Poisonous Mushrooms and Pets: the Danger Lurking in Your Backyard

“I love the smell of wet grass after a rainfall…What’s this? Snacks! – your food motivated pet

Uninvited Mushrooms

Earlier this summer we covered the dangers of Toxic Plants and Your Pets, but with the wet, fall weather upon us we may notice an abundance of mushrooms and other unsolicited vegetation popping up in our own backyards. But as actor and former WWE superstar Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson found out, these capped-culprits can be deadly to an unsuspecting and curious pet when ingested.

Social media is reporting Johnson’s dog, Brutus, was taken off of life support after ingesting a fatal dose of a toxic ground fungi, the species of which is yet undisclosed. Brutus was outside playing with his canine brother, Hobbs, when he ingested the mushroom and soon became ill. Brutus’s small stature enabled the toxin to spread quickly throughout his body, shutting down his immune system and liver. At 11:15 pm on September 30th, Johnson and his veterinarian made the heartbreaking decision to take the pup off of life support.

Johnson said in a statement, I encourage all of you out there to be mindful of mushrooms in your yards, parks, or anywhere outside your dogs play. What looks innocent, can be deadly to your lil’ family members.”

Although the North American Mycological Association reports 99 percent of the most commonly found yard and wild mushrooms are harmless, the one remaining percent can be deadly to your pets. Here are some tips to keep in mind when dealing with unknown vegetation and your furry companions.

Where Mushrooms Grow

Mushrooms can pop up in any area, but like the rest of their fungi family, they tend to prefer shaded, moist ground. Forested areas can have mushrooms hidden under leaves and growing out of dead trees, while fields can play host to mushrooms clumped together in dung piles or well fertilized areas.

Even backyards can harbor shroom patches in particularly wet areas of grass, which is why particularly during cooler times of the year, it’s critical to monitor your own property for any dangerous vegetation. Even when walking or hiking with your dog, be sure to keep an eye out for any unknown or unidentifiable vegetation lurking that your curious canine could spontaneously chomp on without your supervision.

6 Common Toxic Mushrooms

There are countless species of fungi out there, but here are the six most common types of poisonous mushrooms you could encounter with your pet.

InocybeInocybe Species

  • Location:  Adaptable to many different trees and locations.
  • Appearance: These mushrooms tend to have long thin stems and a fibrous cap. They can be various shades of brown, although some have been reported to be purplish or lilac in color. The caps are pointed, but will flatten with age and may be frayed in appearance.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: The Inocybe has a strong odor that is somewhat fishy, which may be why animals are attracted to it.
  • Toxin Present: Muscarine – Affects the nervous system

amanitaAmanita Phalloides

  • Location:  Phalloides likes to grow between the roots of trees.
  • Appearance: Has a greenish-colored cap with a white stipe (stem) and gills.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: This species of fungi is responsible for the majority of poisonings in humans and animals which is why it is commonly known as the “Death Cap.”
  • Toxin Present: A-amanitin – damages the liver and kidneys.

MuscariaAmanita Muscaria

  • Location: This mushroom can be found around both deciduous and coniferous trees, particularly pine and birch.
  • Appearance: The Amanita Muscaria is the quintessential toadstool with a colorful red cap, white spots and white stem that is used in many popular movies, books, and television.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: Appealing in appearance, the Muscaria’s vibrant colors are enticing to animals of all kinds and is highly visible on forest floors.
  • Toxin Present: Muscimol – affects the brain.


Amanita Pantherina

  • Location: This mushroom loves to nestle beside conifers like Spruce, Pine, and Douglas Fir.
  • Appearance: It is a bulky mushroom that has a dark brown to pale tan cap covered in white bumpy “warts.”  Its stem is thick and white with a wider veil-tissue near the top.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: Commonly referred to as “Panther Terror,” this shroom is viscid and shiny when wet, and does not change color when cut.
  • Toxins Present: Ibotenic acid, Muscimol, Muscazone, and Muscarine – all affect the brain.

clitocybeClitocybe Species

  • Location: These mushrooms tend to grow in decomposing ground material, accumulating on forest floors.
  • Appearance: The Clitocybe species of mushroom is pale white to brown or lilac in color and has gills running down the side of its stem.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: There are around 300 known species, and as such, are the most common mushroom type in North America. They are easily recognizable by their broad, flat wingspan and their relative abundance throughout city areas.
  • Toxin Present: Muscarine

citrinumScleroderma Citrinum Species

  • Location: The Citrinum can be found in the forest or in short grass.
  • Appearance: An ochre, sickly yellow in color with irregular warts, this mushroom does not have a stem, but is usually attached to the ground by the means of a mycelial cords.
  • Distinguishing Characteristic: This species of mushroom is also known as the common earthball, the pigskin poison puffball, or the ball mushroom – cute names for a deadly fungi.
  • Toxin Present: Not known, but can cause severe stomach upset.

10 Signs of Mushroom Poisoning in Pets

Mushroom poisoning symptoms typically manifest in four distinct levels of severity, depending on the type ingested — each building upon the other: gastrointestinal irritation, muscarinic signs, depression and lethargy, and hallucinogenic upsets. Each level of toxicity comes with its own arsenal of dangerous symptoms and behavioral changes, and should be immediately noted and treated. The toxins in poisonous mushrooms can be dangerously fast-acting, so act immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten an unknown substance and is showing any of these 10 warning signs:

  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin
  • Excessive drooling – ptyalism
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Seizures
  • Coma

What Can be Done

Every minute counts when you are dealing with the ingestion of a toxic substance, especially mushrooms. If your dog or cat has eaten one of these dangerous fungi, rush them to your veterinarian immediately with a sample of the suspected mushroom. Your veterinarian will then perform a complete blood work-up, urine analysis, and a stomach sample, if needed, to determine what was eaten and the best course of action. Ingestion of poisonous vegetation is not always fatal, but time is of the essence in ensuring your companion gets the proper attention and treatment.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Any time you are out with your pet, be sure to keep an eye out for mushrooms. They can be lurking most anywhere, but remember they prefer wooded and shaded areas and may also pop up in fields or parks — anywhere with lush, wet, or fertile ground. Keep your dog on its leash unless you are completely sure there are no mushrooms or other toxic plants for it to get into, but monitor carefully to ensure your pet doesn’t eat anything that you do not recognize. If you do see your dog trying to eat a mushroom, take it out of its mouth and get to your vet immediately.

Let’s keep our pets safe, both in and outside of our yards. If you have mushrooms growing in your dog’s play area, be sure to remove them with these tips from Weekend Gardener.

Low Risk, No Risk

We can’t protect our curious, food motivated pets from everything but we can do all we can to reduce most risks. We hope this article has been useful to help you identify the different types of mushrooms you need to be aware of while strolling around with your pet.

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