* UPDATED 02/09/08 - A Wet Weather Warning & Wake Up

My dog Hugo just came home from the animal hospital last night after over 30 hours (and several hundreds of dollars) in care due to mushroom toxicity. He is resting and feeling better now, but this has been quite a scare because several types of mushrooms are toxic enough to rapidly cause liver failure and death in both dogs and humans. He is not quite out of the woods yet, we have to do yet another liver enzyme check and observe him closely over the next few days, but I am optimistic that he will survive this violent assault on his poor little system.

Other than scaring the pants off of me, this episode has also reminded me of two important points. Firstly, mushrooms can be really dangerous and it is very difficult to tell the good ones from the bad ones so be aware and keep your dog away from them - period. Secondly, foraging is an annoying and dangerous bad habit for dogs to develop. If your dog is a forager or grazer I highly recommend beginning a training program that will keep your dog’s attention on you and off of the ground. There are many other benefits to this as well and you may find that your dog’s general reliability increases once you step up the training and attention.

I already knew both of the things I mention above, but when nothing bad happens it is easy to get lazy. Hugo is my first small dog; he is very short and therefore close to the ground. He is also still under a year old, very curious, and like a little piggy who forages and will eat just about anything. Heck, he even readily ate the activated charcoal that was part of his treatment!

I knew is was potentially unsafe for him to have such a bad habit as foraging, but because nothing bad had come of it, and because I supervise him very well and he has a great drop (spit it out!) response when cued, I thought everything would be okay. Well, it turns out wasn’t okay at all. Lesson learned.

As for the episode itself, Hugo was out in my garden with me and my two other dogs, Dune and Claude when he must have gotten into the mushrooms. I was cleaning up the lawn while the dogs relaxed and sniffed and rolled in the sun. (The first sun we’ve had in days!) We were only outside for about ten minutes and while I was present, I didn’t stare at Hugo the entire time. There have been a few big mushrooms in the grass over the past few weeks with all of the rain, and I have carefully picked and disposed of them as I find them but the “little brown mushrooms” he got into were so tiny and dark that they were well camouflaged by in the dead grass and dirt.

Within 3 hours he had violent diarrhea and was vomiting. While this was terrible I don’t know that that alone would have made me bring him to the vet right away. However he was also salivating profusely and even kind of frothing at the mouth. And THIS is the important part. Heavy salivation is one of the telltale signs of poisoning, rather than just a simple G.I. upset. Other symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellow skin color), seizures, and coma. Symptoms usually occur with minute to hours after ingestion.

If you see your dog eat a mushroom, induce vomiting right away. Call your vet or local pet emergency hospital to learn how and to find out what you should do next. If you don’t see your dog eat anything strange but they have any of the symptoms above it is best to take them in for a check up right away and let the vet decide how to proceed.

Late winter and spring wet weather is prime mushroom season so do be careful.


UPDATE 02/09/2008: Hugo is feeling much better, back to his old self really. He went to his obedience class on Thursday, with Dr. approval, and starts his foundation agility work on Monday with the lovely and talented Sandy Rogers. Here is a picture of him on his first post-incident walk. Some say he looks as though he is reflecting on his near-death experience, but I doubt it. On that very same walk he tried to eat a mushroom and I had to quickly grab him and scrape his mouth out with my finger. We have our work cut out for us, Hugo & I...

Are you a dog breeder? Sign up for the Dog Breeder Behavior & Training Program