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Some are skeptical dogs can die from toxic mushrooms but a vet says it can happen.

“It’s rare, but we do see it,” says Carsten Bandt

By Joshua Azizi , in City , on October 25, 2018

Residents remain unsure what led to the fatal poisonings of two dogs in North Vancouver’s Cates Park in the past month.

Both the North Vancouver RCMP and the District of North Vancouver pointed to toxic mushrooms as the likely cause of these deaths, as well as the sudden illnesses of other dogs in the Deep Cove area. The district put up signs in Cates Park advising pet owners to keep their dogs in sight or on a leash.

“This is a particularly productive year for mushrooms, which grow annually in Cates Park/Whey-ah-wichen,” said Stephanie Smiley, the district’s communications co-ordinator in an emailed statement. But Smiley also noted that no death-cap mushrooms — which have been sprouting throughout B.C. — have been found so far.

A concerned community

That absence of that variety of toxic mushroom, along with the placement of a threatening sign last month in Windsor Park, also in North Vancouver, that read “Dead dogs don’t shit” has led some residents to suspect that someone has been trying to poison dogs.

A warning sign posted by the owner of a dog that was poisoned at Cates Park.

“I’ve never heard of dogs being poisoned by mushrooms before and I’ve lived here all my life,” said Ross Vennesland, a North Vancouver resident. “If two get poisoned by mushrooms all of a sudden, what has changed to make that happen?”

According to Deb Bramley, a North Vancouver resident who led a community walk through Cates Park to look for possible toxins, residents are split 50-50 over whether it was mushrooms or someone trying to poison dogs.

“I personally don’t suspect that it’s mushrooms, but a lot of people do,” she said.

Both Bramley and Vennesland pointed to the threatening sign as a reason for their concerns.

“It’s rare, but we do see it”

However, Carsten Bandt, an emergency critical-care specialist at Canada West Veterinary Specialists & Critical Care Hospital, said that dog poisonings from toxic mushrooms do indeed happen.

“It’s rare, but we do see it,” he said. However, Bandt added that it’s hard to prove if someone didn’t see what the dog ingested.

“Usually when they show critical signs [of poisoning], it’s too late to see any evidence of that.” Although it is possible to do a specialized lab test, it is expensive, invasive and time-consuming, Bandt said.