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Don't Eat The Mushrooms!

June always reminds me of Clancy, so I figured this was a good time to share his story! June is the time of year that it is just getting hot here in Pennsylvania, and the heat and humidity with our summer storms is the perfect weather for mushrooms! There are SO many types of mushrooms – some are edible, some are harmless, and some are incredibly toxic.

Clancy was a big, happy-go-lucky 12-year-old lab, with a doting family. In June 2017, his family let him out in the yard, as they did every day, and his mom caught him eating a mushroom he found. She didn’t think too much of it, other than to stop him from eating it, and they went about their day! About an hour later, he started vomiting and became incredibly nauseous with excessive drooling, and was lethargic and totally not himself. His mom called us right away, and rushed him in to be examined!

Luckily, she brought the mushroom with her, and we were able to identify it as an Amanita mushroom. This is a specific mushroom type that is common here in PA, and is also extremely toxic. The toxins in the mushroom cause immediate organ damage, specifically to the liver, but can also cause a delayed organ failure a few days later. Of all the mushrooms to chomp on, this was a terrible choice.

We discussed our options, and ultimately, we decided to hospitalize him at Pennridge and do our best to see what we could do for him. The plan was to decontaminate him (induce more vomiting to try to bring up any remaining mushrooms), give him some activated charcoal (that works as a binding agent to stop further absorption of the toxin), and start him on aggressive IVFs, nausea medications, and liver support! He ate the activated charcoal like it was a snack, typical lab, and his treatment was off and running. At the time we admitted him, his one liver value was mildly increased, but the rest were normal. By 48 hours into treatment, his liver value had worsened a bit, though he was clinically doing very well and had a fantastic appetite, and was winning the entire staff over with his sweet lab personality. We talked through our options of sending him home at that point, vs. continued hospitalization, and elected to keep treating him. The scary thing about this mushroom is its ability to have a delayed onset of the worst of the liver toxicity, that can take up to 3 days to present itself! So, keeping him on supportive care for the full 3 days was the best way to ensure we truly protected him to give him the best chance of recovery.

Luckily for Clancy, when 72 hours rolled around and we checked another blood sample, his liver value was a bit better, and all his other values were normal – so Clancy was out of the woods!! He went home that day, and promised his mom he would never eat another mushroom ever again. We followed up with him a week later, and then after a month, but remarkably his liver values all totally normalized and he had no lasting effects from the mushroom.

Clancy truly was one lucky dog. Amanita mushrooms don’t usually have a positive outcome – their toxicity is so fast and severe, that most animals who ingest them go into total liver failure within 3 days, despite our best efforts. Clancy is the first and only dog I have ever treated with a known mushroom toxicity – and I would love to keep it that way, so I can keep this amazing track record. Sadly, we lost Clancy in 2019 at the ripe old age of nearly 14 years old. It is never long enough, and I know his mom still misses him to this day – they had a bond like I had with my Harley, so I can certainly understand how tough that loss feels, even years later.

I am so glad that Clancy’s mom rushed him in that day, and that he responded so well to our emergency care. When you are out and about this summer, especially now, please keep an eye out for mushrooms and make sure you know what your pups are picking up or eating in the yard! I have gotten into the habit of checking my yard every few days for mushrooms or other things they should not eat, and it’s especially prudent this time of year to hunt for these terrible mushrooms. Though Clancy is no longer with us, I will always remember him and his big happy lab face, and how thankful I am that he was a strong boy, who lived on after eating something that can be so fatal! Remember kids – don’t eat the mushrooms!

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