I knew Bufo toads existed and were dangerous to pets, but never paid attention to them until last Friday morning.
Our eleven-year-old Westie tangled with one and almost died. She and our black lab were outside by our pool. My wife saw a huge frog, which was actually a Bufo toad, in our pool, and brought the dogs inside, not realizing our Westie had been infected. Twenty minutes later, I found the Westie convulsing and almost dead. We rushed her to our vet and twenty-four long and stressful hours later, we were able to bring her home safe and healthy again.
Bufo toads, also known as giant toads, marine toads or cane toads, have grayish brown, warty skin. They are not native to Florida but were introduced to eat cane beetles. Unfortunately, about 100 specimens of these toads were released accidently in Miami in 1955, and they have become increasingly pervasive. In Florida, the females are larger than the males and can grow to 10 to 15 centimeters across. Bufo toads are especially prevalent in the spring and summer after periods of heavy rain and are seen most often in the early morning or evening hours, feeding upon insects attracted to porch lighting. These toads are also attracted to pet food, so don’t leave food outside. They are out less frequently during the day, but they can be found under vegetation.
Being natural predators, it is common for dogs to catch toads in their mouths, thereby coming into contact with the toad’s toxin, which the toad releases when it feels threatened. This highly toxic defense chemical, which is a fatty, white poisonous substance, is most often absorbed through the mouth, but it may also enter the eyes, causing vision problems. Its effects are lethal if not treated immediately, causing the pets to have seizures and die. Symptoms usually appear within a few seconds of the toad encounter and may include the following: crying or other vocalization; pawing at the mouth and/or eyes; profuse drooling of saliva from the mouth; intense red gums; difficulty in breathing; stumbling, seizures, or the inability to move; heart arrhythmia; or a high temperature.
If you suspect your pet has been infected with a Bufo toad’s toxin, immediately rinse out its mouth with a drippy wet wash cloth several times to remove any toxin from the mouth. Do not use a hose to rinse the mouth as water and the toxin can easily be forced into the lungs causing more problems. Seek veterinarian care immediately.
Our pets are an important part of our family, and we no longer leave them unsupervised outside. I hope your pets never tangle with a Bufo toad, but if they do, this information may be helpful. The more we know about possible risks to our pets, the better equipped we are to protect them.
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