The Amanita species of mushrooms is prolific in the Pacific Northwest — and poisonous to pets.

It’s that time of the year when mushrooms are proliferating the Pacific Northwest, so here is a reminder about the good and the bad.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Judy Roger, an expert who had been studying mushrooms since the 1960s. It was an eye-opening and riveting discussion about the incredible diversity and role that mycelium play in our world.

When asked how she became fascinated with fungi, Roger said it started with a research expedition in Alaska. One of the team members decided to pick a bunch of mushrooms, cook them up and consume. He later became so sick that they thought he might need emergency care, but fortunately after a week he recovered. From then on, she became hooked.

Her passion is about the diversity and incredible beauty of these plants. She has identified many a digested mushroom for poison control, doctors and veterinarians. One of the biggest issues with some mushrooms is that as they ripen, they develop certain odors, such as a rotten meat smell, that entices animals to eat them.

She says that if you have Labrador Retrievers, make sure that you completely clear your property of any fruiting bodes. In her vast experience, 95 percent of the dogs poisoned were Labs. She also said the age and size of the pet will determine if they can survive the toxicity. This applies to dogs and cats.

The Pacific Northwest is rich with forests, and the mycorrhizal plants are truly the most beneficial. Each tree appears separate but is connected through its roots to other trees and to a vast mycelium network that is underground. This is a sprawling fungal highway that can go in every direction for miles.

The trees and fungi are intelligent and constantly communicating through this network. If the tree needs minerals or carbon dioxide, the fungi will hunt to provide these nutrients. Underground, they can dissolve rocks and pierce insects to draw out the necessary components. Fungi also decompose dead animals and pass along the food. The tree in returns gives the fungi sugar.

Above ground, the fruiting body of the fungi are the cap, stem and gills. Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years for their medicinal healing properties. There are approximately 38,000 known species, and of these, 270 species are believed to contain therapeutic active components. The Asian cultures rely heavily on them, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine.

Some top medicinal mushrooms are reishi, chaga, maitake, shiitake, cordyceps, lion’s mane and turkey tail. These mushrooms are believed to help with anxiety, cognition, inflammation, aging, heart health, energy, immune strength and more. In the last 20 years, the pet market has seen a boom in mushroom products, particularly for boosting the immune system and use in cancer prevention.

Mushrooms typically are packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants if grown and processed correctly. Care should be taken about where they are harvested. The fruits can absorb radiation, chemicals, heavy metals and lawn care products, creating unhealthy concentrations. Purchasing organic products from a reliable manufacturer or growing them yourself is the recommendation.

The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) states that although 99 percent of mushrooms are considered safe with minimal toxicity, 1 percent can be highly toxic to pets. It is believed that mushroom poisoning is under-reported in the Pacific Northwest.

The death cap mushroom, Amanita phalloides, contain amatoxins and is the most common cause of potentially fatal poisoning in pets, according to NAMA. It’s believed that dogs take special interest in this mushroom because of the fishy odor. Other species that can be lethal are the Inoybe and Clitocybe, which contain the toxin muscarine. Some species can be toxic to pets but not people.

Amanita muscaria, frequently seen on the central Oregon coast with its bright red cap and white speckles, is also eaten by dogs and may attract cats due to the fishy odor. Muscaria and pantherine can cause a deep coma-like sleep. According to NAMA, most dogs will recover and should not be euthanized.

Other symptoms of poisoning are mild to severe GI distress, salivation, urination, diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, tearing and more. Often, symptoms are delayed for up to 24 hours.

NAMA recommends that if you believe your pet has been poisoned, first contact your veterinarian or pet emergency hospital. Next, try and get a sample of the mushroom. Put the material in a paper bag of waxed paper, but not plastic. Note where the mushroom was growing to help determine if your pet has been poisoned by chemical uptake. For more detailed information, go to

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