Help! My Dog Bit a Toad!

It seems like every day here at Pet Health Central, we learn new things. Usually, I find out something new and disgusting about animal parasites, but occasionally, I learn about new hazards to our pets. Case in point: toads.

Toads?

Several years ago, I lived near a lake and our miniature Schnauzer and Yorkshire terrier found living in the rural area delightful. There were ducks to bark at, deer droppings to roll in, and a whole host of small critters to hunt.

Among those critters were toads. But the first time one of the girls chomped down on a toad, we were horrified to find that she almost immediately dropped the toad, shook her head vigorously, then profusely foamed at the mouth. It was especially disgusting as the Schnauzer’s “beard” left her with a dripping, slimy mess, which she happily smeared on our pants.

The dogs learned toads were no fun, and we learned that the toads have a paratoid gland behind each eye. From that gland, they exude bufotoxins, an alkaloid substance, to deter predators. Here in the Great Plains, the toads were likely either Woodhouse’s toads (Anaxyrus woodhousii) or Great Plains Toads (Anaxyrus cognatus) and the bufotoxin posed no real danger to our dogs.

But there ARE toads who pose a big threat to your dogs (and cats), depending on where you live. In fact, run-ins with these amphibians can be fatal.

In the desert southwest of the United States and Mexico, the Colorado River Toad (Incilius alvarius) is a threat to your pets. Spanning portions of New Mexico, southeastern California, southern Arizona and northern Mexico, this amphibian boasts both skin and glands that secrete toxins.

The Gulf Coast of the U.S., as well as extreme southern Texas and Hawaii, play home to the Giant toad, also known as the Cane toad or Marine toad (Rhinella marinus.) As the name suggests, this amphibian can range in size up to nine inches. Their paratoid gland is large, triangular shaped, and sits roughly atop the shoulders. Should you get their toxin on yourself, it can cause skin irritation. In our companion pets, poisoning can happen from just mouthing the toad. Experts at the Pet Poison Helpline indicate that dogs can become sick from drinking water from dishes toads have sat in.

Symptoms include drooling, head shaking, loss of coordination, vomiting yellow fluid or pasty diarrhea (within minutes of exposure) and convulsions. Pet’s gums may also exhibit as a brick red.

Depending on where you live, and whom you suspect to be the culprit, if your pet is showing signs of distress, you may need to take immediate action. If you live in areas with Colorado River or Cane toads, rinse your pet’s mouth immediately, using water from a hose if available and taking care to rinse water down and out of your pet’s mouth (don’t let them ingest the water) and scrub their teeth and gums to remove the toxins. Immediately call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline.

If your pet has been exposed to a less-theatening species (like a Great Plains toad), you can flush the mouth to help eliminate the toxins. Watch your animal for signs of distress and call your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

And, if your dog ends up just slobbering and drooling, but is otherwise okay, it might be time to give him a quick bath to wash all the toxins off his fur.

Toads can play a vital role in the habitat of your area. However, take steps to keep your dog playing with toys…not toads!

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