If you live in Southwest Florida and have dogs or outside cats, you have undoubtedly heard about cane toads. The cane toad, also known as the bufo toad, marine toad, and bufo marinus, is an invasive toad that has sent thousands of dogs and cats to the vet each year.
Due to the severe toad toxicity (or toad poisoning) caused by cane toads, it’s essential that you know how to take the proper precautions in protecting your pet.
The first step to protecting your pets is identifying if the toad is an invasive cane toad or a native southern toad. The southern toad is an essential part of our ecosystem by eating bugs and unwanted pests. These native toads also carry very little threat to your animals.
The southern toad has small ridges, or crests, located on the top of its head, similar to a crown. Like the cane toad, they also have protective glands. However, the glands are oval shaped and much smaller in size, located more towards the top of the toad’s neck (not hugging the sides of the toad). These glands can be so small that sometimes it’s difficult identifying or noticing them. Our native toad typically will stay under 4 inches in size, with brown, tan, and warty skin.
As for the cane toad, they do not have crown-like ridges on their heads or backs. Your main identifying features will be the large triangular-shaped glands that notably stick out and have a swollen appearance. These glands are elongated compared to the native species and are located on the sides of the toad, below the eyes, which helps them to blend in when you’re looking down (birds-eye view) on the toad. They can range from an inch to over 5 inches in size. The cane toad has similarly colored skin to the native toads, brown, tan and reddish with warty skin.
(pictured above is a southern toad)
Getting Rid of Them
Unfortunately, the cane toads are very difficult to get rid of. Especially if you have neighbors or live in a forest dense area. The toads can move from property to property and hide among dense brush. However, there are a lot of things you can do to prevent them.
Toads will eat just about anything then can fit in their mouths, from animal feces, smaller frogs, bugs and trash. So, keep your yard CLEAN! Pick-up after your pets and be cautious of your trash.
Since toads have difficulties climbing, they hide and travel at ground level. They hide in tall grass, children’s play sets, bushes, under cars, raised garden beds, toys, boxes, etc. Maintain your lawn, keep the grass short, and pick up any clutter or debris that can be used as a hiding spot.
Looking to euthanize them? We suggest finding a local company to set-up humane traps and to dispose of them. The companies are professionals and can identify the toads and if they are native or invasive. Most toads are active into the evening hours due to being nocturnal, and love to come out of hiding after a downpour of rain.
Signs of Toad Toxicity
A few signs of toad toxicity, or toad poisoning, in animals are drooling, foaming of the mouth, excessive pawing at the eyes/mouth/face, difficulty breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Along with neurological symptoms such as collapse, seizures, poor coordination, dilated pupils and death.
Preparing for an Emergency
This is when things can become scary very quickly. There is no exact time that noticeable symptoms of toad poisoning will start to show. For some animals, it can be in a few minutes, while for others it can be 15 minutes. The type of toad and the amount of poison digested will also affect the timing of noticeable symptoms. The following steps will help to guide you in a situation where your dog encounters a cane toad.
First (do this right now), locate your closest emergency veterinarian or pet hospital. Preferably a 24-hour veterinarian, since a lot of cases happen after normal business hours. Next, save that address, phone number and name of the business in your phone. Trust us, during an emergency your adrenaline will be pumping, and remembering what pet hospital was what can be difficult.
Second, wipe your pet’s mouth out with a damp, clean cloth. Washing it off after each wipe. Or, wash your pet’s mouth out, from the side, with a hose. You will need to make sure your pet does not inhale or swallow the water. To help, you can angle your pet’s head down, and rinse from the side with the hose. You will need to try and remain calm, because your pet will feed off your energy.
Third, start driving your dog to the emergency veterinarian hospital immediately following step two. Typically, by the time it takes you to drive to the hospital your dog will have started showing signs of poisoning. Then you can make the decision if you would like to go inside to the vet to have your dog examined. It can be fatal to wait at home and see if your dog is showing signs of poisoning. Once they start showing signs you need to be at the vet immediately. It’s much better to waste gas to get to the emergency vet than taking the chance of your animal suffering.
Knowledge is power when it comes to protecting our pets!
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