Ever heard of a cane toad?
If you live in south Florida you certainly have. Cane toads have recently become more than just a nuisance in Florida, and it’s important for all pet owners to know that they live all over the U.S. Why? Because cane toads are incredibly poisonous to dogs and cats.
Why Are Cane Toads So Toxic to Pets?
Adult cane toads carry a significant amount of toxin with them at all times to ward off predators. When threatened, they shoot the toxin from their back. It’s incredibly viscous and sticky and is difficult to remove. The white substance is highly toxic to animals and can cause seizures and even death in a matter of minutes.
Because they are naturally curious, dogs and cats are known to approach cane toads (which are usually relatively small and unthreatening) to investigate, being poisoned in the process. It’s not unheard of for particularly brave animals to lick or bite cane toads, inadvertently ingesting some of the poison that way.
Wait, So What Do Cane Toads Look Like?
Cane toads (otherwise known as Bufo toads) are usually around 4-6 inches in length. They’re quite robust and are usually brown or spotted brown in color.
Where Do They Live?
They love warm, humid weather so they’re particularly problematic in the southeast. (They aren’t native to America and were introduced to Florida sugarcane fields as a form of pest control in the 1930s.) That being said, cane toads have been seen all over the U.S., especially in warmer climates like that of California.
They’re usually most active and most prolific after a season of heavy rains. Anything that draws insects such as standing water or a pile of pet poop is likely to draw toads in the area, too. Toads go where the bugs are.
That’s Scary! What Do I Do if My Pet Gets Toad Poisoning?
If you suspect your dog or cat may have come into contact with a poisonous toad, watch for symptoms to set in over the next 5-10 minutes. The first signs will usually be disorientation, drooling, pawing at the face, dilated pupils, vomiting, and/or panting. If these signs are present, immediately wash your pet’s mouth out with water and use a clean cloth to wipe any residual substance away from the eyes and mouth.
Cane toad poison isn’t dangerously toxic to the skin but the scent is attractive to pets, who often ingest it trying to lick it off of their body.
Toad poisoning is a life-threatening emergency! If your pet has ingested toad poison, rush her to the closest emergency vet as soon as possible. When caught early, toad toxicity is almost always treatable. A vet is likely to treat your pet by flushing her mouth or with activated charcoal. If she is experiencing heart-related symptoms, it may be necessary to administer stabilizing medications. Sedation and/or IV fluids may be necessary to keep your dog calm while she’s observed for anywhere from 12-48 hours.
So, How Can I Avoid Cane Toads?
The best defense is never leaving your dog or cat alone outdoors. Because that’s not always possible, it’s important to ensure your backyard doesn’t become a magnet for bugs; get rid of standing water (such as pools in birdbaths or potted plants) and keep the yard free of debris piles, too. The same conditions that attract the insects toads like to eat also attract mosquitoes, which can carry a host of diseases.
Never, ever let your pet play with a frog or toad. If you’re walking your pet away from home, keep a close eye on her to ensure she doesn’t sniff out a toad off-path somewhere you can’t see.