Wild Mushrooms: Deadly to Humans, Deadly to Dogs

 |  Dec 4th 2009  |   4 Contributions

Rainy weather has hit the Western United States. Wild mushroom season has begun.

Wild mushrooms have already claimed their first human fatality in California. A woman from Lodi died, her husband was sickened, and her nephew required an emergency liver transplant after she picked wild mushrooms in a park and included them in dinner. The victim evidently mistook Death Cap mushrooms (the name says it all) for Paddy Straw mushrooms (delicious and edible).

People aren't the only creatures that suffer fatal consequences after eating wild mushrooms. I have seen several dogs die despite aggressive medical treatment after consuming miniscule amounts of the toxic fungi.

Three nights ago a client brought her Yellow Lab and a bag of mushrooms picked from her yard. She asked whether any of them might be toxic (she evidently thought I was a mycologist rather than a veterinarian). She stated that her dog "may have chewed on some of the mushrooms".

This didn't give me much to work with. I couldn't identify any of the mushrooms but I had a hunch that they were toxic--most wild mushrooms are.

Toxic mushrooms come in three varieties. Some cause upset stomach. Others are hallucinogenic (neighborhood teenagers may help keep your yard free from these). Some, such as the Death Cap, cause fulminant liver failure that is essentially non-responsive to therapy.

The owner of the Yellow Lab elected to induce vomiting. The dog brought up grass, bile, and chicken breast. I couldn't identify any mushroom fragments. The owner did not let me run blood tests or hospitalize the dog. I do not know whether he later became sick.

If wild mushrooms are sprouting in your yard, exercise proper diligence. Don't allow your dog into the yard unsupervised. Canine liver transplants are not currently possible. If your dog eats a Death Cap it's all over.

Photo: Paddy Straw or Death Cap? Hint: if you're in North America, it's not a Paddy Straw. By Archenzo.


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