Q: My dog, Clyde, enjoys eating wild mushrooms and has never become ill from them. If a mushroom is poisonous, will he know by its odor or initial taste not to eat it? When we’re hiking, how can I distinguish toxic mushrooms from safe ones?
A: Clyde won’t recognize a toxic mushroom, and neither will you. Mushroom identification is difficult for people who aren’t experts because poisonous mushrooms resemble the non-toxic varieties. So be safe and prevent Clyde from eating any mushroom. Toxic mushrooms grow throughout the US, and one or two can hide in a group of harmless mushrooms.
Two dogs recently died of mushroom poisoning near my home. The toxic mushrooms were concealed under the mulch, so the homeowner didn’t see them. Her other dogs were very sick, and their veterinarian identified amatoxin in their blood. Amatoxin, found in the Amanita, or death cap, mushroom, causes vomiting, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, high fever, rapid heart rate and dehydration. Death is due to liver and kidney failure.
Other species of toxic mushrooms induce less serious clinical signs but still can cause hallucinations, seizures, loss of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea and high fever.
Most poisonings occur during the spring, summer and fall; so, commit now to walking Clyde on leash and teaching him to “drop it” or “leave it.” If mushrooms pop up in your yard, dispose of them in a bag and wash your hands.
If you ever suspect that Clyde may have been poisoned by a mushroom, get him to the veterinarian immediately.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.