April is Heartworm Awareness Month

hw life

I remember thirty years ago when we not so dutifully administered a daily pill to our Irish Setter in order to protect against developing heartworm disease. It’s no wonder Shadrach died at the age of 11 after several months of coughing, lethargy, weight loss and labored breathing. Did he die of congestive heart failure and respiratory distress secondary to heartworm infection or due to another cause? We will never know.  But we do know that prevention has come a long way since the days of the daily, forgettable, tablet and simply trying to minimize mosquito breeding grounds. These days, we have several more effective and memorable ways to prevent heartworm infection. Sadly, a 2016 American Heartworm Society survey among 5000 veterinary clinics showed the number of heartworm positive pets rose 21% since 2013. (1) What are some reasons we are seeing an increase in heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) disease across all 50 states and what can we do to combat this life-threatening problem?

The number one way we can minimize the incidence of heartworm disease is to increase compliance in administering preventatives.  Monthly chewables like Heartgard, Interceptor, and Trifexis as well as monthly topical products like Revolution are extremely effective in preventing heartworm disease. With smart phone apps and email reminders from product manufacturers, there is no longer an excuse to forget to protect your pet. These products also control intestinal parasites that can be transmitted to humans like roundworm and hookworm, some whipworm species, and in the case of Revolution, fleas and ticks.   In addition, an injectable preventative called Proheart can be administered every 6 months by your veterinarian, making compliance a non-issue.  These medications work in the dog’s system to kill circulating Stage 3 heartworm larvae, which are transmitted by a mosquito bite, before the parasite can mature into its adult form in the heart and pulmonary vessels. Thus, a pill administered on May 1st works to kill larvae that may have entered your pet’s bloodstream via a bite up to 30 days prior. This is important to know, as many people stop giving heartworm preventative once the weather turns cool, not understanding they are treating for any infection acquired in the preceding month when mosquitoes may have been more active. Even “indoor” pets can be bitten by a mosquito entering the home via an open door or window and should receive a monthly, life-saving, preventative.

A significant reason we are seeing an increase in heartworm infection is because changing ambient temperatures have extended mosquito breeding and feeding seasons. No longer can we safely advise to stop giving preventative in January, as we often have mild weather for several days every month, year-round, no matter the state. Standing water in pools, birdbaths, and ponds provide ample opportunity for mosquitoes to breed; elimination of standing water or disrupting the water’s surface with fountains or aerators can limit mosquito populations. Keeping pets indoors during peak mosquito activity times can also reduce mosquito bites and disaeas transmission.  A surge in heartworm disease is also seen after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina; dogs are displaced, preventative care for pets is at a low due to expense and household disruption, and dogs carrying heartworm from the highly endemic South bring disease to areas where it was previously unheard of. Mosquitoes being the vector for transmission of the heartworm larvae, they bite the infected transplanted dogs and spread the blood-borne parasite via bites to previously uninfected dogs, cats, ferrets, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and opossums. gross hw

Cost to protect your pet from heartworm infection is about the same as your monthly Frappuccino and pastry.  While dogs who test positive at their veterinarian’s office can often be successfully treated, the treatment can easily run in the thousands of dollars. Dogs are treated by administration of painful injectable medications, antibiotics, and preventative pills as well as subjected to diagnostic testing such as radiographs (X-rays), bloodwork, and urinalyses.  Treatment also involves strict exercise limitation for a period of several months which can be unbearable to an otherwise active young dog and owner. The “slow-kill” method to eliminate heartworm larvae and adults is not recommended; the protracted method in which higher doses of preventative is given to eradicate heartworm adults and circulating microfilaria is variable in efficacy and can lead to heartworm parasite resistance. In cats, there is no way treatment to eliminate the parasite and they suffer from cough, lethargy, and sudden death.  In all species, with or without treatment and management, long term, irreversible damage is done to the heart, lungs, and sometimes organs such as the kidneys.  Clearly, prevention is key to controlling heartworm disease.

