With both recent and upcoming wet weather in our area, SAGE wants to remind our clients about the potential danger of poisonous mushrooms growing in your yards and neighborhood parks. We recently had a dog present to SAGE Concord in severe liver failure, just one day after going on a hike with his owner. Unfortunately, organ damage was too severe and he wasn’t able to be saved. A fecal sample later submitted for examination tested positive for amanita, known as the death cap mushroom.

It’s suspected that this dog encountered mushrooms while walking through Briones Regional Park in Contra Costa County, where fog at the hilltop provides adequate moisture for mushrooms to grow. While poisonous mushrooms are an uncommon cause of liver failure in many parts of the country, they can be prevalent throughout Northern California.

“The death cap mushroom is toxic to the liver,” said Dr. Jeremy Wong, an emergency veterinarian at SAGE Concord. “It gets absorbed quickly and becomes part of the ongoing circulation between the liver and small intestine. It causes irreversible damage.”

Clinical signs of their ingestion can include vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, bleeding, and jaundice. Initial signs of illness often occur within 6 to 12 hours of the pet eating the mushroom, with organ failure beginning at 12 to 24 hours. The ingestion of just one mushroom can cause death in an otherwise healthy large dog.

If a mushroom is ingested, doctors will want to induce vomiting immediately. If the patient is already sick when presented, treatment is likely to include aggressive liver support with IV fluids, antibiotics, milk thistle, Vitamin E, and potentially other products such as antioxidants and blood products. The prognosis depends on the amount of poison ingested, the extent of liver damage, and the administration of early and aggressive medical care.

At SAGE Veterinary Centers, testing for the amanita toxin can be performed on the bile or urine of a patient and submitted to the UC Davis toxicology laboratory. However, because time is of the utmost importance, doctors will likely begin aggressive therapy before results are known. At SAGE Redwood City, doctors have recently begun treating amanita toxicities with an experimental protocol that involves draining the gallbladder of the toxin. Dr. Ryan Goupil was recently featured on an NBC Bay Area newscast discussing the treatment.

Exposure to amanita can be limited by making sure your yard is free of mushrooms and keeping your dog leashed in parks and other unfamiliar areas. Please help us spread the word. Let the pet owners in your life know to be vigilant about mushrooms.