Could Your Pet Be Poisoned by a Mushroom?

Almost at the top of the list as the cause of pet poisonings each year is mushroom intoxication. Vets think this is probably underestimated despite the fact that it ranks so high.

Mushrooms provide a challenge to most pet parents because none of us are mycologists (mushroom experts). How are we to ever tell which is a poisonous and non-poisonous mushroom?

According to Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant director of Veterinary Services at the national Pet Poison Helpline, separating toxic from non-toxic mushrooms is “the million dollar question.”

“Mushrooms are notoriously hard to identify,” she explains. “However innocent looking a mushroom appears, some of them can be life threatening.”

One of the most toxic mushrooms out there is the “false morel” mushroom; however it is this mushroom that looks very much like the edible mushroom favored by gourmet cooks.

Although there are thousands of species of mushrooms there are only a relatively few that are actually toxic. Most fatal poisonings of pets occur from ingesting the Galerina, Lepiota and Amanita mushrooms.

It is the Amanita mushroom that is found in Asia, Europe and North America. It is very difficult to identify the Amanita mushroom because it comes in seven different shapes and colors.

What are the symptoms of mushroom poisoning? Any clinical signs are dependent on the species of the mushroom, the individual animal’s susceptibility and the type of toxin the mushroom has.

Generally speaking, mushroom poisoning has four distinct clinical syndromes, according to Dr. Charlotte Means of the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center .

GI upset, muscarinic effects, depression, and lethargy, abdominal pain and vomiting are the main characteristics of this clinical syndrome. Jaundice, seizures and bleeding disorders, although a little rarer, may also occur.

These symptoms occur between 6 and 20 hours after mushroom ingestion and can be fatal without immediate aggressive treatment.  The death cap and false morel mushrooms are usually the mushroom responsible for this syndrome.

Illegal “street” mushrooms commonly known as magic mushrooms, blue legs, or liberty caps, cause hallucinogenic syndrome.  These are non-toxic mushrooms (the kind sold in grocery stores) that have been tainted with LSD or other illicit drugs.

Gastrointestinal irritation is the more common symptom your dog or cat will get after digesting a mushroom, but usually not serious enough to be fatal, shown by vomiting and diarrhea.

These typically occur within about six hours of ingestion, and usually runs its course in about 24 hours. This requires minimal veterinary care.

Muscarinic effects include excessive drooling and tear production, which are also symptoms of carbamate and organophosphate insecticide poisoning. Pupils may be small and constricted, but the most serious sign is a significantly slowed heartbeat.

This syndrome usually occurs about six hours after ingesting the bad mushroom and almost always requires a vet

Pets typically find these mushrooms inside the house, not in the yard. An untutored mushroom connoisseur has picked the wrong mushrooms.

Symptoms of magic mushroom ingestion can include hallucinations, restlessness, “air biting,” extreme depression, staggering, muscle tremors, seizures, and coma.

If you suspect your pet has ingested this type of mushroom, you should get him to your veterinarian or an emergency animal clinic immediately.

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