Mushroom toxicity

Goats and fungi and forests oh my!

One of the things I love about living on Central Vancouver Island is that there is always a myriad of little adventures to be had.

Fall and winter is one of my favourite times to visit Coombs Country Market. With most of the tourists gone for the season it allows for a slower pace to browse and enjoy. A visit to the market is never complete without checking out the goats that make up the famous “goats on the roof”. The wee man found the goats especially interesting this visit.

After Coombs we headed off to the Heritage Forest in Qualicum. This wheelchair accessible trail through the forest is great for fido and strollers (not that wee man actually sat in his stroller)!

The forest was particularly tranquil that day and there was lots of exploring to be had!

Fungi seem to be in full “bloom” this time of year and I got to thinking about my days working emergency when we would often receive calls about possible mushroom ingestion and concerns about toxicity.

Most mushrooms are not toxic to animals, but some are deadly. The hardest part is identifying the fungi (well for me anyways)! The most common toxicities are due to mushrooms in the genus Amanita (which cause 95% of all human mushroom fatalities). Signs of toxicity can take as little as 30 minutes to occur or up to days depending on the type of shroom ingested. Initial signs could include gastrointestinal (vomiting and diarrhea) or neurological (disorientation, falling over and tremors) and can rapidly progress to seizures and death if not treated promptly.

If your pet has ingested a mushroom, what should you do? If there are any left, collect a mushroom and place it in a paper bag and refrigerate until it can be identified (usually by a mycologist or fungi expert). Seek IMMEDIATE veterinary attention. Veterinarians can safely administer an emetic (drug to induce vomiting). This is best done within 30 minutes of ingestion. Keep in mind, when using an emetic usually only 60% of the stomach contents are brought up.  Your veterinarian may recommend supportive care (intravenous fluids, activated charcoal) and close monitoring of bloodwork to monitor blood glucose, liver and kidney values.

So enjoy your forest walks and hikes, but be aware that there are some mushrooms that are best left growing out of old tree stumps!