Death Cap Mushroom Poisoning: A Life-Saving Procedure?

The death cap is one of the most toxic mushrooms. If your dog ingests even the tiniest bit, it is a life-threatening situation.

Symptoms of mushroom poisoning range from mild to severe and include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness
  • excessive drooling
  • lethargy
  • jaundice
  • loss of coordination
  • seizures
  • coma

Further information: Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Mushroom poisoning is an emergency. The standard treatment often consists of activated charcoal, and fluid therapy. Under certain circumstances the veterinarian may induce vomiting.

The prognosis depends on the mushroom your dog ingested, how much, and how quickly they receive treatment. With death cap ingestion, the prognosis is poor.

Death Cap Mushroom Poisoning: A Life-Saving Procedure? The death cap is one of the most toxic mushrooms. If your dog ingests even the tiniest bit, it is a life-threatening situation.
Death cap mushroom. Image Australian National Botanic Gardens


I come from a country where mushrooming was very popular. Some enthusiasts were able to go mushrooming throughout 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 to have great health benefits.

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.

Non-edible versus poisonous

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’s story

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.

Death cap mushroom – a death sentence?

Kasey’s life was on the line. Traditional treatment had little chance to keep him alive. Could Kasey be saved? The prognosis was grim.

A unique idea

Kasey 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.

Draining toxic bile from the dog’s gallbladder

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: just answer: bigislandvet

How was it done?

The veterinarian drew the poison directly from the gallbladder by a long needle and syringe. It saved Kasey’s life. Could it become an accepted treatment for severe mushroom poisoning? Perhaps.

A 2018 study of the benefits of biliary drainage showed encouraging results. It seems that it could be a life-saving procedure.

Further reading: Effect of Biliary Drainage on the Toxicity and Toxicokinetics of Amanita exitialis in Beagles

I know one thing–if my dog’s life was threatened by a poisonous mushroom, I’d want to try it.

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

Related articles:
When Is It an Emergency?

Further reading:
Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Categories: Dog toxinsEmergenciesVeterinary news

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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