Cane toad poisoning: what to do

Published 5:00am 20 April 2023

Cane toad poisoning: what to do
Words by Moreton Daily
By Kylie Mackay, Northshore Pet Resort

At this time of year, there are large number of cane toads across the Moreton Bay Region and veterinarians see a higher number of poisoning cases. It is important to talk about how pet owners can best prevent this from happening.

Why do some dogs like toads?

Dogs can find toads intriguing creatures – hop, hop, hop! For inquisitive pets, toads provide an irresistible opportunity for a fun game. If your pet gets too close, they may come in contact with the toad’s toxin.

Most pets unfortunately do not learn from a previous poisoning experience. Be aware that if it has happened once, it will likely happen again unless steps are taken to prevent it.

What is toad poisoning?

Toad poisoning occurs when the dog comes into contact with the toad through biting or licking. When the toad feels threatened, it releases a potent toxin. They can also squirt the poison up to two metres!

Toad toxin, called bufotoxin, can have a devastating effect. Initially, it causes irritation to the gums which leads to excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth. Dogs may also paw at their mouth in discomfort, and the gums become bright red. The toxin is absorbed into the bloodstream most commonly through the gums and targets vital organs.

What should you do if your dog licks one?

If you notice the signs of toad poisoning, get a damp cloth, and wipe out the inside of your dog’s mouth to remove the slimy toxin. Rinse the cloth regularly and continue for about 10 minutes. Contact your vet for further information to determine the next step. Toad poisoning can be fatal in a very short period of time, so immediate vet treatment is the best course of action.

How to prevent poisoning

Cane toads are nocturnal creatures, so the best way to prevent poisoning is to ensure that your pet is only let outside after dusk when it is fully supervised. Make sure it has a safe indoor sleeping area, or if you have an outdoor kennel set up, put toad stops in place to block the toads from entering the safe sleeping area.

Dogs can also ingest the poison by swallowing water that a toad has come into contact with, for example when toads sit in your dog’s water bowl! Give your pet fresh water daily and rinse the bowl out each time to reduce the risk or consider using a raised water bowl so that toads and other pests can’t get to it.

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