Spring Plant Toxicity

It’s been wonderful seeing the sun this week after a long, dreary winter. Our pets, like us, have spent many days cooped up and are naturally eager to get outdoors and explore. Soon, green buds will emerge on the trees and daffodils and tulips will be among the first flowers to announce the arrival of the new season. The first pots of annuals and perennials will become available for planting at local garden centers. If your curious pets roam the yard while you tend to the landscape, keep a close eye on them as some of the more beautiful foliage and bulbs can pose health hazards if consumed. While many household and outdoor plants are considered non-toxic, keep in mind that any plant can cause gastrointestinal signs such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea but not life-threatening illness.

Although most spring blooming bulbs are planted in the fall, it is not unusual for your terrier or retriever to decide that now is an ideal time to dig them up and have a snack. Tulips, daffodils, and crocuses belong to different plant genus’s, but their toxins are most significantly concentrated in the root or bulb portion of the plant. Crocus and tulip bulb ingestion may cause mild gastrointestinal signs, while daffodils, jonquils, iris rhizomes and paperwhite bulbs may cause GI and oral ulceration and more severe problems including breathing depression. Daylilies and lily-of-the-valley also grow from underground tubers called rhizomes and contain toxins that can affect the heart, leading to arrythmias, seizures, coma and even death.

Hydrangeas are one of the earliest, and in my opinion, most beautiful blooming shrubs.  Their flowers can be white, or pink, or deep blue depending on the species and the pH of the soil in which they grow.  They also contain cyanide in low amounts.  A large breed, mature dog would need to ingest a large quantity to become ill, whereas a smaller puppy (and they NEVER chew) might exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, heavy breathing, lethargy, stomachache and coma.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are related plants and popular spring-blooming garden shrubs.  Because some species retain their leaves year-round (evergreen) and have bright pink, purple, red or white flowers, they are common in local gardens. But beware, the nectar extracted from the flower used to be called “mad honey”; the grayatoxin, which is most concentrated in the flower but is found in all parts of the plant, causes vomiting, confusion, and cardiac problems.  In small breeds, it doesn’t take much to cause severe clinical signs. 1

Other common garden plants that are highly poisonous include foxglove, oleander, and nightshade. While not perennial in Chicagoland, asparagus fern, sago palm, and ficus are often planted in pots seasonally or enjoyed indoors year-round. Especially dangerous is the sago palm seed or nut which can cause liver failure and death though the first signs of toxicity may be drooling and vomiting within 15 minutes of ingestion. 2

Weeds are everywhere and unavoidable.  While most dogs will chew on a blade of grass before eating plants like buttercup, morning glory, water hemlock, milkweed, skunk cabbage or cowbane, if you see your dog eating something unfamiliar outdoors it’s best to try to identify the species. While not especially toxic, foxtail can be particularly harmful to dogs. The plant itself looks like a grass, but the seeds have sharp barbs and have been known to be inhaled or imbedded in the skin.  The seeds can lead to infection and abscess formation anywhere in the body as their sharp tips cut through tissue. 3

Which plants are safe to grow around pets? Indoor plants that not only brighten a space but can help purify the air and provide oxygen include true ferns, air plants, the succulent hens and chicks, parlor palms, and orchids.  In the edible garden, basil, cilantro, and rosemary are great options to cultivate.  Spiderwort, sunflowers, marigolds, barley grass and roses (minus the thorns!) are perfectly happy to co-exist in a pet-safe space.  4

Value your plants and your pets? Want to avoid a call to the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center (888-426-4435/$65 a call)? Install some dog friendly species in a separate area suitable for sensory exploration and fence in your prized specimens. Place pots out of reach of pets and teach your dog the cue “leave-it”.  Most dogs will learn that chasing squirrels is more fun anyway!

 

1 https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control

2vhttps://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/sago-palm-poisoning

3 https://www.thealternativedaily.com/weeds-that-can-kill-dog/

4 https://www.plantsnap.com/blog/dog-safe-plants/

Dog Mysteries, Revealed!

