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Truffles or Toxicity?


By Irene Choi, DVM                                                                  

January 3, 2013

 
Here in the Puget Sound Region there are plenty of forests with thick layers of built-up decaying debris and in our climate of almost constant moisture in the spring and fall mushrooms can proliferate.  Some mushrooms are a delicacy such as Truffles and Chanterelles and many people seek them out in the woods, however others can be poisonous.  These poisonous mushrooms can appear in your yard growing below piles of leaves or under bushes where you won’t see them readily.  There are many types of mushrooms and they can cause different types of symptoms that can start appearing within 30 minutes of ingestion up to 3-4 hours after ingestion.  The most severe mushroom toxicity can cause liver, kidney, and heart disease and lead to death.  Less severe mushroom poisonings can cause neurological symptoms such as seizures, tremors, hallucinations.  Many toxic mushrooms can cause hypersalivation (drooling), miosis (pinpoint pupils), bradycardia (decreased heart rates), lacrimation (excessive tearing), vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and respiratory distress. 
 

One of the most toxic mushrooms is Amanita phalloides (death angel) which has a distinctive red cap with white warts, white gills (underside) and white stalk.  They can range in colors from orangey-red to dark reds.
 
Amanita virosa (destroying angel) are usually all white mushrooms with white caps and stalks.
 
Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) appears much like Amanita phalloides except for having a more yellow-tinged cap with white warts and a white stalk.
 
Psilocybes cubensis (Golden tops) are powerful hallucinogens, but not found in the NW.
 
However there are other Psilocybes that do grow in the Northwest and can cause hallucinogens and are sometimes referred to as “Magic Mushrooms”
These little brown mushrooms can appear very similar to more toxic ones, such as Psilocybe
  
 
cyanescens which does grow in the Pacific Northwest.
 
There are some safe mushrooms that grow locally that can be eaten such as Chanterelles that are yellow, with ridged caps and no gills.
 
Boletus edulis with their brown caps, no gills, and spongy textures are edible.
 
Oyster mushrooms (pleurotas ostereatus) are fan shaped caps that look like oysters growing on the sides of trees and are edible.
 
Morel mushrooms with their unique “peanut” shell texture are often easy to identify and are also edible.
 
Protect your pets!
Dogs and pigs, will often stick their noses under brush and leaves to find mushrooms that are not readily apparent to our eyes.  Ingestion of mushrooms can have serious consequences if they are the wrong type.  Scan your yard regularly in the spring and fall for mushrooms and remove them immediately.  You may want to get on your hands and knees so that you are the same height as your pet when scanning the yard to help spot these little growths before your dog finds them.
 
If your dog eats a mushroom and you are unsure about whether or not it is poisonous, seek veterinary care for your pet immediately.  (Pick some of the uneaten ones if you can to help with identification). Mushroom toxicity can be treated by inducing vomiting if it is right after ingestion, otherwise activated charcoal and enemas can be given to help purge and inactivate potential toxins.  Lab work to evaluate kidney and liver function can be done by your veterinarian.  Fluid therapy and anti-seizure medications may be administered to negate the effects of the toxic mushrooms.  Often, if caught early and treated appropriately, dogs can make a full recovery from eating toxic mushrooms. 
 
References
“Handbook of Small Animal Toxicology and Poisonings 2nd Edition” by Roger W Gfeller and Shawn P. Messonnier published by Mosby 1998
“A field guide to common Animal Poisons” by Michael Murphy printed by Iowa State University Press in 1996
http://mushroomobserver.org/

 

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