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K9 Corner: Wild mushrooms can spell trouble for dogs

I ran across an article in an e-newsletter this week regarding mushrooms. Whereas I enjoy mushrooms cooked in beef drippings, this is not a culinary column, it is just the opposite — the subject is poisonous mushrooms. I am not a connoisseur of mushrooms, edible or poisonous, so I avoid any growing wild and remove any that start growing in my yard for safety’s sake.

We have been having a fairly wet spring and my experience with mushrooms and other fungi is warm, wet weather provides them an ideal growing condition. Because of the growing conditions, I plan to walk my yard and remove any fungi I see, even digging several inches down into the soil in order to slow re-growth.

I didn’t realize how many varieties of mushrooms are poisonous until I read a Pet MD article (bit.ly/MushroomPoisoningDogs). Here are the categories listed along with the number of varieties for each category:

Liver toxic mushrooms (four varieties)

Hallucinogenic mushrooms (four)

Toadstool mushrooms (two)

Mushrooms containing muscerinic agents (two)

False morel mushrooms (four)

Mushrooms that cause gastrointestinal distress (two)

I do not have room to describe each of the varieties, but the internet has pictures of the main species. The Pet MD website states that the liver-toxic mushrooms cause the most problems because the dog’s owner is not aware the dog has eaten anything toxic until he starts showing symptoms. This mushroom toxin attacks the liver and kidney cells. Therefore, if it is possible, bring a sample of the suspected mushroom when you take your dog to the clinic.

According to Pet MD, symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, lethargy, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), uncoordinated movements, excessive drooling, seizures and coma. I was pleased to read that if the dog is treated within the first few hours of ingestion, the possibility of recovery is high. It is getting the dog (or cat) to the veterinarian as soon as you are aware of a problem that is essential, especially if it is one of the liver-toxic mushrooms, which affects both the liver and kidneys.

Mushroom poisoning is an emergency that includes hospitalization. The dog may be treated with activated charcoal given by mouth to bind the toxins in the gut or the doctor may flush the stomach to remove the toxins. The dog will need fluid therapy. The treatment depends on the amount ingested and the toxicity of the mushroom eaten.

However, I don’t mean to discourage anyone from enjoying mushrooms on their salads or cooked in soups or with meat. According to the original newsletter from Dr. Karen S. Becker, only 1 percent mushroom varieties are toxic.

Just make sure you have an expert with you if you are hunting wild mushrooms or else restrict yourself to eating those grown specifically for the table and sold in markets. Many of the edible mushrooms have wonderful medicinal properties; some can be life-saving.