Dog Mysteries Revealed!

Anatomically and physiologically our canine friends share a lot of common characteristics with other mammals, including humans! But some of their behaviors and physical differences leave us scratching our heads asking, “Why do they do that?” and “What function can that possibly serve?”. Let’s answer some of those questions and as always, I welcome feedback and am happy to answer any of your canine queries.

Why the wet nose? Dogs’ ability to detect scents is up to 10,000 time more sensitive than the human nose.  As an example, they can sniff out one rotten apple among 2 MILLION barrels of apples. A wet nose enhances the ability to trap olfactory chemicals in the secretions produced in the glands of the nose. Some

wet nose

dogs lick their nose, contributing to the “wet nose” look and enhancing the process of scent detection as those chemicals are processed in olfactory centers in the roof of th

 

eir mouths. Dogs’ also produce more secretions from their nose as a way of regulating body temperature.  Sweat glands are found in the feet and nose and as such, a wet nose helps keep them cool. Should I worry if my dog has a dry nose? Nope! If the dog is otherwise happy and healthy, without dried discharge around the nostrils, a dry nose is not an indicator of illness.

Why does my dog pant? We are back to the unique distribution of sweat glands in your pup and his ability to cool down. Because they don’t sweat like humans, excessive heat is lost as air moves through your dog’s airways. While normal respirations in dogs can be up to 30-40 breaths per minute, a panting dog can exchange air up to 300-400 times per minute.  Some causes of abnormal panting can include stress, pain, endocrine diseases, heatstroke, and heart or respiratory disorders such as tracheal collapse.  If your dog doesn’t need to chill out in a warm environment, bring abnormal panting to your veterinarian’s attention.

Why does my dog eat poop? This is a gross one, especially if you witness the event and then your dog wants to plant a big, sloppy one on your lips. From an evolutionary perspective, dog moms eat the poop of their young pups to keep the den clean and free from odors that may attract predators. Some puppies bring this behavior to their new home, though most grow out of it as the dog matures; if they aren’t on a well-balanced diet or experience digestive disorders such as intestinal parasites or pancreatic disease, the behavior may persist.  Some dogs eat stool (coprophagy) because they are stressed, bored, like the attention they receive, even negative attention, or to avoid punishment.  Some dogs eat poop just because they like the taste! Discourage the opportunity to eat stool by picking up poop immediately after defecation or taking your dog outside to defecate on a leash.  A sprinkle of meat tenderizer or a product called Forbid on their kibble make stools less enticing. dog-eats-poop-cover-2

Why does my dog have a tail? And why are they always sniffing each other “back there”? The rear end of your dog is confounding place.  Anal glands, which secrete a foul-smelling liquid are used for scent marking and identification. Because of their complex olfactory system which includes a component called Jacobsen’s organ in addition to their nose, they can also process scents that have no detectable odor like pheromones. A butt sniff is the equivalent of a human handshake enabling dogs to recognize each other as individuals and identify sex, age, variabilities in health and social order. Dogs also communicate using body language and physical cues; raised, waving tails indicate happiness and tucked tails appear when fearful. A wagging tail can help to spread those chemical scents when greeting other pups. Tails are useful for balance and movement, such as the rudder-like tail of the swimming retriever or the whip-like tail of the sighthound which helps them change direction in the blink of an eye.

How come my dog spins in a circle and scratches before lying down? Back in the days before fluffy pillows from Costco, dogs had to make their own bed.  By flattening the grasses and brush for themselves and their young, they made a comfortable nest and drove out critters such as snakes.  Scratching imparts a scent to their bed expressed by the small glands in the feet, further defining the space as their own.

