BOISE, Idaho — When Nate Stauffer returned to his family’s cabin in Stanley on Sunday morning, he found is lab Bella unresponsive in her crate.
“I spent a few minutes trying to wake her up and she wouldn't wake up. She wasn't responding, picked up her head and she was covered in drool, so I knew that there was something wrong,” Stauffer said.
The reason why – a poisonous panther cap mushroom Bella ate earlier in the day. After finding the lab, Stauffer and his girlfriend, Kayla Hall, rushed to the closest vet three hours away.
Bella ended up staying overnight in the ICU, Hall said.
“It just hurt so bad seeing it and how she was acting,” Hall said. “It was a lot of anxiety, getting down there as fast as possible. It was a lot of emotion.”
While panther cap mushrooms are more common in the mountains, they do grow here in the Treasure valley. Retired fungi specialist Robert Chehey said the type of mushroom Bella ate usually grow near trees and has either yellow or brown caps with white warts.
Another identifier of panther cap mushrooms is how the stem grows out of a cup, Chehey said. Knowing what grows in your backyard is key. If someone thinks potentially poisonous mushrooms are growing, there are ways to help reduce exposure without hurting the ecosystem.
“Smash them or pick them rather than try to, you know, put massive amounts of fungicide on your yard,” Chehey said. “That's not even good for your grass.”
Another option is bringing in a sample of the mushroom to determine whether it is poisonous. Chehey said he recommends the University of Idaho Extension Office in Boise. If you do, be sure to put the sample in a paper bag so it does not get smashed.
Stauffer and Hall already heeded Chehey’s advice. They also bought Bella a special type of face protector, so she stays safe when they are out camping or hiking in remote areas.
Making sure other dog owners are aware of the potential dangers of wild mushrooms, is something to couple is passionate about.
“Most people let their dogs roam free and it is just terrifying that it could happen to anybody," Hall said. "It’s so close to home for everyone.”
Local veterinarian Dr. Curtis Brandt said dogs are always eating things they should not be. It is important to bring your animal in if they are showing signs of an upset stomach. Mushroom poisoning in particular can potentially affect the nervous system or injury the liver and kidney.
To help cover the vet bills, Stauffer and Hall set up a GoFundMe.
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