Poisonous Mushroom Identification

Not all mushrooms are edible, and certain ones can be deadly. Of particular concern are those in the Amanita genus. Here are some resources to help you identify dangerous mushrooms that would be harmful to your dog or cat.

If you fear your dog or cat has eaten a poisonous mushroom seek veterinary help immediately. They can go into a coma-like sleep within hours of ingestion or suffer severe liver failure. Time is truly of the essence. Contact your veterinarian, a pet poison control center or visit your local Animal ER.

Resources

 

The Deadly Death Cap and Other Amanita Mushrooms

With names referencing death and destruction, it’s no wonder the Amanita mushroom genus contains some of the most famous and deadly of all poisonous mushrooms. The death cap (Amanita phalloides) is suspected to have caused more mushroom poisoning deaths than any other species!

The deadly death cap mushroomYet what makes some amanita mushrooms so poisonous? Certain species of Amanita contain amanitin, a deadly amatoxin.

Amatoxins are some of the most lethal poisons found in nature. These toxins work by slowly shutting down the liver and kidneys. Often the victim will appear sick at first, and then seem to get better. Unfortunately the amatoxins are still at work, and death may occur anywhere from a few days to a week after ingestion.

This poison knows no real antidote beyond treating the victim with an extract of milk thistle. Milk thistle protects against liver damage from toxins, and is one of the treatments for amanita mushroom poisoning.

Despite this treatment, it’s said that one cap of a death cap is enough to kill. Given the danger, we’d better learn some poisonous mushroom identification! Visit this page to learn how to identify poisonous amanita mushrooms in general. 

Remember: Never solely identify any mushroom based on what you’ve seen on any website (including this one) or by comparing it to a picture in a book. Always obtain hands-on expert help when identifying a new mushroom and never eat anything you’re not sure of!

Death Cap Details

Cap

  • Young examples of amanita phalloidesBetween 3 to 6 inches across
  • Convex initially but flattens with age, often sticky when touched
  • Color is usually a shade of yellow to green, but sometimes white or brownish
  • White gills underneath the cap that don’t run down the stem

Stem

  • Between 3 to 6 inches across and less than an inch thick
  • Usually whitish, sometimes with scales
  • Often a ring around the stem right below the cap. This ring is the remnant of the partial veil, a piece of tissue that protected the mushroom’s gills as it grew.
  • Also present is a white sac around the base of the stem. All amanita mushrooms start their lives as small buttons in the shape of an egg. This egg-like covering is actually a layer of tissue called the universal veil, or volva.

Because they form as a small button, an amanita may sometimes be mistaken for an edible puffball. This is why it’s essential to slice a puffball open before eating it. Puffballs are white and solid on the inside with no gills. If you see gills, you may have an amanita on your hands.

Once the mushroom has grown, the sac-like remnants of this universal veil are still an important identification characteristic. It’s often underground so you may have to dig carefully around the base to find it.

However, never assume that you don’t have an amanita mushroom just because you can’t find the sac. It may have disintegrated or broken away. Use all features for poisonous mushroom identification, not just one!

Other Infamous Amanita

No page on poisonous mushrooms would be complete without discussing the death cap’s deadly cousin, the destroying angel.

The term “destroying angel” actually refers to a few all-white poisonous mushrooms in the Amanita genus. They are:

  • Amanita bisporigera in Eastern North America
  • Amanita ocreata in Western North America
  • Amanita virosa in Europe (below)

The European Destroying Angel, amanita virosaAmanita virosa is known as the “European destroying angel”. There is some disagreement as to whether this mushroom exists in the United States.

Destroying angels are sometimes mistaken for edible mushrooms such as young puffballs, button mushrooms, and meadow mushrooms. Thus it’s important to learn how to identify them.

The destroying angel is very similar to the death cap in terms of identification. The biggest difference is that they’re all white, with no green or yellow tint. They’re recognized by their rounded base, white color, and smooth cap. One bite of these may contain enough amatoxins to kill!

Of course, not every species in the Amanita mushroom genus is poisonous. Some, such as Amanita caesarea (Caesar’s mushroom), are edible. Yet given the danger involved in eating the wrong amanita, it’s best to avoid the genus entirely unless you really know what you’re doing.

It’s important to learn how to recognize Amanitas (especially the death cap and the destroying angel) if one is going to start eating wild mushrooms. Proper knowledge can prevent a fatal mistake!

