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Ten years ago, I was preparing to bring home puppies and I was so excited. At the time, I thought I knew all of what I needed to know because I read a few books, asked a few strangers about their dogs, and I started watching television dog trainer programs every weekend.
I could fill a series of books with what I didn't know about raising dogs. One thing I didn't know was that some of the mushrooms that grow in our yards can kill our dogs.
Wild Mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest
The other day, I saw a discussion about a mushroom supplement for dogs. A person joined the discussion to announce that mushrooms are toxic to dogs and they were stunned that anyone would create a supplement using poisonous mushrooms. People laughed at the comment, but this isn't funny. Many people think that mushrooms are toxic to dogs and when we dismiss someone's claim without respectfully sharing the truth, we miss out on an opportunity to help a dog. In my opinion.
So, what's the story? Are mushrooms toxic to dogs?
In my research, including discussions with veterinarians, I've learned that unless I'm a mycologist (an expert in mushrooms), I should just assume that anything growing on our property is poisonous. Thankfully, our dogs haven't shown any interest in the mushrooms but I squash them down anyway. I'm certain that I'm screwing up some master plan created by Nature, but it's hard to resist the urge to protect my dogs from the deadly mushrooms.
Regardless of my impact on the circle of plant life on our property, if I were to see one of my dogs eat a mushroom, even a small amount, I would drop everything and take my pup to the emergency vet. If there's time, I'd grab a mushroom to show our vet in case this is important for the care.
Signs of Mushroom Toxicity
Of course, our dogs go outside without us too. So what if they eat mushrooms and we don't know? I look for the following as a sign of ingestion of toxic substances:
- excessive drooling
- excessive urination (or inability to control)
- seizures and shaking
- intense stomach upset
If untreated, the ingestion of toxic mushrooms can lead to liver failure and while it's tempting to treat everything “naturally” and at home, I don't want to play around here. I also learned that dogs can also have an allergy or intolerance to mushrooms, which leads to hives, itchy skin, or diarrhea.
Mushrooms are Challenging to Identify
I thought that I could identify the mushrooms in our yard with a quick Google image search and while I found many mushrooms that might be the same as the ones on our property, I'm not convinced that they are the same. So I gave up. If you're curious about the mushrooms in your yard, you can take pictures and send them off to a local mycologist.
- You can contact a local university to ask if they have a Professor of Mycology on staff.
- You can search for local groups/clubs on the North American Mycological Association website.
- And you can find a mushroom identification group for your area on Facebook.
Mushrooms that are Safe for Dogs
Not all mushrooms are toxic to dogs. Mushrooms sold at our local grocery stores and many medicinal mushrooms are great for dogs. The mushrooms that I add to my dogs' diet are:
- White button
- Portobello (or brown mushrooms when they're smaller)
Benefits of Adding Mushrooms to Your Dog's Diet
- metabolism and weight loss
- blood sugar
- nutrient absorption
- immune system
Mushrooms are loaded with nutrients, help to ward off viral infections, lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, and have helped both people and dogs survive a cancer diagnosis. However, not all mushrooms or mushroom supplements are created equal. If you go on Amazon, you can order dried medicinal mushrooms, but I have loads of questions. Where were they grown? Were they subjected to pesticides? Does the bag really contain what it says? With all the fake supplements on Amazon, I'm very wary of buying something this important (you know, because of the cancer) off of that site.
So I ask for a recommendation from a veterinarian whom I trust and the common recommendation that I get is Mushroom Complex, which was formulated by Dr. Karen Becker and sold by Mercola.
Adding Mushroom Complex to My Dogs' Diet
It's said that 50% of dogs will develop cancer and the percentage increases when a dog reaches their senior years. Because of this, I began adding Mushroom Complex to Rodrigo and Sydney's diet to give them a better shot at those odds. And, when I can afford an extra supplement, I add it to everyone's meals. My goal is to improve their immune systems so their bodies can fight off free radicals (which may lead to cancer).
I have a recurring order on Chewy.com.
The Mushrooms in My Backyard
There is a group on Facebook for people interested in identifying mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest. They ask that you take multiple pictures of the mushrooms to give them the best chance of identifying them. Sadly, I only had top-down pics, so they gave me their best guess based on their experience/knowledge.
According to the Internet (so take with a grain of salt), this is what I learned about my mushrooms:
- Suillus – some mushrooms in this class are edible; the keyword being “some.” Source: Wikipedia
- Amanita Muscaria – these are classified as poisonous. Source: Wikipedia
- Agaricus Augustus – according to Wikipedia, this mushroom is edible and is said to be high in the metal cadmium.
- Laccaria Proxima – according to Wikipedia, this mushroom is also edible.
So, color me shocked that most of the mushrooms I found on our property are edible (according to Wikipedia). I won't be mixing up a culinary masterpiece with the findings in our yard, nor will the dogs avoid a trip to the veterinarian if they decide to snack on one of the “safe” mushrooms. And I'll continue doing my research, learning from experts in this field, while updating this post with new mushrooms I discover, because these ARE NOT the only mushrooms on our property.