Fungus: From garden to dog's feet? Please help

conniemcgheeJuly 25, 2009

First-time poster in the organic forum.

I am hoping you guys can offer some advice. Here's the situation:

We have a new home, so have been creating a lot of new beds. Have been here for two years. This year has been a heavy bed-creating year.

I live in Tennessee, zone 7. Some of you may know, we have gotten an inordinate amount of rain this summer (especially compared to recent drought years), and it has stayed cooler longer into the summer. I thought this was awesome luck for me, having planted so many new things this year. It's been much easier to keep them alive.

In our gardens, we seem to have had an absolutely ridiculous amount of mushrooms and fungi. In 15 years of gardening, I've never seen anything like it. Dog vomit fungus, stinkhorn fungus, and new crops of mushrooms every day.

First of all, I don't know if these fungi/mushrooms are coming from the mulch (they're all popping up in newly-mulched gardens), or if it is just a side effect of the weather. Either way, they've got to go. I know they are a natural thing and help decompose organic matter, etc., but...

I have two dogs, and I'm very protective of them. I am not a mushroom expert, so I have no idea which of these are poisonous or not. Because my dogs are very "mouthy," I have been very worried they would eat an inappopriate mushroom. I've been removing any mushrooms I see in the backyard as they have popped up all year (knowing, of course, that I'll never get rid of the mycelium...but at least I've gotten rid of what is above ground and available to their mouths).

So: I've been battling the mushrooms and thought that was the extent of my worries. Until last week...

We had a few days of rain and very unseasonably cool weather. Suddenly, one of my dogs developed bald patches on his feet, and though he was doing a little foot-licking it wasn't obsessively. Took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with a fungus yeast infection. The vet put him on anti-fungal oral and topical medications. Assured me these were not usually passed between dogs.

Four days later, the other dog turns up with the same thing. Took him in this morning, and the vet did a more intensive culture, which he reported was "loaded, absolutely loaded, with fungal spores."

We talked about it for a bit and I told him about our "fungi farm" this year, and he seemed to think they could be picking this up from the mulch.


Fungal infections are not cheap or easy to treat, and my dogs' feet look absolutely diseased. It can't be comfortable.

I think it almost HAS to be related. Last year they were fine. The only thing different is this mulch. Last year we had no beds in the back yet, and we used pine bark out front. This year we switched to black mulch.

The reason I am posting this in the organic forum is, because of the dogs, I do NOT want to use any heavy chemical means to try to control this fungus (assuming there is a way to control it). I was hoping you all could offer suggestions.

Thanks so much for reading. Sorry this got so long! Wanted to tell the entire story.

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I'm not a vet and so not an authority on dog fungal/yeast infections but I'd say it was pretty unlikely the same fungal spores that may be present in yor garden have infected your pets. It just doesn't work that way :-) By the same token, it is highly unlikely a human would get a skin fungal infection from naturally occurring garden fungi. And if you are removing all the above ground, obvious signs of fungus, there shouldn't be any or many spores present - they only develop from mature fruiting bodies - the mushrooms, etc. However, the same conditions that encourage the development of the outside mushrooms can also contribute to skin fungal problems - warm, humid conditions and the presence of moisture.

Yeast infections of dog's pads are pretty common. And they can be stimulated by diet as well. Try bathing your dog's paws in a warm bath with baking soda - that'll have a very similar result as using a baking powder solution on a plant fungal disease. It alters the pH and makes it unhospitable to the fungal organisms.

As to the fungus in the garden, its presence is temporary and entirely natural and I wouldn't even attempt any type of control. Other than removing any visible mushrooms or other fruiting bodies, which will eliminate any ability to produce spores. I seriously doubt there is a connection between what's occurring in your garden and the issues with your dogs paws.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 8:34PM
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Thank you, gg, so much for your reply. I am not an expert on fungus, obviously, but when my dogs turned up with this, right after I have put down all this mulch that seems to breed fungus like rabbits...well, you can see why it would make me a little suspicious. The vet seemed to think it was the mulch too, but he's not a fungus expert either.

