« Toads: can they kill your pets? » | This article presents pet owners with 2 toad species pet owners might be interested in. It explains how they affect companion animals and what to expect if they are exposed to them.
- This blog is intended as a source of general information for pet owners. It does not constitute specific veterinary advice towards a particular medical case. If you are concerned with a particular aspect of your pet’s health, please, book a video appointment to talk with a qualified veterinarian.
Which toads can kill your pets?
Although toads are found worldwide, some of them can become a source of major concern when it comes to pets. For example, an encounter between a dog and certain species of toads has the potential to be fatal for the dog.
This section provides an overview of 2 toad species of interest in toxicology, because they are known to threaten the lives of companion animals through toxic molecules produced by skin glands called parotids.
Colorado River toad (Bufo alvarius)
Bufo alvarius is equally known as the Colorado River toad. It is found in the USA, between the states of Arizona and California, along the path of the Colorado river, and in some other locations in California and New Mexico. It also lives in the Sonoran desert of Mexico.
In scientific papers, this toad is reported to produce a wealth of toxic molecules. Some of them are hallucinogenic, such as bufotenin and the 5-MeO-DMT (5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine). An individual can produce up to 75mg of this substance.
When administered orally, 5-MeO-DMT is poisonous. However, when inhaled (smoked), it acts like a psychotropic drug. Bufo alvarius is apparently the only toad capable of producing this molecule.
The Colorado River toad is understood to be mostly active in late summer monsoon season. Pets might encounter them in the evening, night or early in the morning. During September to April, it does hibernate and will remain underground.
The toxic substance is secreted by its 2 large parotids and is reported to have the appearance of milk.
Marine toad (Bufo marinus)
Bufo marinus, aka the Marine toad, lives in tropical regions of the world. In North America, he can be located in the states of Florida, Texas and in Hawaii. Bufo marinus is reported as the world’s largest toad with an average size of 10 to 15 cm.
Despite its name, the Marine toad lives in subtropical forests or in places such as open grassland, woodland and in people’s gardens. Young individuals are deemed less toxic than their adult version.
Bufo marinus is known to be extremely dangerous to dogs. The toxin can kill them if they do not receive first aid and are not urgently treated by a veterinarian. Intoxication usually follows when a dog licks, bites, catches in his mouth or ingests one of those toads.
It is roughly estimated that both parotid glands contain enough toxin to kill a 10-15kg dog. Literature equally reports that dogs can become ill after consumption of poisonous water where a toad was sat in for hours.
Why toads can kill pets?
Poisonous substances found in toad
Poisonous toads produce a range of substances which fall into 2 categories:
- Biogenic amines, which will act on the central nervous system
- Steroid derivatives, which will trigger cardiovascular problems
- bufotoxin (affects the gastrointestinal, cardiac and nervous systems)
Symptoms following intoxication
Toxicologists have established 3 categories of symptoms depending on the severity of signs :
- irritation of the oral mucous membrane
- sialorrhea (foaming from the mouth, production of excessive amounts of saliva)
- irritation of the oral mucous membrane
- abnormal cardiac rhythm
- fecal and urinary incontinence
- neurological disturbances (walking in circles)
- all of the moderate signs
- diarrhea, abdominal pain
- unresponsive pupils
- pulmonary edema
What happens if a pet is exposed?
When a dog (or cat) manages to interact with a toad, the toxin it produces can be rapidly absorbed by the mouth through the mucous membranes. Usually, the pet will start to salivate profusely within seconds to minutes.
Troubles breathing and neurological signs can show within 15 minutes after the ingestion of toad toxin. Additionally, the heart rate might slow down or accelerate, depending on cases.
Dogs remains the most affected pets as opposed to cats. Ferrets are also reported to suffer toad intoxication.
Pet owners are advised to first help the pet by rinsing the mouth with water (profusely) for 10 to 15 minutes. Using a garden hose to help large breed dogs can be useful. Caution is recommended as not to drown the animal, especially if they have neurological and respiratory troubles.
Then, seeking immediate emergency veterinary treatment is advised. There are no antidote available for toad toxin. Vets will assess the situation and provide treatment depending on the symptoms displayed.
With intoxication related to Bufo alvarius, pets would generally start to improve within 30 minutes of receiving medical treatment and are likely to be saved.
With Bufo marinus, the situation is trickier, such as without prompt emergency veterinary care, the pet is likely to die.