Toad Toxicity

Cane toad

Toad toxicity occurs when an animal 'mouths' a cane toad. Often our furry friends can't resist chasing cane toads as they hop across the yard, and with their slow hop they are more often than not caught. However, once caught the cane toad's defensive mechanise kicks in - they release their deadly toxin. The cane toad secretes its venom through glands which are located a the back of their head. The cane toad's venom is very sticky and irritating, but also poisonous. Be sure you know the signs and symptoms of toad poisoning in dogs as it could save their life.

Symptoms of toad toxicity in pets

There are many signs and symptoms of cane toad poisoning in dogs. These signs and symptoms vary in their severity, but the longer your pet is exposed to the toxin the worse their symptoms will become. Signs and symptoms of cane toad poisoning include:
  • Dog about to mouth a cane toadExcess salivation or drooling. Due to its irritant nature, the poison will cause excessive salivation, which can look like your pet is foaming at the mouth.
  • Vomiting. This can lead to aspiration pneumonia if it is breathed in and serious breathing difficulties.
  • Bright red gums. This is due to the irritating nature of the toxin and dilation of the blood vessels to the area. Gums will also become sticky or slimy from the toxin.
  • Pawing at mouth. This is a sure sign that your dog as come into contact with the cane toad's toxin. As it is sticky, irritating and is bitter tasting, most dogs will try to get it out of their mouths.
  • Disorientation. This can include a wobbly gait, loss of coordination of limbs or difficulty walking.
  • Dilated pupils. Due to the hallucinogenic properties of the toxin. 
  • Panting or difficulty breathing. Due to discomfort, seizure activity or potential aspiration of vomitus. 
In severe cases your pet can also experience:
  • Tremoring, shaking and seizing. They can also have eye flicking, referred to as nystagmus, and their head can arch backwards as well.
  • High body temperature. If your pet is tremoring or seizing, the constant contracting of the body increases the body temperature which can lead to heat stroke.
  • Rigidity. In some cases parts of the body, such as the legs, or even the whole body can become rigid.
  • Heart arrhythmias. The toxin contains catecholamines causes a dangerously low or high heart rate with abnormal rhythms.

If not treated straight away, in severe cases of cane toad poisoning it can lead to death.

In all cases of cane toad poisoning or suspected poisoning it is recommended you take your pet to the vet immediately.

What to do if your pet has mouthed a cane toad

If you see your pet with a toad, you should immediately wipe the gums with a damp cloth, continually rinsing the cloth in-between wipes. This will need to be done for at least 10-20mins. For a step by step guide on how to remove the toxin from your pet's mouth, visit our blog what to do if your pet licks a toad.

Do not direct a hose into your pets mouth. This may force water into the lungs.

How to prevent toad toxicity in pets

Toads are a nocturnal menace. They regularly poison dogs, such as Terriers, which often chase small animals. To prevent the problem, do not allow your dog to go outside unattended at night. Take it out on a lead if the need arises. Place two or three bells on your dog’s collar. The bells will not affect the toad, but you will learn to recognise the telltale jingling sound the bells make when your dog is ‘suspiciously active’. Immediate investigation when the bells are ringing may save your dog’s life.

Cane toad in scrub

There are several ways to control the toad population in your yard, including:

  • Place wire mesh (6mm x 6mm) around the outside of your fence. The mesh should be buried 10cm and extend at least 40cm above the ground
  • Try to trap the toads with funnel traps along the fence, or by placing a very deep bucket in the ground near a light – the toad is attracted to the light, falls into the bucket, and can’t climb out
  • Eliminate, as much as possible, any fresh standing water as the toads look for fish-free water in which to breed
  • Cover swimming pools and turn out pool and outside lights as much as possible

 

If you believe your pet has come in contact with a cane toad, contact your local vet immediately or your closest Animal Emergency Service hospital.

For more information about cane toad poisoning, visit our Cane Toads and Dogs Guide.

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