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Nutrition Nuggets
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

What You Don't Know About Mushrooms Can Kill Your Dog

September 13, 2013 / (2) comments

One of the saddest cases that I can remember from more than 15 years of practicing veterinary medicine involves a dog that died after eating mushrooms her owners had collected from the woods. The owners were hunting for morels, a non-toxic (and delicious) type of wild mushroom. They had gathered an awful lot of them, put them in a pile on the ground, and while their backs were turned, their dog ate them all.

Being very conscientious, the owners immediately brought the dog in to my veterinary clinic, but the trip took quite awhile. First, they had to hike out of their remote location and then make the long drive to town. When they arrived, one of my coworkers took charge of the case but all the doctors who were on that day were at least tangentially involved. The first question that arose was, “could morel mushrooms be toxic to dogs?” After some research we determined they were not, but since the dog ate so many, GI (gastrointestinal) upset might be expected.

Adding to our uncertainty was the question of whether we could be completely certain that the owners had truly collected only morel mushrooms or whether a few toxic varieties could have been included in the batch laying on the ground. Also, the dog was currently receiving chemotherapy for lymphoma, but was in complete remission.

Better safe than sorry, we thought, and the doctor on the case made the dog vomit (up came some partially digested mushrooms but most had already entered the small intestine), gave her a couple of doses of activated charcoal, and started her on IV fluids.

Everyone was pretty jovial for the first few hours of the dog’s hospitalization. We all thought she would be fine, but fairly quickly it became obvious that would not be the case. Within a few hours the dog was decidedly unwell. She had become depressed and lethargic, had vomited a few times, was drooling, and her belly was painful. Upon closer examination, her pupils were constricted and her heartbeat was slower than expected. All of these symptoms are classic for a severe poisoning with the type of mushroom that absolutely destroys the liver. Despite everyone’s best efforts, the dog soon died.

We were never able to determine exactly what happened in this case. Was there some unique syndrome brought on by the massive amount of normally non-toxic mushrooms the dog ate? Did her lymphoma/chemotherapy play a role? Did the owners inadvertently include a toxic mushroom in the mix … perhaps a false morel which can be difficult to distinguish from the nontoxic variety? I believe this last scenario is most likely, and while it probably doesn’t bring the owners much solace, I like to think that maybe, just maybe, the dog’s last gift to her owners was to save them from their own mistake.

Never, ever allow your dog to eat wild mushrooms. Theoretically, mushrooms from the supermarket should be okay, but after this experience, I can’t even bring myself to recommend those.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: AnetaPic / Shutterstock

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Comments  2

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  • Sad Story
    09/13/2013 06:10pm

    What a sad story! No doubt the human owners were beyond being consoled.

    Do you have thoughts regarding whether it was a stray poisonous mushroom, the amount of mushrooms plus the time it took to get to the doctor or a combination of mushrooms and depressed immune system from the chemo?

    I'll place my bet on a stray poisonous mushroom.

    Was a necropsy done? If so, did it tell you anything at all? If not, do you think it might have hinted toward the cause?

  • Golden retriever died
    10/28/2013 12:03pm

    So, yesterday and today have been two of the saddest days ever. Our golden retriever, Kula, died suddenly late Friday night or early Saturday morning. We are beyond devastated. It appears that she succumbed to some sort of neurotoxicity. After the process of elimination, the vet, and we, believe that she probably ate some mushrooms (which we also believe to be false morels) and which proved toxic to her. Although we took her to the vet Friday evening , this was not diagnosed -- until it was too late and they did an autopsy. PLEASE check your yards and gardens for mushrooms daily and dig them out. If your dog or other pet ever shows signs of abnormal agitation or hyperactivity, not eating, and a lack of urine output when they try to urinate, PLEASE take them immediately to the ER, and do not let the vet send your pet home ... RIP sweet Kula - you were the absolute best dog and friend ever...




Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.