Mushrooms are a complicated food group. These edible fungi are a staple in many dishes and grow wild in our yards, gardens, and parks, and yet we hear so many stories about mushroom foraging gone wrong. But what about dogs? Do they have the same reactions to mushrooms as we do?
If you've ever contemplated slipping your dog a mushroom, or have seen your dog nibbling on a mushroom in your yard, you've probably asked yourself these questions.
The answer depends entirely on the kind of mushroom.
Can Dogs Eat Wild Mushrooms?
Picture this scenario. You are walking along a wooded trail with your dog, and she is enthusiastically sniffing the ground, when you notice she has stopped to eat something. You kneel down to see what it is and discover that your dog has snapped up a wild mushroom.
If your first reaction is panic, you're on the right track.
Some people believe that dogs won't eat toxic mushrooms because they can identify toxins by scent. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Veterinarians and mushroom experts believe that wild mushroom poisoning is an under-reported cause of fatal poisoning in pets, and responding quickly to a suspected mushroom snack is the best thing you can do for your dog in these circumstances.
If your dog has ingested a wild mushroom, contact your veterinarian, animal poison control center, or emergency veterinary hospital immediately.
What Kinds of Wild Mushrooms Are Toxic to Dogs?
You may have heard the expression, "There are old mushroom hunters, there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold wild mushroom hunters." This is because, while only a small percentage of the mushroom species in the world are toxic, the ones that are toxic are very toxic. They are also often difficult to distinguish from the non-toxic varieties, so veterinarians recommend treating all wild mushrooms as potentially toxic and a veterinary emergency.
Dogs eat mushrooms for the same reasons they eat other odd things. Dogs explore the world by scent and taste, and the texture of a mushroom might also be intriguing to an inquisitive canine. To make things worse, some varieties of toxic mushroom, like Amanita phalloides (death cap) and Inocybe spp. have a fishy odor. As any dog owner knows, dogs find fishy odors particularly attractive, which may explain why dogs commonly ingest these toxic mushroom species.
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Unless you are a mycologist, veterinarians caution against trying to identify the mushroom in question yourself, and instead urge clients to bring their dogs in for treatment, as even practiced mushroom foragers make mistakes.
However, there are a few wild mushrooms that seem to cause the most problems.
- Amanita phalloides, known colloquially as "death cap"
- Galerina marginata, known as "deadly Galerina" or "Galerina autumnalis"
- Amanita gemmata, or "jeweled deathcap"
- Amanita muscaria, called "fly agaric" or "Deadly Agaric"
- Gyromitra spp., or false morel
- Inocybe spp. and Clitocybe dealbata mushrooms
What Are the Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs?
The symptoms of mushroom poisoning in dogs depend on the species of mushroom. Certain mushroom species contain different toxins, which affect dogs differently.
For instance, Amanita mushrooms contain amanitin toxins. These cause severe GI symptoms, a false recovery period where the dog seems to feel better, and then liver failure, acute kidney injury, and death.
Inocybe spp. and Clitocybe dealbata mushrooms cause salivation, eye watering, increased urination, diarrhea, and neurological signs.
Other types of Amanita mushrooms cause sedation, tremors, "walking drunk," and seizures, and the false morel causes profuse vomiting and diarrhea, but is usually not fatal.
Other types of mushrooms simply cause GI upset, and while these are rarely life threatening, it can be very hard to determine the type of mushroom ingested based on early symptoms.
We also don't always know that our dogs have eaten mushrooms. Here is a list of the more common symptoms of mushroom poisoning in dogs to help you keep a watchful eye on your canine companion:
- Ataxia (staggering gait)
- Liver failure
- Abdominal pain
The toxic effects of mushrooms can also depend on any underlying condition your dog may have, or on a combination of ingested substances.
Treating Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs
Veterinary treatment options for mushroom poisoning depend on the type of mushroom, the symptoms, and how recently the mushroom was ingested.
If you can get a sample of the mushroom, preferably wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a paper bag, bring it in to your veterinarian, as this will help him determine the best course of action for the specific toxin.
Your veterinarian may induce vomiting if the ingestion was recent, and in some cases may administer drugs to counteract the toxin. Supportive care will be offered to keep your dog comfortable and manage her symptoms, and in some cases, dogs may slip into a non-fatal coma-like sleep and will require monitoring until they awake.
Can Dogs Eat Store-Bought Mushrooms?
Wild mushrooms can be toxic to humans and dogs, but what about store-bought mushrooms such as portabello mushrooms?
According to Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, DACVECC, writing for the Pet Health Network, mushrooms sold in large and chain grocery stores are generally safe for dogs to eat.
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However, we rarely serve up plain mushrooms. Instead, we like to smother them with delicious sauces, oils, and seasonings, which poses another set of problems for dogs.
Oils, butter, seasoning, and certain vegetables, such as garlic and onions, can be harmful to dogs. Unless the mushroom is served plain, it is generally safer to avoid feeding dishes with mushrooms to dogs. Dogs do not need mushrooms in their diet, so play it safe and give them a different reward, like a carrot stick or slice of apple, instead.