At this time of year, toads are rearing their ‘oh so ugly’ warty heads and causing terrible troubles with our pooches.
Toads are dangerous amphibians. They are a common cause of poisoning in dogs and, less commonly, they poison cats.
Toads exude a milky white toxin mostly from poison glands behind their eyes, but elsewhere on their body as well. They squeeze this poison onto the surface of their skin when they are under threat. When treated roughly, they can even squirt the poison up to two metres.
Dogs and cats are poisoned when they mouth the toad or sometimes when the toad’s poison gets into their eyes.
The toad’s poison is also dangerous to humans and deaths have occurred. Some adults have even been affected when they absorbed the poison through cuts in their skin after handling a toad.
Keelback Snakes are not susceptible to the venom and Crows and Water Rats have learnt to turn the toad over and eat only the non-poisonous internal organs.
In China, they have used toad poison as an expectorant, a heart stimulant and as a diuretic. It has also been used as a remedy for toothache and sinusitis. In Africa and South America, toad venom has been used on the tips of arrows as a poison.
Toads were introduced into Australia in 1935 to control the cane beetle – a disastrous move as toads have no natural enemies in Australia. Australian Terriers and Fox Terriers also think this was a dumb idea, as they are the breeds most often affected by toad poisoning.
Signs of Toad Poisoning
This is what you need to do if your pet is poisoned.
Due to its corrosive and irritant nature, the toad’s venom will cause profuse salivation soon after your pet bites it. Pets affected by the irritant venom will paw their mouth due to the pain. If you see your pet drooling and distressed but haven’t seen it attack a toad, look at its gums. If they are red and inflamed, toad poisoning is likely.
Vomiting often occurs, especially in cats. Cats also show hindquarter weakness and a fixed trance-like stare.
If your dog is poisoned, it will usually suffer from seizures or convulsions. These convulsions are often fatal unless you seek urgent veterinary attention.
STOP – SEEK VET ATTENTION NOW.
The poison can also affect the heart of dogs and cats, causing immediate cardiac arrest.
After it has mouthed a toad, it is vital that you remove all trace of the poison from your pets’ teeth and gums.
- Use a jet of water from a hose to remove the toxin
- The water jet should be directed forward out of your pet’s mouth, not down into its throat.
- Rubbing the teeth and gums with a soft rag containing human toothpaste may also help to remove the toxin.
- CAUTION – IF YOUR DOG IS CONVULSING YOU MAY GET BITTEN DOING THIS
If your pet is poisoned
If you suspect a toad has poisoned your pet, you will have a good chance of saving its life with this additinal prompt action.
- Transport the dog to your vet as quickly and quietly as possible.
- Keep your pet cool (as they overheat when convulsing) and gently restrained.
- If it is convulsing, it can damage itself by knocking against objects – try to gently restrain your pet by wrapping it in a towel.
- It may not recognise you and may also become quite vicious. Handle an effected animal with extreme caution.
How can you try to protect your dog?
- Feed your pets indoors. Cane toads are attracted to the food source. Cat and dog food is especially attractive to them. Keep an area inside the house for feeding. If cane toads do eat pet food, just eating it does not poison it but the pet that tries to defend its food is at risk of being sprayed by the cane toad.
- Leave pet drinking water inside at Night . Again, don’t leave a bath as an invitation.
- Keep your pets indoors when cane toads are most active. Cane toads tend to be most active at night and after rain.
- Remove hiding spots. Bushy plants can become hiding spaces for cane toads. Some landscaping features can also provide them with shelter. Either remove these attractants or check them regularly and remove any cane toads found in them.
- Supervise your dog’s outdoor time when the cane toads are around. Leaving a dog alone with cane toads is often asking for trouble. In particular, be very cautious with puppies and playful dogs.
- Build a barrier. It is possible to keep cane toads out of your backyard but it is expensive and requires some effort. A 50 centimeter (19.7 in) high fine mesh barrier that extends at least 15 centimeter (5.9 in) under the ground would be a good start. It will need to completely cover the perimeter of the area you want fenced off, including any gate entrances. Remove any cane toads in the yard. DO NOT KILL THE TOAD. Pick it up with proper protection avoiding direct skin contact.
Training your Dog
There are a few things to consider first –
- Has your dog already had a taste of the poison? (It is like a drug to them)
- Have you reacted significantly around toads and your dog? (this will make them more interested in them)
- Have you taught your dog the “leave it” command and does it do it reliably? (meaning every time)
If you have answered yes to any of the above we would suggest getting some training – whilst we can write how to do it via treats you still need a Live toad and we are not prepared to put your dog at risk if you miscalculate and your dog gets toad poisoning.