As I was straightening the yard today I noticed Sully behaving like he had something abnormal cornered by our window. He constantly chases lizards around the yard but he never whines at them, which he was doing this time. I gave him the leave it command so that I could see what he had. To my surprise I found a hand sized toad in a knocked over flower pot!
I am quite familiar with these guys. They are responsible for hundreds and hundreds of dog poisonings every year! They are omnivores, eating insects and other tiny creepy crawlers while also ingesting plants, waste, pet food, or anything else that they find laying around. Our backyard has a tendency to flood during our rainy season, so we used to have thousands upon thousands of frogs (harmless fortunately) and I, inevitably, will find one or two of these guys every season.
The danger to dogs arises because these toads secrete a toxic poison when they feel threatened by a predator. Our dogs, being natural hunters, find Bufo toads irresistible. As dogs will do when they go after prey, they take the toad in their mouth. The toad then releases it’s toxins which are absorbed through the dogs oral cavity membrane.
This poison can be fatal if not treated immediately. Some of the symptoms of toad poisoning include:
- Unusual crying or other vocalization
- Pawing at the mouth and/or eyes
- Profuse drooling of saliva from the mouth
- Change in the color of membranes of the mouth – may be inflamed or pale
- Difficulty in breathing
- Unsteady movements
- High temperature
How to protect your yard
The only real way to protect your yard from these toads is to install a fine screen barrier attached to your current fenceline(if you have a fence) or as a free standing structure. Many companies offer garden netting for deer protection that can double for our purposes. I’m actually going to install this barrier over the weekend to prevent any other toads getting in the yard, it’s not worth the risk.
There is another, much less effective, way to protect your dogs and yard from these toads. It is the way that we have been employing up til now, which is trying to supervise your dogs when outside. The one major flaw with this plan, which I just learned yet again, is that my dogs are much better at detecting the invaders than I am! It only takes a split second for a dog to become poisoned, so it’s worth the effort and small cost to protect our yard the right way.
What to do if you suspect your dog has been exposed to toad poison
Get her to the vet as soon as physically possible. The faster the dog is treated the more likely that she will survive her encounter. Considering that time is the crucial factor in the case of a poisoning, getting your dog to the emergency vet is the number 1 priority. If you happen to have a family member or friend with you, it is a good idea to start rinsing your dogs out with water on the way to the emergency vet. This will help to stop any more of the poison from being absorbed. If you are by yourself, do not waste precious seconds rinsing out her mouth. Get her to the vet as fast as you can.
I’ll be sure to document my progress when installing our mesh barrier so that I can share. In the meantime, WATCH OUT FOR HUGE TOADS!