While we’ve domesticated pets, some of these instinctual behaviors and functional anatomic features are part of what makes dogs such fascinating creatures!

by Dr. Lisa McIntyre

 

 

Skills Your Dog Should Master

Your dog loves you. You love your dog.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand why EVERYONE doesn’t love the shedding, jumping, barking, sporadically house-soiling fur baby you’ve welcomed into your life. As a “pet parent”, it can be easy to overlook some behaviors that others find undesirable and that may cause you occasional grief. To be a good citizen of the world, safeguard your pet around other dogs and humans, give them a “job” and mental stimulation, and receive the maximum enjoyment pet ownership can provide, it is vital to teach your pup good manners and a few skills needed to operate in a domesticated setting. While it is easier to teach a puppy new tricks, dog training is necessary and ongoing at every age. Whether you participate in dog training classes, seek out the services of an in-home trainer, or watch some YouTube videos, there is a dearth of knowledge out there and some long winter days ahead, so get to it!stay

One of the most important skills to teach your puppy is how to be social.  While it may seem that dogs, as pack animals, would inherently seek and enjoy the company of others, this is not always the case. A critical developmental window exists from 4 to 14 weeks and puppies who are not exposed to other dogs, little humans, loud humans, and hat-wearing humans during this period may become unaccustomed and fearful of interactions later in life. Most training techniques, especially at this age, include positive reinforcement. Whether your puppy is motivated by food or affection or a special toy, it’s best to reward them with their favorite thing while in the presence of other dogs and people of all shapes, sizes, and volumes.

House-training, when done correctly, is simple as it speaks to the dog’s instinctual need to keep their den clean. For puppies and adult dogs, the best training tool for housebreaking will be a sturdy wire crate that is just large enough for the pup to stand up and turn around.  Crates can be soft sided or plastic and hard sided if you and your dog prefer, but I like the collapsible metal crates with a removable pan that I can move around the house, easily clean, and modify in size as the dog grows. Dogs can be fed in their cozy kennel or presented with a delicious treat every time they enter their crate. As soon as you open the crate door, expect to take your pup to eliminate in a consistent spot outside and use a command such as “potty”.  When immediately rewarded for urinating or defecating outside, and by catching them immediately inside and correcting the mistake, house-training can take just a few weeks.

Sit, stay and come are the three most common commands taught in beginner classes and are the foundation for further skills training and behavior modification programs. By teaching your dog to sit and stay, their minds become engaged and they learn deference to the human at the end of the leash. When a dog’s role is clearly defined in the “pack” and social order is established, it is reassuring and permits them to relax, gain confidence, and focus. From a safety perspective, sit, stay and come are often used when guests are welcomed into the home, or during an emergency such as car or aggressive animal heading toward a loose pet. If a dog can consistently be recalled on or off leash, it can be the difference between life and death.

grad dogs

Leave-it is an oft used command in our house and in the animal assisted therapy work I do at the local hospital.  When an object is dropped on the ground (think grapes or a chicken bone) or you come across something you want your dog to ignore and not ingest or approach (bandage material or a skunk), leave-it gives your dog the message to back away for their own good!

Training your dog to go to its place/bed/kennel is done by having your pet in a sit and stay in a specific location while giving the command and a food reward.  This command will help you to position your dog for sleep, when the doorbell rings, it’s dinnertime and you don’t want distraction, or to keep your pet away from open doors or guests who may not want slobbery kisses.

Barking can be the bane of anyone’s existence, especially if you have just gotten a cranky baby to sleep! Personally, I like it when my dogs alert me to a stranger at the door.  But I don’t need to know every time a squirrel climbs the fence.  Consistency is imperative when teaching any skill including “quiet” so make sure everyone in the house is reinforcing the same behavior. Yelling at the dog can be perceived as “barking” by your canine and the negative attention can be surprisingly pleasing to a dog; rewarding a quiet pup or teaching an incompatible behavior like going to their bed is best!  Remove the stimulus for barking by closing the drapes or limiting access to the front door if the doorbell is a trigger. Don’t set your dog up to fail as the longer an undesirable behavior has been performed, the longer it can take to un-train.

What are the most important skills you’ve taught your dog?

 

Do Animals Dream?

