- Dogs inherently know not to eat wild mushrooms: sadly, this isn’t the case. Individual dogs can range from showing no interest in mushrooms to being highly interested. Some toxic mushrooms have a fishy odour that dogs are particularly driven to.
- Mushrooms are easy to identify: unfortunately this is incorrect; edible mushrooms often have a poisonous look alike species and for the untrained eye, are difficult to distinguish between.
- You can get sick from touching a toxic mushroom: mushrooms can only cause harm to humans and dogs if they are ingested. To ensure this doesn’t happen please take care to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap at your earliest convenience after handling wild mushrooms.
- Dogs can't eat supermarket mushrooms: dogs can in fact safely consume grocery store or as we call them, button mushrooms. What isn't safe for dogs is the garlic and onions that we often cook our mushrooms with!
So if there’s a chance that when out enjoying a beautiful sunny fall day with your pup they could mistakenly consume a harmful mushroom, what can we do to keep them safe?
Prevent mushroom poisonings by not letting your dog eat any wild mushrooms.
I personally find that the vast majority of dogs show no interest in mushrooms but this is highly variable between individual dogs. Please be aware that if you are getting a close look at one of our fungi friends, your dog may show a sudden interest as he notices that it is of interest to you! If you see your dog approaching a mushroom on the forest floor this is the perfect opportunity to distract them with their recall cue and reward them with a tasty treat!
Know what to do in the event that your dog ingests a wild mushroom:
- Have the animal poison control phone number saved in your phone - 888 426 4435 (along with your local emergency vet!)
- Always treat wild mushroom ingestion as a veterinary emergency
- Document the ingested mushroom (this will help guide treatment):
- Take a photo of the mushroom ingested including the gills, stem and cap (there are likely others nearby of the same species)
- Bring a specimen with you to the vet to help determine a treatment plan (store in a paper vs plastic bag if possible as mushrooms will deteriorate quickly if they can’t “breathe”)
- Take a photo of the trees in the immediate are
Take it to the next step; know the basic features of the most common toxic species of mushrooms that grow in your local area. For a Whistler guide, please see below!
Stay safe and enjoy those beautiful (and rare) sunny autumn days with your furry furiends :)