Common Mushrooms that are Toxic to Dogs and Cats

February 24, 2016

By Linda Cole

Thousands of species of mushrooms grow everywhere in the United States. Some are harmless, but many can be toxic to dogs and cats. Even some that are safe for humans to eat can be toxic to pets. Unless you are an expert in identifying the different species, it can be difficult to know if a mushroom growing in your yard or along a hiking trail is one of the toxic ones. Your best course of action is to make sure your pet doesn’t ingest any type of mushroom. Here are some of the more common mushrooms that are poisonous to dogs and cats.

Fly AgaricFly Agaric

This mushroom is very easy to identify and actually quite stunning, but it can be deadly under the right circumstances if ingested. The bright red cap is speckled with white spots, and it has a white stem. However, the cap can appear to be orange or yellowish when faded by the sun, or depending on the region where it grows. Ingestion causes vomiting and disorientation that fluctuates between excitability and depression, as well as hallucinations. The main toxins are muscimol and ibotenic acid which attack the central nervous system. It has a fishy smell which is why dogs and cats are attracted to it.

Magic Mushrooms

This plain looking little brown mushroom with a cap that looks like a half opened umbrella, causes a pet to hallucinate, appear to be drunk, and have a fever. The affects can begin within 30 minutes and last for up to three days. Affected pets can injure themselves while in an agitated state.

False Morels

The compound methylhydrazine is found in these mushrooms. It’s the same compound used in industrial applications that include rocket fuel and corrosion inhibitor. If ingested, false morels can cause vomiting, diarrhea and seizures, and can sometimes be fatal for dogs and cats.

HelvellaElf’s Saddle – Helvella Lacunosa

Little is known about the toxicity of this mushroom because it varies, and it should be avoided at all costs. It’s mainly found in woodland areas under conifer trees like fir, pine, hemlock and spruce, as well as trees that drop their leaves in the fall. It’s gray with a saddle-like cap and an off-white grayish stem.

Jeweled Death Cap – Amanita Gemmata

This mushroom resembles the fly agaric, but has a yellowish cap speckled with white spots. It can cause liver and kidney disease and be deadly.

The Amatoxic Group

This group of mushrooms species, Amanita, Galerina, Lepiota and Conocybe, contains the toxin amanitin. When ingested, the toxin attacks the liver. Vomiting is common when the mushroom is eaten, but not for around 6 to 12 hours afterwards. A pet that ingests one of these mushrooms can appear to get better, but relapse in three to seven days with seizures, bleeding and liver failure, and rarely survives.

Death Cap – Amanita Phalloides

Like many of the mushroom species, the death cap is a plain looking fungus with a white-greenish cap; it’s the one that’s responsible for the most fatalities in people and pets. It’s so toxic that half a mushroom can be deadly for an adult human. When ingested, gastrointestinal symptoms begin and then a brief recovery occurs before the victim has a relapse and experiences liver or kidney failure.

galerinaAutumn Galerina – Galerina Marginata

Brown in color, this fungus is found in forests and lawns. It likes to grow on decayed wood and sawdust, and pops up in your yard after a heavy rain. Like the death cap, this is a very toxic mushroom that causes gastrointestinal issues, a brief recovery and then a relapse a few days later with kidney and liver failure, and is usually fatal.

Identifying toxic mushrooms can be difficult for most people because many are similar to ones that are safe for us to eat. Dogs are more likely to find and eat mushrooms than cats, but both can be affected if they consume a poisonous fungi. The type of toxin varies depending on the species of mushroom. Some can be deadly while others can be treated by your vet. Signs of mushroom poisoning can include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, depression, abdominal pain, hallucinations, lack of muscle coordination, excessive drooling, urination, seizures, hyperthermia, coma, kidney failure and liver failure.

A curious dog or cat can be attracted to mushrooms because of their odor. Your best defense is to immediately remove all mushrooms that you find in your yard and make sure your pet doesn’t eat any mushrooms while out walking and hiking in areas where they grow. If you suspect your pet has ingested a mushroom, get him to your vet immediately along with a sample of the mushroom. Wrap it in a moist paper towel or in a paper bag. Do not put it in a plastic bag because it will break the mushroom down.

Top photo by E. Dronkert/Flickr
Middle photo by Miroslav Klimeš/Flickr
Bottom photo by Rocky Houghtby/Flickr

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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