Pet Poison Prevention – The Poisonous Toad

Seriously – toads dangerous?  Unfortunately the answer is yes.  A friend’s greyhound came into contact with a toad in Florida; luckily Diablo was treated promptly and the outcome was good.  However, quick action on your part is vital.

Image   Does your golden retriever like to lick or catch toads in his mouth?  This curiosity is dangerous as toads secrete a poison from glands on the back of their heads, which cause our pets to have seizures and other symptoms. This highly toxic chemical is most often absorbed through the mouth, but it may also enter the eyes. Toad venom toxicity is a health emergency requiring immediate treatment as its effects can be lethal.

The most venomous species of toads are the Giant Toad, Marine Toad, Cane Toad and Colorado River Toad.  They generally distinguish themselves by their large size.  These toads are typically found in Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and Hawaii. The Marine Toad is considered to be most toxic; many dogs poisoned by these toads will die if untreated. Even just mouthing or holding the toad in the mouth can result in poisoning. Dogs can even ingest the toxin by drinking the water out of container that a toad sat in.

Most cases of poisoning occur in the spring and summer and after a heavy rain.  In addition, canines typically come into contact with toads during the very early morning or evening hours. These toads have also been known to eat pet food that has been left outdoors.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually appear within a few seconds of the toad encounter and cause your golden to paw at its mouth or eyes.  The toad toxin results in severe, immediate drooling followed by difficulty breathing, stumbling, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, and even death.

Diagnosis

If you suspect that your pup has encountered a toxic toad, immediately take the dog to a nearby veterinary hospital for emergency treatment.  Time is a crucial factor in the survival of your golden retriever.

You will need to provide the veterinarian with a thorough history of your dog’s health, description of the onset of symptoms, and the likelihood of contact with a toad.

Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination, with blood and urine samples taken. The results of the laboratory tests are often found to be normal except for unusually high levels of potassium (hyperkalemia). Your dog may also exhibit an abnormal heartbeat, and if your doctor has time to conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG), the results will typically confirm this finding.

Treatment

The first step of treatment is to flush the mouth with water for 5-10 minutes to prevent further absorption of the venom through the mouth membranes. The vet will keep your golden’s body temperature stable, which may require keeping it in a cool bath. Your pup’s heart will be monitored continuously to evaluate response to the treatment.  Drugs can be used to control the abnormal heart rhythm and reduce the amount of saliva your dog is producing in response to the toxin.

Prevention & Help

What can we as pet owners do to prevent toad poisoning?

  • Don’t leave your golden retriever out in the yard unsupervised, especially if you live near water sources.  Leash walks during high incident times are safest.
  • Remove dog food from outside to prevent toads being attracted to your yard.
  • If you suspect your furry baby mouthed, licked or ingested a toad, rinse the mouth out immediately with a garden hose, pointing the water to run outside the dog’s mouth and ensure it is not swallowed.  Rinsing the dogs paws is helpful.
  • SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION NOW!  Your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) will provide immediate life-saving advice, but taking your retriever to a veterinarian immediately will be necessary.
  • If you find a toad, the most humane way to kill the nasty little creature is to place it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for three days.  When handling any toad, it is a good rule of thumb to always protect the eyes, wear gloves, and thoroughly wash your hands before and after touching the animal.  Cane toads can cause intense pain and inflammation in humans.

Remember – the only good toad in your yard is a fake one!

ImageReference Links

Pet Poison Helpline: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/toads

Pet MD:  http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/toxicity/c_dg_toad_venom_toxicosis

The Tampa Tribune, March 17, 2014: http://tbo.com/Local/CommunityNews/dog-poisoned-by-bufo-toad-a-warning-for-pet-owners-20130926

Animal questions:  http://animalquestions.org/amphibians/toads/are-toads-poisonous-to-humans

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