The bufo toad (Bufo marinus) (also known as marine toad, giant toad, cane toad) is a brown to grayish-brown toad with black or white spots. Adult toads generally range in size from 6 to 9 inches, but may get larger. They are displacing the native toad populations in the cities of southern Florida. When confronted by a predator, the toad is able to secrete a toxin from the glands on the back of the head (called the parotid glands) in the form of whitish liquid. The secretions are highly toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals, and can cause skin irritation in humans.
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Bufo Toad Poisoning
Bufo toads are most frequently seen at night as they are nocturnal, near water, or after it rains. To avoid attracting toads to areas where pets are, do not leave pet food in open dishes outside. Bufo toads are attracted to the food and also a dogs' watering dish, and may sit in the water long enough to leave enough toxin to make a dog ill. Dogs may bite or lick bufo toads, thus receiving a large dose of the toxins which are absorbed rapidly through the gums directly into the bloodstream. The poison contains hallucinogenic and cardiac toxins.
Symptoms occur within minutes, and can include foamy salivation, difficulty breathing, red-colored gums, staggering and stumbling, vomiting, convulsions or seizure activity, and irregular heartbeat. If the poisoning is left untreated, the death rate from Bufo marinus poisoning is very high! There is no antidote for the bufo toad poison, so immediate first aid followed by treatment in the veterinary hospital is required to survive the poisoning event. Treatment in the hospital consists of intravenous fluids and medications to counteract the seizure activity and cardiac abnormalities.
Keeping your dog on a leash and well supervised when outdoors should be sufficient to prevent bufo toad toxicity. You should carry a flashlight at night, so that you can see what your dog is getting into when he or she is nosing around in the bushes. These toads don't actually attack, but a curious dog sniffing or licking the toad can get poisoned as a result.
If you think that your pet has come into contact with a bufo toad, immediately rinse out your pet’s mouth with a soaking wet wash cloth several times to remove any toxin from the mouth. Thoroughly wipe out the insides of the lips and cheeks, as well as the gums on the outside of the teeth. Do not use a hose to rinse the mouth as water can be accidentally inhaled into the lungs causing a life-threatening condition called “aspiration pneumonia”. Proceed to the nearest veterinary clinic or emergency clinic, as the toxin acts quickly and time is of the essence. The smaller the pet or the larger the toad, the greater the risk of toxicity.
If you suspect that your dog may have contacted a toad, or if you notice that your dog is acting strange (disoriented, wobbly, drooling) within 5-15 minutes of having been outside, rinse the mouth as described above and seek immediate veterinary attention. It is far better to be safe than sorry in these cases. A precautionary mouth-wash can save a life!