– See more at: http://www.mushroom-appreciation.com/death-cap.html#sthash.aPp52tla.dpuf

San Francisco Dog Walker-Ticks in San Francisco

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

San Francisco Dog WalkerGolden Gate Park and Fort Funston are crawling with ticks. Even if your dog has prevention, such as a tick collar, they still crawl off of him and on to you! Be sure to check your dog over carefully when you return home and frequent grooming and chemicals for control may help to control the spread.

Ticks can detect heat emitted from dogs and humans from far distances and will often situate themselves on well traveled paths to gain access to hosts. They will generally drop off the animal when full, but this may take several days. In some cases ticks will live for some time on the blood of an animal. Ticks are more active outdoors in warm weather, but can attack a dog at any time. Ticks can be found in most wooded or forested regions throughout the world. As a San Francisco dog walker, I find that they are especially common in areas where there are deer trails or human tracks. Ticks are especially abundant near water, where warm-blooded animals come to drink, and in meadows wherever shrubs and brush provide woody surfaces and cover. Ticks are a vector for a number of diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The American dog tick
The American dog tick is perhaps the most well-known of the North American hard ticks. This tick does not carry Lyme disease but can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. As a San Francisco dog walker I have come across them numerous times.
The black-legged tick

The Western black-legged tick lives in the western part of North America and is responsible for spreading Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It tends to prefer livestock such as cows as its adult host.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be lethal. Initial signs and symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, headache and muscle pain followed by development of rash. The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without prompt and appropriate treatment it can be fatal. Tetracycline has dramatically reduced the number of deaths caused by Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The San Francisco dog walkers top tips
Check your dog over when you get home. Put your clothes in the dryer on high heat or just simply wash them in hot water.  Be sure to check yourself over too!

watch this video for more tips!   5min.com/Video/How-to-Remove-a-Tick-from-Your-Dog

Tick Season Hits McLaren Park

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker – Excerpt from Save McLaren Park Newsletter

Ticks are currently abundant in McLaren Park. Tom Scott of Save McLaren Park said, “In the past two weeks alone I’ve found 3 different ticks on me. I don’t recall finding any ticks in the previous 8 years that I’ve been going to the park. My dog remains tick-free thanks to the medication she uses.”

Suggestions when going to the park: Apply mosquito repellent, especially to your legs and even if you’re wearing pants. Also, it’s a good idea to check yourself after returning from the park. Ticks tend to go for warm moist areas, such as armpits and groins.

Tom explains, “the ticks I found on myself have been identified as Dermacentor variabilis, also known as American Dog Tick and Wood Tick. This species is not known to carry Lyme Disease, but it can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s unlikely, though, that the ticks in McLaren carry this disease. I don’t think this is an urgent health concern for park users, but something to be aware of.”

San Francisco Dog Walkers deal with Foxtails

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

Tips from San Francisco Dog Walkers – Costly Foxtails

All Dog Walkers should tell you the faster you get the dog to the vet, the less it will probably cost to get the foxtail out. The reason for this is that if the vet can remove it without knocking the dog out with anesthesia, then it will be less expensive.

So, as soon as you dog shows symptons, like shaking head and holding his head to the side, licking paw, flapping ears or sneezing violently, run, don’t walk him to your vet. If the vet does not have to put the dog under to grab the foxtail the cost is around $150 for removal. However if you wait a day or two before taking the dog to the vet, the foxtail will travel further up the canal and the cost jumps up around $500 – $1,000 because the foxtail has to be surgically removed by a veterinarian. If the foxtail causes an infection because you waited, the trip to the vet could run you at least $1,000.00 to $2,000.00!   Not removing the foxtail is very dangerous and can be life threatening to the dog because the foxtail penetrates the skin and moves through the bloodstream towards the heart or brain.   Doing “nothing” is not an option!

Dog Walkers should always tell their clients to check their dogs for foxtails during the spring and summer months following a hike.

San Francisco Dog Walkers Photo of Foxtail

Foxtails come from the grasses and are in all of the parks in San Francisco.  When pulled apart, the are little arrow shaped pointed stickers that it can burrow into your dogs’  paws, ears, nose, eyes and fur coat.

ON A DAILY BASIS, during foxtail season (when grasses are dry) it is VERY important to check between your dogs’ toes (look up into the cavity of each toe and feel around in there); and to thoroughly feel around in the dog’s fur for foxtails.  I try my best to remove the foxtails I see after the walk, but it is always good for the owner to double check, as foxtails can and often are, missed.

If your dog begins sneezing violently, even if they stop for a day or two, they most likely have a foxtail in their nose.

San Francisco Dog Walker photo of foxtails before they drop
San Francisco Dog Walkers share how to keep your dog from getting foxtails:

■ Keep your pet’s fur coat short, especially between the toes and around the ears.

