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The Not-so-Fungis for your pet

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Autumn brings rain, cardigans, green hills and mushrooms – but only one of these can poison your pet!

Despite there being a thriving community of Australian “shroomers” who love to go picking wild mushrooms, we really don’t know too much about mushrooms in Australia and this makes them very dangerous.

Mushrooms are amazing things. Neither plant nor animal, “fungi” are usually placed in a Kingdom of their own. Their cell walls are made from chitin, the same material as the hard outer shells of insects and other arthropods, and they contain no chlorophyll.

Unlike plants, mushrooms obtain their nutrition from metabolizing non-living organic matter. This means they break down and “eat” dead plants, just like your compost pile does.

The “body” of a mushroom fungus is often underground and can be huge – metres across or even larger. It stores nutrients and other essential compounds, and when enough material is stored and the conditions are right – generally in Autumn when the cooler weather arrives and the first rains begin - they start to “fruit” – creating the mushrooms we see.

The mushroom fruit increases in size through cell enlargement rather than cell division which means very little energy is required, and almost overnight a they can go from the size of a pin head to a large mushroom and appear on your lawn ready for an inquisitive kitty or frisky puppy to bite into.

There are many species of mushrooms, and many of these are toxic (many are not), but the problem is that there is actually no proven way to easily work out from home if the mushroom growing in your yard is toxic, or not.

Basically, in any place that a mushroom can grow, there’s a chance for toxic ones to exist.

Depending on the type of mushroom, how much, and the length of time since it was eaten, the signs of toxicity will vary. But common signs, which can happen anywhere from 2-24 hours of eating one, might include any of the following:

  • Wobbling, loss of balance, or trouble walking

  • Vomiting

  • Salivating

  • Yellowing of skin and “whites of eyes”

  • Sleep-like coma

  • Seizures

When your pet eats mushrooms it can cause anything from nausea to major liver damage to death.

But as always, we know that prevention is better (and cheaper) than a cure, and there are two golden rules to follow to protect your pet from these not-so-fungis

  1. Keep a look out for mushrooms growing in your yard and remove them as soon as you see them

  2. Restrain your mate when walking in areas mushrooms grow to reduce the risk that one gets eaten

These two simple steps can help eliminate most of the instances of mushroom poisoning in pets.

But, if you think your pet has eaten a mushroom: head straight to the veterinarian and ring ahead while you are on your way.

Your pet will need medical attention immediately, and the sooner the treatment can start the greater the chance that your pet will live through the experience.

Treatment will depend on the type of mushroom ingested. Treatments include

Inducing vomiting in your pet to remove toxins from the stomach as quickly as possible.

  • Fluid therapy to specifically encourage urination and reduce toxicity in the liver and kidneys.

  • Activated charcoal may been given to by mouth to dogs as a way to neutralize the stomach acids and bind the toxins.

  • Glucose and gastrointestinal protectants can also be administered, along with antibiotics.

  • In severe cases a blood transfusion may be necessary

If your pet is unlucky enough to eat a mushroom you can expect that they will need treatment over days.

Your pet will need to rehydrate with fluids that will restore the proper amounts of glucose and potassium to the blood, and the liver will need to be monitored and checked to ensure it recovers as mush as possible.

Pets do recover from mushroom ingestion, particularly if the toxins were eliminated quickly before extensive damage was done, but the treatment is extensive and the therapy must be done over a period of hours and/or days depending on the amount consumed and the species ingested.

So like we always say - prevention is much better (and cheaper) for you and your pet.

As the rain soaks the ground and everything turns green, keep your eyes peeled for

mushrooms, and if you spot any in your yard get rid of them straight away!

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