Bufo Toad Poisoning
A common threat to south Florida dogs is poisoning from Bufo marinus,
the giant or cane toad. This species of toad produces a pasty yellow-
white toxin in the parotid glands, which extend from the head backward
over the shoulder region and is released through pinhole openings in the
skin. When a dog mouths or bites a Bufo toad the toxin is released and
rapidly absorbed across the mucus membranes of the mouth.
Symptoms of Bufo poisoning occur suddenly and may include profuse
salivation, vocalizing and pawing at the mouth, brick-red gums,
incoordination or a stiff gait, difficulty breathing and the intoxication can
rapidly progress to seizures and death.
The severity of the poisoning depends on the size of the dog and the
amount of toxin absorbed into the blood stream. Puppies and small
breed dogs such as Dachshunds, Mini-Pins, Jack Russell Terriers and
miniature Schnauzers are more seriously affected because they get "more
poison per pound" than a large breed dog.
Bufo toads are most active in the spring and summer months when it is
warm and moist outside. They are also nocturnal, therefore most
poisonings occur in the evening, late-night or early-morning hours.
Poisonings can happen very quickly and even dogs being leash-walked
have been known to grab a toad and be poisoned.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG IS POISONED BY A BUFO TOAD.
Step 1) DO NOT PANIC!!! You need to be able to think clearly and act
quickly to help save your pet. Panicking will only keep you from acting
Step 2) IMMEDIATELY rinse the dog’s mouth out with a large amount
of water using either a hose, kitchen sink sprayer, shower sprayer or
water bottle. Rinse the mouth from side to side. DO NOT DROWN
THE ANIMAL BY FORCING WATER DOWN ITS THROAT. The
toxin is very sticky and may need to be gently rubbed off of the mucus
membranes of the mouth. Be very careful so as not to get bit by your
pet. Even the gentlest animal may bite if it is scared, in pain or having a
Step 3) Calmly transport the dog to your veterinarian for further care.
PLAN AHEAD! Save time in an emergency by preparing now. Keep the
phone number of your veterinarian by the telephone. Since most
poisonings occur at night CALL FIRST to make sure that the hospital is
open, don’t waste time driving to a closed facility. Keep the phone
number and address of a nearby emergency clinic near the phone too, in
case your regular veterinarian is not available.
There is no specific antidote for Bufo-toxin and treatment consists mainly
of supportive care. The toxin can affect the heart causing it to beat in an
irregular pattern and hyperthermia (body temperature greater than 105
degrees) may develop from seizuring. Intravenous fluids, cool-water
baths and anti-arrhythmic drugs are all used in the treatment of Bufo
So what can you do to prevent your pet from being poisoned? First of
all, learn to recognize what a Bufo toad looks like. Adults can be as large
as 6 to 9 inches in length and have brown, or gray-brown warty skin.
Younger toads are much smaller but just as dangerous. Bufo toads are
ground dwelling animals. Do not confuse them with tree frogs, which
have suction-cup feet and may be found crawling up the side of your
Bufo toads live near water such as ponds, canals and swimming pools.
Search your yard in the late evening for them. If you have just moved to
a new neighborhood, ask a neighbor if the toads inhabit the area.
In addition to eating insects, small animals, snakes and vegetation, Bufo
toads are especially fond of pet food. You can avoid attracting toads to
your yard by not leaving bowls of dog or cat food down on the ground.
If you live in an area inhabited by Bufo toads, you need to be especially
careful. Direct supervision while your pet is outside is crucial and may
prevent a tragedy. If you have a fenced-in yard you can make it harder
for the toads to get through the links by putting chicken-wire fencing
along the bottom edge.
Learning to recognize and minimizing the risk of Bufo toads living in
and around your yard are the best ways to prevent your dog from being
poisoned. But knowing what to do in case of an emergency is the most
important factor in helping your pet to survive. Rinsing the mouth out
with large amounts of water is the single most important step you can
take. It will remove excess poison and may actually prevent a minor
intoxication from progressing into a life-threatening one. Next, call
ahead to your veterinarian’s office to confirm that a doctor is present, and
then calmly and safely transport your pet to the facility.