■ Long-haired dogs are most prone to having foxtails attach to their fur and embed in the skin.

■  Avoid walking your dog in areas where dry grass is prevalent.

■ Prime areas for foxtails to penetrate the skin of an animal are between the toes, in and around the ears, nose, armpits and genitalia. Animals with foxtails under the skin are often licking the affected area where a red bump may be seen.

■ When returning home from a walk or hike in an area that might have foxtails, examine your dog thoroughly and remove any burrs or foxtails you might find before they have a chance to burrow into the skin.

Dogs Can Die From The Summer Heat!! BEWARE!

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

Dogs

 

Dogs Can Die From Heat Stroke!

Animal experts say that it’s a common misconception that dogs can survive if the windows are cracked on a hot day, or if the car is parked in the shade. They said people often think that dogs can handle high temperatures.  Wrong!  In fact, even a dog walk in high heat can hurt or kill them.  Dogs can get overheated much quicker than we can. Their temperature can shoot up to 104, 105 in just a matter of ten to fifteen minutes, and that can lead to a seizure. Even cracking a window a little bit, thinking they’ll be okay isn’t enough in  to keep them safe.  There’s not enough breeze.  Dogs don’t cool down the way we do.  They cool down by panting.

If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, get him out of the heat as soon as possible. Here are a few other things you can do:

  • Put rubbing alcohol on the pads of their feet.
  • Pour cool – not cold – water on them.  Start with their feet, neck, and genital areas.
  • Wrap them in a sheet or other cloth that’s been soaked with cool water.
  • Get your dog to the vet!  Even if you think your dog is OK, it’s a good idea to have him checked out.

Heatstroke or exhaustion can occur very quickly for our dogs as they only have the ability to sweat throught the pads of their feet. The major way they expel heat is through panting. The two most common ways that pets get overheated is being left in cars or kennels when it is too hot or playing or running excessively in the heat. Our canine friends are almost always up for a brisk dog walk or a game of fetch. The problem is that they do not know when they are overheated until it is too late. Thus, it is up to us as their caregivers to understand when it is time to take a break, drink some water and rest in the shade for awhile. A dog’s normal temperature runs between 101 and 102.5 degrees so they are naturally warmer than we are. When their temperature exceeds 106 degrees there is a very real danger in damaging cells in their brain and causing permanent damage or even death. Treatment for heat stroke is immediately getting the pet into a cool shady  area or inside an air-conditioned building. Cooling can be continued with cool cloths or ice packs in the groin area or in the armpits.  It is important not to submerge the pet in cold water as this can lead to shock.

Bottom line:  Dogs can’t handle the heat as well as we can and run the risk of developing heat stroke much more quickly.  Even if you leave the window open and park in the shade, it may not be good enough.  The test to tell if it is too hot to leave your pet in the car, if it is too hot for you in the car, it is way to hot for your dog.  And don’t forget the longer you are away, the hotter your car gets.  Even 15 minutes may be too long.

Some summer problems to look out for!

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

San Francisco Dog Walker- bee

It is very common at this time of the year that dogs will have swollen faces with eyes that are nearly closed up. In most cases this is from a bee sting. It can also be from vegetation that is caused by allergies. In most cases an antihistamine, such as Benedryl, will will take the swelling and discomfort down rapidly, but in severe cases it may be necessary for the pet to be seen to receive treatment with cortisone or even epinephrine. During times when insect activity is high, it is not safe to use repellants like OFF to discourage them from attacking your pet, because it contains DEET which is poisonous if ingested by dogs.  Instead try, K9-Advantix, which repels mosquitoes, ticks and fleas.

By far the most common concern seen in the spring and summer months involves pets that eat things that they shouldn’t. This can happen any time of the year, but when the weather is nice and the ground is warm and moist it becomes a perfect incubator for viruses, bacteria and parasites.

San Francisco Dog Walker – Save your pet with CPR

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

The San Francisco Dog Walker shares CPR steps to saving a dogs life!

San Francisco Dog Walker-Dogs-CPR

Toxic Cocoa Mulch

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

San Francisco Dog Walker - Cocoa MulchCocoa Mulch, which is sold by home Depot and various Garden Supply stores  contains a lethal ingredient called ‘Theobromine’, which is lethal to dogs and cats. Cocoa Mulch is a mulch that is used for retaining moisture around plants in the garden and is popular because it smells like chocolate, which is also, really attractive to dogs. They can ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in San Francisco.

The ingredient Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker’s chocolate which is toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine.  A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later in San Francisco. Analysis of the stomach contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine.

