Friday, July 20, 2012

Veterinary Highlights: A New Life-Saving Procedure To Treat Death Cap Mushroom Poisoning

I come from a country where mushrooming was very popular. Some enthusiasts were able to go mushrooming through the entire year but most people would pick mushrooms in the fall. There is nothing like a meal from fresh wild mushrooms.

Additionally, some mushrooms seem have great health benefits.

Death cap mushroom. Image Australian National Botanic Gardens

There is one problem—not all mushrooms are fit to be eaten.

The saying they have back in my country is that all mushrooms are edible, but some of them only once.

Emergency rooms have seen their share of mushroom poisoning cases.

The good news is that most non-edible mushrooms are poisonous enough to make one sick but only very few are actually deadly. Those which are deadly, though, are very good at it.

If people, and even people who consider themselves experts, can get it wrong, can expect our dogs to do much better at that?

I've read a number of articles cautioning that just for that reason it is best not to give dogs any mushrooms at all, period.

But dogs don't always wait for what you give them, they can be pretty good at fending for themselves. Our son's dog, for example, had a major fascination with mushrooms when he was a pup; not a good plan.

Kasey, a two-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, thought that helping himself to some yummy mushrooms was a good idea too.

Unfortunately, Kasey helped himself to death cap mushrooms.

Kasey, however, was lucky after all. Veterinarians at PETS Referral Center in Berkeley teamed up with  Dr. Todd Mitchell who is running a trial of an antidote for mushroom poisoning in humans.

He suggested draining the toxic bile from the dog's gallbladder.

The toxins are drawn from the gallbladder by a long needle and syringe. This procedure could become a new standard treatment in a race against time to save dogs who ate poisonous mushrooms.

Why would the treatment work?

After ingestion, the toxin is absorbed by liver cells. The cells affected by the toxin die. All this is then excreted into the biliary system. Once the toxic bile enters the gastrointestinal tract the toxin can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream and cause further damage to the liver. The bile draining limits the amount of toxin available to be reabsorbed to cause further damage.

The toxicity is dose dependent. While when enough of the toxin is digested it can kill quickly the first time around, it is often the combination of the initial and secondary insult to the liver that causes irreversible damage.

Source article Inside Bay Area: The Oakley Oakland Tribune: Berkeley: Dog poisoned by death cap mushrooms saved by new procedure


  1. What a fascinating treatment plan. Kudos to the vet who figured it out!