If I had to guess what my dogs dream about when they enter the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, the images would certainly include squirrels, a peanut-butter filled KONG, and the flash of weeds as they tear along their favorite trail. Most of us have witnessed the tell-tale eye twitches and running motion of recumbent legs that signal dreaming in our pets. Typically, a medium-sized dog will begin to dream about 20 minutes after falling asleep; their breathing may become shallower and irregular as compared to deep, sonorous, non-dreaming sleep. The darting of eyes behind closed lids is the dog “seeing” images as if they were viewed in real life. Some animals may even snap or growl at imagined prey. Humans awakened during this same phase of sleep report they were dreaming at the time.  1

sleeping cat and dog

How do we know what is happening in our pets’ minds as they sleep? Anecdotal and scientific research both indicate the probability and content of a dream state. Anatomically and physiologically, the animal brain is extremely similar to a human’s, who we know dream of events and images pulled from daily life.  Of special importance in the generation of dreams is the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory formation and storage. In rats, a species with a simpler brain structure, electrical recordings were taken from the hippocampus while the rats were awake and completing a complex maze. The brain waves generated by these rats running the maze were very specific, repeatable, and so precise that researchers could pinpoint which area of the maze the rats were running based on the electrical wave. Later, when brain activity had indicated the rats were in the dream-generating REM portion of sleep, MIT scientists observed these identical waves. This data was extrapolated to mean that the rats were dreaming about the maze they had just completed, down to precise location of the maze the rats were “running” in sleep. 2 In all likelihood, our pets are dreaming about their version of the maze, dashing along a familiar path or playing with a favorite squeaky toy of which the hippocampus has retained images.

Another portion of the brain, the pons, was studied to determine dream content. In addition to acting as a sensory message relay center in the brain and helping to regulate sleep and respiration, the pons helps hinder movement in sleep. Without this special structure, animals actively engage in movement in the same manner during sleep as they would when awake.  In studies where the pons was removed or inactivated, sleeping dogs executed familiar actions even when brain waves indicated they were dreaming, such as chasing make-believe balls and flushing out imagined birds. Observing this study sounds like watching a dog zombie apocalypse! Puppies, kittens, human babies, and seniors all experience more movement such as twitching during sleep due to the underdeveloped or less efficient pons. 3   Fascinating!

cartoon dream

If pets dream about their daily lives, can they also have nightmares of being home alone during a storm or being attacked by another animal? If it occurred in real life, it’s very likely they do. 4 It can be difficult to watch your restless friend dream and become agitated in sleep.  Should you wake them from their nightmare or leave them be? From personal experience, it can be very disorienting having a scary dream interrupted by the alarm clock; it takes a few minutes for my breathing to slow and my mind to register my surroundings.  Instinctually, your pet may react aggressively and unpredictably if woken during a nightmare.  It’s best to let them sleep though it; when they wake, provide plenty of playtime and snuggle time to create joyful memories!

 

Dr. Lisa McIntyre

 

 

 

1 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201010/do-dogs-dream

2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/01/25/sleeping-rats-may-dream-of-maze/0f65aa2a-99aa-47ca-862a-83143124ad3f/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.db654d18ccf2

3 https://www.thoughtco.com/anatomy-of-the-brain-pons-373227

4 https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/what-do-dogs-dream-about/

Portion Control!

27625cup_food

Last night, an annual ritual took place.  Millions of tiny ghosts and goblins went door to door asking for treats and performing a few tricks like dumping our whole candy bowl (note to self: install porch camera). Then, as tradition necessitates, they meet at a goblin’s house to dump their loot and sort heaps of like candy into piles.  The heavy bargaining begins. “I’ll give you two Reese’s peanut butter cups for a full-size Twix”.  “I’ve got three pixie sticks for your bag of popcorn”.  The real work is for their parents, who then must stretch the stash until next year, ensuring no upset stomachs or cavities befall their sweet angels.

