Bufo Toad Poisoning
A common threat to south Florida dogs and cats is poisoning from Bufo marinus, the giant or cane toad. This species of toad produces a pasty yellow-white toxin in the parotid glands, which extend from the head backward over the shoulder region and is released through pinhole openings in the skin. When a dog or cat mouths or bites a Bufo toad the toxin is released and is rapidly absorbed across the mucus membranes of the mouth.
Symptoms of Bufo poisoning occur suddenly and may include profuse salivation, vocalizing and pawing at the mouth, brick-red gums, in-coordination or a stiff gait, difficulty breathing, and the intoxication can rapidly progress to seizures and death.
The severity of the poisoning depends on the size of the dog and the amount of toxin absorbed into the blood stream. Puppies and small breed dogs such as Dachshunds, Mini-Pins, Jack Russell Terriers, Yorkie Terriers and miniature Schnauzers are more seriously affected because they get "more poison per pound" than a large breed dog, but keep in mind that large breeds such as Shepherds have been killed by these deadly toads.
Bufo toads are most active in the spring and summer months when it is warm and moist outside, but due to fluctuating temperatures this year, there have already been ‘sitings’ and some deaths reported. They are also nocturnal; therefore most poisonings occur in the evening, late-night or early-morning hours. Poisonings can happen very quickly and even dogs being leash-walked have been known to grab a toad and be poisoned.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG OR CAT IS POISONED BY A BUFO TOAD
Step 1) DO NOT PANIC!!!
You need to be able to think clearly and act quickly to help save your pet. Panicking will only keep you from acting properly!
Step 2) IMMEDIATELY rinse the pet’s mouth out with a large amount of water using either a hose, kitchen sink sprayer, shower sprayer or water bottle. Rinse the mouth from side to side. DO NOT DROWN THE ANIMAL BY FORCING WATER DOWN ITS THROAT. The toxin is very sticky and may need to be gently rubbed off of the mucus membranes of the mouth. Be very careful so as not to get bitten by your pet. Even the gentlest animal may bite if it is scared, in pain or having a seizure.
Step 3) Calmly transport the dog to your veterinarian for further care. PLAN AHEAD! Save time in an emergency by preparing now. Keep the phone number of your veterinarian by the telephone. Since most poisonings occur at night CALL FIRST to make sure that the hospital is open, don’t waste time driving to a closed facility. Keep the phone number and address of a nearby emergency clinic near the phone too, in case your regular veterinarian is not available.
There is no specific antidote for Bufo-toxin and treatment consists mainly of supportive care. The toxin can affect the heart causing it to beat in an irregular pattern and hyperthermia (body temperature greater than 105 degrees) may develop from seizuring. Intravenous fluids, cool-water baths and anti-arrhythmic drugs are all used in the treatment of Bufo intoxication.
So what can you do to prevent your pet from being poisoned? First of all, learn to recognize what a Bufo toad looks like. Adults can be as large as 6 to 9 inches in length and have brown, or gray-brown warty skin. Younger toads are much smaller but just as dangerous. Bufo toads are ground dwelling animals. Do not confuse them with tree frogs, which have suction-cup feet and may be found crawling up the side of your house.
Bufo toads live near water such as ponds, canals and swimming pools. Search your yard in the late evening for them. If you have just moved to a new neighborhood, ask a neighbor if the toads inhabit the area.
In addition to eating insects, small animals, snakes and vegetation, Bufo toads are especially fond of pet food. You can avoid attracting toads to your yard by not leaving bowls of dog or cat food down on the ground. If you live in an area inhabited by Bufo toads, you need to be especially careful. Direct supervision while your pet is outside is crucial and may prevent a tragedy. If you have a fenced-in yard you can make it harder for the toads to get through the links by putting chicken-wire fencing along the bottom edge.
Learning to recognize and minimizing the risk of Bufo toads living in and around your yard are the best ways to prevent your dog from being poisoned. But knowing what to do in case of an emergency is the most important factor in helping your pet to survive. Rinsing the mouth out with large amounts of water from side-to-side is the single most important step you can take. You must remember that you do not want the poison to go down the animals’ throat. Rinsing the mouth out with water will remove excess poison and may actually prevent a minor intoxication from progressing into a life-threatening one.