Toxic Raisins

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

Written by: Laurinda Morris, DVM
Danville Veterinary Clinic
Danville , OH

This week I had the first case in history of raisin toxicity ever seen at MedVet. My patient was a 56-pound, 5 yr old male neutered lab mix that ate half a canister of raisins sometime between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on Tuesday. He started with vomiting, diarrhea and shaking about 1 AM on Wednesday but the owner didn’t call my emergency service until 7 AM.

I had heard somewhere about raisins AND grapes causing acute Renal failure but hadn’t seen any formal paper on the subject. We had her bring the dog in immediately. In the meantime, I called the ER service at MedVet and the doctor there was like me – had heard something about it, but… Anyway, we contacted the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center and they said to give IV fluids at 1 & 1/2 times maintenance and watch the kidney values for the next 48-72 hours. The dog’s BUN (blood urea nitrogen level) was already at 32 (normal less than 27) and creatinine over 5 (1.9 is the high end of normal). Both are monitors of kidney function in the bloodstream. We placed an IV catheter and started the fluids. Rechecked the renal values at 5 PM and the BUN was over 40 and creatinine over 7 with no urine production after a liter of fluids. At that point I felt the dog was in acute renal failure and sent him on to MedVet for a urinary catheter to monitor urine output overnight as well as overnight care.

He started vomiting again overnight at MedVet and his renal values continued to increase daily. He produced urine when given lasix as a diuretic. He was on 3 different anti-vomiting medications and they still couldn’t control his vomiting. Today his urine output decreased again, his BUN was over 120, his creatinine was at 10, his phosphorus was very elevated and his blood pressure, which had been staying around 150, skyrocketed to 220. He continued to vomit and the owners elected to Euthanize.

This is a very sad case – great dog, great owners who had no idea raisins could be a toxin. Please alert everyone you know who has a dog of this very serious risk. Poison control said as few as 7 raisins or grapes could be toxic. Many people I know give their dogs grapes or raisins as treats including our ex-handler’s. Any exposure should give rise to immediate concern. Onions, chocolate, cocoa, avocados and macadamia nuts can be fatal, too.

Look out for Deadly Mushrooms

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

Amanita phalloides, the death cap mushroom, has come out in full force since the rains started Dec 2009. We had one death at Lake Veterinary Hospital 2 weekends ago, and PETS emergency clinic in Berkeley called on Friday and said they have had 3 deaths in 6 days – all  from the Oakland area. The mushrooms have a sweet odor (like honey) and are attractive to some dogs   (whose owners report they actually seek them out to eat them).  They are  really non little white mushrooms. The toxic effects appear about 6-36 hours after the mushrooms are eaten, and once signs are seen the toxicity is poorly responsive to treatment (we try a lot of things to support the animal, but if enough mushrooms were eaten it will be fatal despite the treatment).  If someone suspects their dog may have eaten a mushroom, the best treatment is to take the dog immediately to a vet or emergency clinic and have them induce vomiting and give activated charcoal.  The mushroom toxin is absorbed fairly rapidly, but the damage to the liver can take hours before it is clinically apparent.  Don’t waste time trying to figure out if the mushroom is toxic as speed in removing the mushroom from the digestive system is the most important thing in my experience.Here is a link with some pictures http://wikipedia.org/wiki/amanita_phalloides

Although most SF/local mushrooms are not poisonous, and those that are usually cause only digestive upset (perhaps causing someone to wish they would die), Death Caps (Amanita phalloides) are aptly named. After an initial digestive upset death caps prevent liver cells from regenerating. Within a few days after ingestion there are no new liver cells to replace the old ones, and liver failure occurs. The below message describes death caps as “little white mushrooms.” Note: They might look like that in the early stages, but mature mushrooms can grow quite large (check yahoo group for photo of mushroom I’m holding in hand)  and they have a slight metallic, greenish look. Check out the wikipedia link for photos of death caps in various stages. I have seen death caps south of SF and in the east bay. There might be some in SF. The common “white mushrooms” I’ve seen in SF, e.g. growing in lawns, are not death caps (various Agaricus–see photo). Death Caps have WHITE GILLS (e.g. the radiating blades on the underside of the cap), while most of the “lawn” mushroom have brown gills. At Fort Funston beneath the trees, I’ve spotted white-gilled mushrooms, but they have shaggy scales on the cap (see photo). Not death caps. Possibly Lepiota rachodes. Don’t take a chance w/mushroom, especially death caps. Supervise your dog. If you spot death caps, you might discretely bag them up & securely dump them to prevent other dogs/people from eating them. Since I currently have a curious puppy who thinks everything is to be sampled, I’m bagging up all the mushrooms I find in my yard mainly to prevent potential digestive upsets

Hemlock in Our San Francisco Parks

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

San Francisco Dog Walker Hemlock 2       San Francisco Dog Walker- HemlockSan Francisco Dog Walker- Hemlock 3

Maybe you have seen this plant at a San Francisco dog park? . . . I took these pictures at Stern Grove.