Portion control and regulation: it’s something we Americans sorely lack and not only do our children pay the price, but our pets do as well.  While it may be difficult for humans to ignore the barrage of commercials and Happy Meal temptations, we have a clear and simple obligation to fulfill when it comes to feeding our 4-legged family members. Since they solely depend on us to feed them nutritious meals in adequate but not excessive quantities, we need to quiet the tiny voice that tells us food=love and get down to business.

Breeds vary, activity levels fluctuate, stages of life such as puppyhood or gestation demand more calories, and health complications such as diabetes affect ideal type of food and caloric intake for your pet. One commonality when it comes to nutrition and feeding is that we all want our pets to achieve their ideal body condition, whatever other variables exist. A good place to start in determining your pet’s healthy size is to reference the Purina Scoring Chart: https://www.library.tufts.edu/vet/images/bcs_dog.pdf.  Whether your dog is a Basset or a Malamute, participates in agility or is a couch potato, some basic rules to assess body condition include: ability to feel your pet’s ribs but not see them, observing some semblance of an hourglass “waist” when viewed from above, and noting the chest is deeper and lower to the ground then the abdomen.  Your pet should be a 4-5 out of a 9-point scale.

Once you’ve established where your pet falls on the chart, assess whether the goal is weight loss and what percent, gain, or maintenance. Each point on the chart is the equivalent to a 10% change in body mass. Start with a measuring cup, and by cup, I mean the same cup you would use to measure flour if you were baking.  Not a Big Gulp cup, not an espresso cup.  A cup or container that holds 8 ounces of liquid or dry material.  Because grams are a measure of weight, a cup of lettuce will not weigh the same as a cup of brown sugar, and the same concept can be applied to the variety of pet foods on the market.  Likewise, every cup of food does not contain the same number of calories, which is critical in determining how much to feed you pet.  So, check your dog food label.  Kcal/cup of food should be clearly marked or at the very least, an 800# to call to get that information must be visible.  If it isn’t, what are you feeding?

Talk to your family.  Everyone needs to be on board when it comes to portion control and getting your dog to its ideal weight.  Based on current body condition, the caloric content in the food you are feeding (and treats, which do count as additional calories and should make up no more than 10% of the overall caloric intake so factor them in), life stag, activity level, and goal, you can determine with your veterinarian just how many calories your pet needs in a day. Puppies grow, and their calorie needs and thus quantity fed will adjust over time.

A little math is needed next.  Convert your pet’s daily caloric needs to the number of cups they must be fed each day. For example: a cup of the diet you feed contains 300 kcals.  Your pet needs 600 kcals a day.  600kcal/300kcal/cup= your pet should consume 2 cups of that food for the day.  Use your measuring cup and put the dog’s daily meal and treats into a bag (s).  Now feed from this bag for the next 24 hours.    Most animals thrive when fed smaller portions in 2-3 servings per day, so you can divide the bag’s contents into meals that will be satisfying but not indulgent.  Small breeds and puppies may need to be fed more frequently to maintain blood sugar levels.  Some dogs can be free-fed as long as they snack throughout the day and don’t gorge themselves in one sitting.

There a few tools I’ve used to help extend my dog’s feeding time, making it into an enriching game and allowing them to feel satiated.  Toys like the Omega paw tricky treat ball (2), the Kong wobbler dog toy (3), or other treat dispensing puzzles can provide hours of amusement, mental stimulation, and aid in dispensing appropriate dog food portions.

kong

Remember, exercise helps maintain a healthy weight too! Enjoy the last few weeks of fall.

