Toads – like other things that creep, crawl, fly, or jump – can be irresistible to dogs and cats, who just can’t fight the urge to pounce on them. While many toads are harmless, Bufo toads (or cane toads) can land your pet in the emergency room.
Bufo toads are a marine toad found in Florida, Texas and Hawaii. When pets mouth or bite them, they release potent venom. This gives the toads a bitter taste and causes local irritation that leads to salivation and frothing at the mouth. In some cases, vomiting will also occur initially. Similar signs of distress can be seen in animals who have come into contact with the Colorado River Toad, which is found in the southwestern United States.
As the toad’s toxins are absorbed, more severe signs of toad venom toxicosis can develop, including:
- Central nervous system signs: seizures, stiffness and uneven gait
- Cardiac signs: arrhythmias, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure
Depending on the size of the animal and the dose of venom, Bufo toad poisoning can cause death within fifteen minutes. Smaller pets are more prone to severe signs because they usually receive a higher dose of toxin per pound of body weight.
Many dogs will drool excessively or paw at their mouths after exposure. If you have seen your pet playing with a frog and then displaying the symptoms described above, seek emergency care immediately! Occasionally, the toxin can come into contact with the eyes, which will cause intense irritation. Pets may paw at their eyes, which causes further irritation. Conjunctivitis and/or uveitis can be quick to follow.
There is no antidote for Bufo toad poisoning. Flushing the mouth copiously to help rid it of remaining toxin is helpful, but this should never be attempted in an animal who is comatose or having active seizures. Dogs showing severe signs should be taken immediately to the closest emergency vet hospital. Treatment will center on stabilizing cardiac abnormalities and monitoring for hypertension (high blood pressure), electrolyte imbalances, and seizures. Emergency treatment can prove costly, but your best friend is worth it, and if you have pet insurance from Petplan, you can concentrate on your best friends care and not the veterinary bills.
Despite the dangers of Bufo toad poisoning, the prognosis is good in patients who receive prompt medical care and who make it through the first half hour.
Of course, prevention is key. Never let your pet play with or antagonize frogs and toads. This may require some practice of training commands like LEAVE IT, or DROP IT. It is also a good example of how using a “sit/stay” can keep your pet out of trouble. Kissing toads may make for happy endings in fairy tales, but it can have disastrous consequences for hairy tails!
Has your pet ever tangled with a toad or other wildlife? Tell us in the comments!