I was told by a former San Francisco city parks gardener that this plant is called Hemlock and is very poisonous to dogs!

What makes it particularly troubling is that is grows in abundance and it grows next to that tasty grass your dog loves.

If you see this plant, keep your dog away!

Do you know your Poisons?

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

Here are the ones to look out for!

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Ibuprofen (Advil) can cause gastrointestinal irritation, stomach ulcers, and kidney damage in dogs.

Naproxen (Aleve) has a long half-life in dogs and can cause gastrointestinal irritation, anemia, melena (digested blood in feces), and vomiting.

Antifreeze is very dangerous to dogs and causes central nervous system depression and acute renal failure. Treatment needs to be within eight hours of ingestion to be successful.

Mouse and rat poison ingestion is common in dogs. Most rodenticides in the United States are anticoagulant by depleting Vitamin K. This type is the most frequent cause of poisoning in pets. Third generation products contain brodifacoum or bromadiolone and are toxic after a single ingestion. Signs include spontaneous and excessive bleeding internally and externally. Treatment is with Vitamin K supplementation. Other rodenticides may contain cholecalciferol which causes hypercalcemia and leads to heart and kidney problems. Newer rodenticides may contain bromethalin which causes central nervous system signs such as seizures, muscle tremors, and depression.

Insecticides used in dogs for fleas and ticks commonly contain either organophosphates or carbamates. they can be absorbed through the skin, conjunctiva, gastrointestinal tract, and lungs. Organophosphates inhibit acetylcholinesterase irreversibly and carbamates inhibit cholinesterase reversibly. Toxicity occurs through overdosage with an appropriate product or use of an agricultural product. Signs for both include hypersalivation, vomiting, lethargy, tremors, difficulty walking, weakness, and death.

Chocolate is a common cause of poisoning in dogs. The toxic principles in chocolate are theobromine and caffeine. Baker’s chocolate is the most dangerous form since it contains higher concentrations of these drugs, followed by semi-sweet, dark, and then milk chocolate. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, difficulty walking, seizures, and heart problems.

Lead poisoning is uncommon in dogs. Exposure to lead is from eating paint chips from lead-based paint (found in houses painted prior to 1950), and eating lead objects such as shot, fishing sinkers, or counterweights. Signs of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, blindness, seizures, and tremors.

Raisins and grapes are potential causes of kidney failure in dogs.

Researchers Say You Can Give Your Dog The Flu

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

Scientists claim that we can now give our pets the flu virus and that some people’s pets have died as a result. It worries researchers because it means that there is a possibility of transmitting diseases to animals, which opens a new can or worms in terms of mutations, new viral forms and evolving diseases.  Oregon State University recently reported this information and recommends that if you have the flu or a cold, to try to stay away from your pets as much as possible, while you are contagious.

Tales From a SF Dog Walker- Dirty Puddles and Dead Seals

Tips from a SF Dog Walker

Posted by The San Francisco Dog Walker

I came upon a Dog Walker in McLaren Park while he was on his cell phone discussing an issue with one of his clients. As he was preoccupied and had his back to his pack of dogs, he didn’t notice that one of the dogs was drinking from a muddy puddle of water. As a fellow SF Dog Walker, I thought I would help him out by shooing the dog away from it. When he got off the phone, he said that I need not bother doing this in the future; that he lets his dogs drink from puddles and has been doing so for over 10 years and nothing has happened yet. He then reminded me of the time that I informed him that one of his dogs was eating a dead seal on the beach. He informed me that the dog had been eating dead sea lions on the beach for years and nothing had happened yet.

As a SF Dog Walker, I know from research that puddles in San Francisco Parks are often sources of drinking water for racoons, rats and other wildlife and can cause a dog to develop bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, by infecting the dog with Giardia, a water borne disease. Additionally, if a dog is eating dead or coming into contact with dying seals on the beach, they are potentially being exposed to Leptospirosis – a serious and deadly situation.

These two diseases are currently very active in San Francisco and both are contagious to dogs and humans and can be passed from dog to human. What this means to the average San Franciscan is that the family dog may be exposing your family to very serious illnesses if they are regularly drinking from muddy puddles in the parks or eating dead or dying seals on the beach.