They are both on holistic, grain-free diets (fish-based), so I'm pretty sure it's not their food.

What I am desperately hoping is that it is not an allergy, to grass for example, and the yeast infection is secondary to that. :( That would be a lot harder to figure out and control than just removing mulch. Sigh.

I feel better thinking that garden fungi would not be the same as skin fungi. It is still puzzling, though...if these infections are not passed between dogs, as the vet said, then why did they both turn up with an infection within days of each other?

So weird.

Anyway - thanks for replying! :)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 10:17PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Foot infections are common with allergies. And the dog can develop them at any age, this in spite of being on "a good diet."

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 2:52AM
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Dan Staley

The fungi comprise an entire kingdom, tens of thousands of species. Yeast fungi are not the same fungi that make cute little toadstools. Dog vomit fungi come from wood chips as do a couple others. The moisture benefits yeast fungi as well as others. Temperature and moisture are triggers for fungi, hence the 'within a couple days of each other'.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 7:47AM
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I understand completely that temperature and moisture can trigger fungi in the environment - I've been gardening for a while. What I don't understand (and neither does my vet) is how the same fungus, which is not contagious, can turn up on BOTH my dog's feet within a few days of each other. That's the question. My dogs have experienced temperature changes and rain before in their five years ;) Why now? What kind of fungus is this and how did they get it? I have to assume that the fungus came from the environment...fungus doesn't just randomly happen, right?

For example, let's say I get athlete's foot. It may be because I was walking barefoot in a shower (hospitable environment), but just walking barefoot in a shower isn't enough to contract this fungus. I am barefoot in my shower every day, yet have never had athlete's foot. I would have to walk barefoot in a shower where the fungus was present.

I also realize that allergies can develop at any time. I'm just saying it's not likely it's a food allergy. It could be an environmental allergy (much more common than food allergies in dogs). But again, what are the chances of them BOTH developing an allergy within four days of each other?

Allergy was the vet's first guess, with a secondary yeast infection caused by licking the paws, keeping them wet and therefore creating a perfect environment for yeast to flourish. But that was his guess before both of them showed symptoms. Too coincidental.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 8:37AM
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anney(Georgia 8)


I suspect it's a contagious fungus (many pet funguses are contagious to other pets and humans), first appearing on one dog as an allergic reaction to something, and then spreading to the other dog's paws by walking where the first dog walked.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 8:48AM
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anney(Georgia 8)


I'd call the vet and ask for the name of the fungus, and then do some internet research about its source. You might be able identify how the dogs got it.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 9:04AM
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Thanks anney for your helpful advice. It has to be contagious, doesn't it? It's either that or something in the environment...and since it's not looking likely for environmental, it must be contagious.

I really don't think it's yeast, as according to everything I'm reading yeast presents with a distinct smell. No smell on their feet.

I do need the name of the fungus. I hope he knows that. He just said the slide was "loaded with fungal spores." I interpreted that to mean a variety of fungal spores, but maybe he just meant a great quantity of spores of the same kind.

This is driving me crazy!!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 9:40AM
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Before you spend a ton of money suggest you do a search for ... tea tree oil for fungal infections. Available in most drug stores or health food stores. Organic. Works on people and animals. I have used it on both for many years treating mange, ring worm, athelete's foot and other foot fungus problems. Will not harm your dogs when used diluted. Try 2 tablespoons tea tree oil to four cups water. Dip dogs paws in it and blot dry. Repeat several times a day. Tea tree oil can also be added to floor washing water to kill a fungus inside the home.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 12:00PM
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Nandina, really? I have heard of tea tree oil, but also remember reading some warnings somewhere about it being toxic if ingested. But it sounds like you are saying OK if diluted.

A friend of mine, who used to work for an herbalist, also suggested tea tree oil. Maybe I should look into it further. I appreciate the suggestion and testimonial! Thanks :)

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 1:59PM
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