By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record January 23, 2009
Mushrooms are sprouting up in lawns everywhere. The rains and cooler weather stimulate their growth, so now is the time for pet owners to take action. Please monitor your lawns and gardens, and remove these fungi as soon as possible for the safety of yourself and your pets.
Mushrooms are toxic and can be deadly to your family members, including your dog and cat. Mushroom toxicity is more common in dogs because they tend to scavenge more frequently. Initially the fungi can cause signs of generalized stomach upset including vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, abdominal pain and poor appetite. Unfortunately it can progress from there. Often the pet owner is not aware that their dog or cat has consumed anything. Later he or she finds the deceased pet. Many cases of mushroom toxicity go unidentified because often a necropsy isn't performed.
Some mushrooms, such as the "death cap" Amanita phalloides, contain chemicals that target the kidneys and liver. One whole mushroom of this variety is enough to kill an adult human. Animals need only a small fraction of this to become seriously ill. This is the same mushroom that people died from after consuming them at Lodi lake last November.
Other fungi affect the nervous system, and can cause seizures, comas, and result in brain death within an hour of consumption. This group including Amanita muscaria and pantherine are called "magic mushrooms" because they trigger psychedelic and euphoric sensations while they are causing internal damage.
It is very difficult to identify a toxic mushroom from a safe one unless you are an expert, or mycologist. Furthermore, some toxins can be tested for, other mushrooms contain unknown toxins. Some mushrooms contain a multitude of chemicals. Symptoms can begin within 30 minutes of consumption, or take several hours to occur.
If you suspect that your canine or feline companion has consumed mushrooms, get him or her to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If no symptoms are present, vomiting can be induced, and charcoal can be given to decrease toxin absorption. If other symptoms are present, supportive care including IV fluids, oxygen, and seizure control medications can be administered. Lab work and several days of care may be needed.
Please monitor your lawns daily. Spores can actually sprout up overnight. It is best to remove them with a rake, as some chemicals can be absorbed through your skin. Don't consume, or let your pets ingest any mushrooms that you find growing wild.