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5 Things to Know If Your Dog Eats a Wild Mushroom

Wild mushrooms simply refer to mushrooms that grow in the wild, and not in controlled environments. Like most mushrooms, they sprout in the wake of a rainy spell, mostly along mountain slopes, coastal areas, and densely-wooded forests.

Wild mushrooms could also sprout right in your garden or backyard. When these mushrooms grow within such close quarters of your homes, they could become prime attraction points for your furry friends. And there’s no telling what could happen if your dog nibbles on them.

Are All Wild Mushrooms Toxic?

Contrary to popular perception, not all wild mushrooms are toxic. Up to 99% of all mushroom species present no worrying toxicity levels. Medical and nutritional experts believe mushrooms could be just as beneficial to dogs as humans.

If administered to dogs in small quantities, certain mushroom species like psilocybe cyanescens come with a cocktail of health and dietary benefits. These mushrooms are loaded with compounds like beta-glucans, ergosterol, and triterpenoids. These compounds contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So, feeding your dog a small portion of psilocybe cyanescens from time to time might help to lower the risks of chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. 

The following are other potential mushroom benefits for dogs;

  • Immune support
  • Regulation of blood sugar levels
  • Promoting a healthy nervous system
  • Boosting of brain function
  • Increasing the dog’s energy and stamina

But while 99% of mushroom species generally present no toxicity, it’s the 1% you should be worried about. Toxic mushrooms can cause a wide range of side effects in dogs. And without urgent medical intervention, poisonous mushrooms might even kill your puppy.

Symptoms of Mushroom Toxicity in Dogs

Puppy's first Vet Visit

Mushroom toxicity in dogs results from consuming poisonous mushrooms. The following are some of the common symptoms to watch out for;

  • Gastrointestinal complications, such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea which leads to dehydration, constipation, and abdominal pain
  • Liver-related symptoms, such as jaundice or yellowing of the skin
  • Lethargy
  • Ptyalism or excessive drooling
  • Poor coordination
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma

It’s important to note that the severity of mushroom poisoning in dogs depends on two factors- the mushroom species the dog has eaten and the quantity consumed. According to Dr. Corinne Wigfall, DVM., BVM., BVS. “If a dog eats wild mushrooms on a walk or even in the backyard, this should be treated as an emergency, and vet help should be sought straight away. Mushrooms can cause kidney and liver failure, neurological signs, and even death, depending on the type and amount of mushroom ingested. Sometimes mushroom ingestion can go unnoticed, and the first signs you may see are vomiting, diarrhea, ataxia (wobbliness) or tremors.” In case of mild stomach upset, your dog may be able to recover at home. Extreme sickness will require hospitalization. Mushroom poisoning can be very serious and life-threatening. Dogs that have eaten a poisonous mushroom need to be seen by a Veterinarian for treatment.

How is Mushroom Toxicity Diagnosed?

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If you notice any of the above symptoms, you need to take the dog for a Veterinary examination immediately. The Vet will ask a couple of questions relating to the dog’s medical history, enabling him to construct a medical profile of the dog.

Dr. Wigfall recommends taking photos of the mushroom from different angles to help identify the mushroom your dog ate. You’ll need to share with the Vet all details about the onset and nature of symptoms and what you believe might have aggravated the situation. “Mushrooms can be incredibly difficult to identify, so the more information we have, the more likely we will be able to identify it. Bring a sample of the mushroom in a damp paper towel if possible. Modern technology is improving all the time. Now, apps and online support groups are dedicated to identifying mushroom species for veterinarians to target treatment and give owners a better idea of how serious a problem they are facing.”

After constructing your dog’s medical profile, the vet will conduct a physical examination of the dog, including checking for gastrointestinal distress and dehydration signs. The next steps usually involve blood, poo, and urine analysis.

5 Common Treatments for Mushroom Poisoning In Dogs

Generally, the treatment for mushroom poisoning in dogs targets the core symptoms of the condition. The treatment method also depends on the underlying cause of toxicity, how long ago the dog was exposed to the mushrooms and the severity of the symptoms. Dr. Wigfall states that “recovery time can be anywhere from 1-7 days and patients can initially improve with treatment before deteriorating with irreversible liver or kidney failure, so it can be an incredibly stressful experience for pet owners while their dog is in hospital.”

Some of the treatment options include:

1. Administration of Activated Charcoal

Pets who have ingested poisonous mushrooms may be treated with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal helps to absorb the toxins in your dog’s stomach so that toxic substances can no longer enter his bloodstream.

Activated charcoal works through adsorption, which refers to the process where molecules adhere to a surface instead of dissolving. It’s usually the first line of defense against further toxicity.

2. Induce Vomiting

Once activated charcoal has been administered, the dog must vomit to get rid of the toxins. If your pet cannot vomit on his own, the vet may need to induce it.

One of the most effective substances for inducing vomiting in dogs is hydrogen peroxide, which should only be done by a Veterinarian. Pets who have ingested any toxins should seek the help of a veterinary professional immediately. Do not attempt this at home without guidance.

3. IV Therapy

Intravenous (IV) therapy may not always be necessary. But dogs that are visibly dehydrated, may require fluid therapy.

As the name implies, this is a therapy that delivers fluids straight to the dog’s veins.

4. Liver and Kidney Management

The chances of your dog requiring kidney or liver treatment depend on the toxicity severity. The liver is a self-cleansing organ that is known to induce its own healing process. But if the extent of damage is worrying, then a minor surgical procedure may be necessary.

The same applies to the kidney, where dialysis may be recommended if the damage is extensive. But in most cases, IV therapy and diet will be enough to manage the liver or kidney of a dog with mushroom poisoning.

5. Treatment for Seizures

Seizures are the worst neurologic symptoms a dog may experience after eating wild mushrooms. Seizures are commonly treated with anticonvulsant medications, such as potassium bromide and phenobarbital. Again, treatment is best to leave it to your Vet. Your Vet will help you determine the right course of treatment for your pet.

Many wild mushroom species are non-toxic to dogs. But the toxic ones can present significant health concerns if ingested. If you ever suspect mushroom poisoning in your dog, the convention is to enlist professional help immediately.

To keep your pet safe, assume that all wild mushrooms are toxic. If you see wild mushrooms growing nearby keep your pets away and safely remove the mushrooms whenever possible.

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