Toads are a common cause of poisoning in dogs. The toad can poison cats, too but this is not very common.
Toads exude a milky white toxin from poison glands behind their eyes. They squeeze this poison onto the surface of their skin when they are under threat. Toads do not spit or squirt the poison as commonly believed, and they don’t bite. 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.
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.
Dogs may be poisoned by oral exposure to many types of toads. All toads produce venom but toxicity varies greatly by species. The most important species of concern in the United States is the giant or marine toad Bufo marinus, ( a.k.a. bufo toad ) an introduced species that has established itself in Hawaii, Florida and Texas. Local effects include shaking of the head, pawing at the mouth, retching and frothy salivation. Severe intoxication as from the Bufo toad may include life threatening cardiac and CNS involvement.
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.
The Cane Toad is Australia's only true toad, it grows to a massive 24cm and can lay up to 40,000 eggs in one season. Most native tadpoles cannot live in the same water as the poisonous Cane Toad tadpoles.
Each female cane toad lays up to 40,000 eggs a month, and half that number can expect to develop into tadpoles within three days.
The largest cane toad on record in Australia was 16.5 cm wide, 24cm in length and weighed 1.36kg.!!
Signs of Toad poisoning
Due to its corrosive and irritant nature, the poison will cause profuse salivation soon after your pet bites the toad. Following this, 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 usually fatal unless you seek urgent veterinary attention. 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. Using a jet of water from a hose is an effective way of doing this. The water jet should be directed forward out of your pet's mouth, not down into its throat.
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.
Toad Poisoning - drool or mouth irritation, shaking head, vomiting or dry heaves, weakness (or collapsing), difficulty breathing, blue gums, seizures, death. Flush the mouth with water and seek veterinary care. If possible identify the type of toad.
There are several ways to control the toad population in your yard. The best is probably to place a 1/8" mesh screen around the outside of your fence. The screen should be buried 4" and extend at least 20" above the ground. You can also try to trap the toads with funnel traps along the fence, or by placing a 5 gallon bucket in the ground near a light. The toad is attracted to the bug, 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 the swimming pool and turn out pool and outside lights as much as possible.