Mushroom poisoning in dogs: what owners need to know

Irina Wells
5 January 2022 - 6 min read
A dog staring at a wild mushroom

Wild mushrooms are common in autumn and can be found in woodlands, parks and even your own gardens. But if you have the sort of dog that tends to hoover up objects on a walk, you need to be aware of poisonous species of fungus.

Some wild mushrooms can even be lethally toxic to pets and as they tend to spring up overnight in wet, mild weather, they can be hard to avoid.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your dog safe and what to do if your dog does eat wild mushrooms.

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Signs and symptoms of mushroom poisoning in dogs

Your pet can show a variety of symptoms depending on the type of mushroom they’ve eaten, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Tummy ache
  • Excessive salivation and drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Wobbling, loss of balance
  • Yellowing of the white of the eyes or skin and gums
  • Seizures
  • Loss of motor control
  • Collapse

Veterinary surgeon Dr Sophie Bell says: “It's important to note that for some mushrooms the reaction can be nearly instant (within two hours) and for others, the effects can be delayed. Your dog could appear normal for around 12 hours post-ingestion before symptoms begin.

“The 'wait and see' approach is never advised. If you suspect your dog may have consumed a toxic mushroom, it's best to take immediate action.”

What to do if your dog has ingested a toxic mushroom

Dr Bell’s message is clear: “Get them to the vet as soon as possible,” she says.

“Take a picture, or better still a sample of the mushroom eaten, if possible, for identification and for a better understanding of the treatment needed. Owners shouldn't try to google and identify the mushroom themselves as they can easily get it wrong."

But what about if your dog ate a mushroom and you didn’t see it happen?

“You may be unaware your dog’s eaten a mushroom,” says Dr Bell. “If you see neurological signs, agitation, vocalisation/odd behaviours following a walk, get them to the vets.

“Then, if you can, re-walk the walk you took with your dog to look for clues of what they may have eaten.”

The symptoms can be quite frightening, so stay calm and act fast. “If your pet starts to have seizures due to mushroom toxicity, try to keep them cool on your way to the vet's by spraying cool water on the paw pads, using air-con in the car and trying to remain as quiet as possible, which includes not talking to them.”

ManyPets pet insurance customers have free access to video calls with a vet, 24/7. So if you're in an unfamiliar area or your nearest vet is closed you can get an appointment to check any symptoms you may see.

Common poisonous mushrooms in the UK

Here are some of the potentially deadly fungi your dog could find on walks and in your garden.

Fool’s Funnel

This is one of the most common poisonous mushrooms in the UK. They often appear in parks, gardens and by the road. They can be hard to spot as they only grow up to 6cm. They are often seen in small groups or rings.

The first signs of being poisoned by Fool's Funnel are excessive salivating and sweating, which can be observed within half an hour of ingestion. Abdominal pains, sickness and diarrhoea usually follow.

Death Cap

This is the deadliest fungus known and it’s common in England, according to the Woodland Trust. It is often found in broadleaved woods. Ingestion of just half a cap can be lethal.

Symptoms usually appear within 6 to 24 hours. It starts with vomiting, diarrhoea and severe abdominal pain. Eventually leads to kidney and liver failure.

Funeral Bell

This is a small mushroom that grows in clusters from tree bark or stumps. It grows in mixed or evergreen woodlands. Its toxins are similar to those of the death cap. Initial symptoms include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

It can lead to kidney and liver damage, hypothermia, and death if not treated promptly.

Angel's Wings

Very common in the Scottish Highlands and Cumbria, despite its beauty this mushroom is thought to be neurotoxic. Several cases of severe neurological damage in humans have been reported after ingesting it. So it is perhaps best admired from afar.

It can be found in evergreen woodland. It grows on decaying wood branches, bark and stumps.

Fly Agaric

Usually found around September and October but can sprout quickly and can kill dogs if they eat enough. It's native to the UK and grows in woodland and heathland among birch, pine or spruce.

Symptoms appear after around 30 to 90 minutes and peak within three hours and include nausea, drowsiness, twitching, seizures.

The effects are likely to vary depending on the size, age and metabolism of your dog, with similar doses potentially causing quite different reactions.

Our vet expert Dr Sophie Bell has one simple message for pet parents: “Always seek advice if you're worried your dog might have ingested something poisonous. Looks can be deceiving and mushrooms can vary from these images. So it’s better to be safe than sorry if you think they’ve eaten anything similar.”

How do you know if a mushroom is safe or not?

It’s nearly impossible to know for sure. Many harmless mushrooms have 'evil' twins that are poisonous. It might be tricky, even for an expert, to tell the difference just by looking at it.

So the bottom line is, it’s best to discourage your dog from nibbling or sniffing wild mushrooms. If you spot any in your garden, remove them.

Getting rid of mushrooms can be difficult, especially in autumn when it’s often rainy and mild. And you also have to be careful about how you do it. Mowing or raking might distribute more spores around your garden.

If you spot one particular area of your garden where they usually appear, you could try to dig out the soil and remove any potential food source, such as decomposing wood chips or other organic matter.

Using a nitrogen-based fertiliser is another tactic you could try. The nitrogen will speed up the decomposition of any organic matter that the mushrooms use for nutrients. But do check that the fertiliser’s safe for pets and wildlife.

Pluck out any mushrooms you spot as soon as possible to prevent their spores from spreading and producing more mushrooms. Dispose of them carefully to avoid spores finding their way to other places where fungi might thrive.

Other poisonous plants for dogs

Mushrooms aren’t the only plant-based peril for your dog. Here are a few more of nature’s toxins you might encounter during a dog walk:

Daffodils - The entire daffodil plant is toxic to dogs but toxins are concentrated in the bulb and dogs only need to ingest a relatively small amount to be taken ill. The problem is how common the plant is - your dog can encounter daffodils in your own garden or out and about on walks. You might think it unlikely that your pup will eat the flower, but be vigilant of them digging up and chewing the bulbs. 

Signs are drooling, pain and tiredness, but these can develop into more serious symptoms if your pet’s ingested enough.

Clematis - Like daffodils, this is an extremely common plant for your dog to find and one most owners don’t know is poisonous. While most dogs aren’t particularly prone to chewing up flowers, particularly bitter ones like this, but curious puppies might - and unfortunately these plants are more dangerous to them than to larger dogs.

Drooling is a symptom, as well as vomiting and diarrhoea.

Blue-green algae - If your dog’s a swimmer, check the water for a green or blueish scum, especially in non-flowing water like ponds or lakes. Blue-green algae isn’ technically a plant, but it looks like one and it can be found in seawater and fresh. It’s actually a ‘cyanobacteria’ that can be highly toxic to dogs and cause heart, liver and neurological problems.Your dog can become unwell just by bathing in the water, even if they don’t drink it.

As well as the symptoms of poisoning listed above, it can also cause paralysis or seizures - seek immediate treatment if you suspect your dog’s encountered blue-green algae.

There are plenty more with varying levels of toxicity. Dogs’ Trust has compiled a complete list of poisonous plants for dogs.

 If you think your dog’s eaten wild mushroom or any of the other plants mentioned, follow Dr Bell’s advice and speak to a vet immediately.

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