 

 

1https://www.library.tufts.edu/vet/images/bcs_dog.pdf

2 https://www.chewy.com/omega-paw-tricky-treat-ball-dog-toy/dp/51234?utm_source=google-product&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=hg&utm_content=Omega%20Paw&utm_term=&gclid=CjwKCAjwyOreBRAYEiwAR2mSktqonwH92rc-8VAUj8JKc2K96s1d8u0MBXXatL53jaG4bzy123R2gxoCQpMQAvD_BwE

3 https://www.chewy.com/kong-wobbler-dog-toy-large/dp/44195?utm_source=google-product&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=hg&utm_content=KONG&utm_term=&gclid=CjwKCAjwyOreBRAYEiwAR2mSkro6-Pzm7dfcBdAL5owu3VVbXTg5Cn04dijhYTu4_Wj5Tw0YWEmLUBoCLY8QAvD_BwE

Toxic Mushrooms and Your Dog

by Lisa McIntyre, DVM

As we know, summer and fall bring a unique set of seasonal scares for pet owning families. In addition to an increase in parasite exposure, wild animal encounters, and dog park injuries, exposure to certain environmental toxins also peaks.  Toxic ate in the warm, wet weather of season. Although they don’t do much to harm your lawn, be alert for signs of their growth as symptoms of toxicity can mimic other types of poisons and diagnosis can be challenging!

There are 4 classes of poisonous mushrooms; the classes are based on the type and severity of symptoms they cause. Additionally, mushrooms can be classified into groups, separated by the type of toxin they contain.  Poisonous varieties include false morels, hallucinogenic mushrooms, toamushroomdstool mushrooms, liver toxic mushrooms, and those that cause gastrointestinal signs or are muscarinic containing species.  Identification of the type your dog has consumed can be difficult once they pass your pet’s lips; treat any mushroom ingestion as a poisonous species and call your veterinarian immediately.   Another after-hours alternative is to call the National Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435.  They are open 24/7 and 365 days a year and charge a nominal fee to advise you on how to manage your pet’s ingestion.   If a sample of the mushroom is available, consider contacting the North American Mycological Association (www.namyco.org) to aid in identification.  1

The deadliest class of mushrooms are those that cause liver failure (hepatotoxic) with signs precipitating in 6-12 hours.  At this point, inducing vomiting with hydrogen peroxide or slowing toxin absorption with activated charcoal given orally is fruitless.  Once an animal has started to show signs of poisoning, it is no longer safe or advisable to try to expel the offending agent.  With names like “death cap” and “death angel”, liver cell death and eventual mortality can occur within a day or two, after being preempted by gastrointestinal upset. These mushrooms are found throughout North America including the Pacific Northwest, parts of California and the northeastern part of the United States. 2

Neurotoxic mushrooms affect the nervous system due to the compounds they contain and include psilocybin (“magic”), hydrazine and isoxazole mushrooms.  Magic or psychedelic mushrooms are often found indoors as part of a pet owner’s “pharmacy”.  Others grow throughout the United States but favor the West and Northeast.  2 Symptoms of ingestion are typically seen within 30-90 minutes, but effects can last hours longer. Varying from initial gastrointestinal upset to weakness, stupor, tremors, disorientation, vocalization and seizures, these mushrooms are typically less toxic but severity of illness depends on the amount ingested and the dog’s size and health status.

Gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and diarrhea are seen early on after the ingestion of most mushrooms (15 minutes to less than 6 hours). Muscarinic containing mushrooms not only cause mild to severe vomiting and diarrhea, but ingestion can lead to dehydration, excessive salivation, tearing, urination, slow heart rate and difficulty breathing depending on the type and amount consumed. 3

Our last class of mushrooms, the nephrotoxic (kidney) varieties, are thankfully rare with poisoning reported in Europe.  Signs of toxicity are delayed by up to 8 days as the kidney cells are destroyed.  Symptoms of poisoning are typical of a dog in kidney failure and include vomiting, increased thirst, and urination; dogs can succumb if not treated aggressively with fluid therapy and hospitalization.

If caught within the first hours of ingestion, decontamination by inducing vomiting and delaying intestinal absorption, managing symptoms, and blood and urine sample monitoring are often successful at managing mushroom poisoning in dogs.  As always, be on the lookout in your yard for anything unusual underfoot!

1 http://www.namyco.org

2 https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/shelter-health-poison-control/mushroom-poisoning-dogs

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilocybin_mushroom