Watch Out For Cane Toads

This morning I was out walking my dog when we came across a toad sitting under a bush. In Arizona, the Sonoran Desert toad comes out during our summer monsoon season. These toads are part of the Bufo genus of toads commonly called cane toads. The marine variety are found in Florida and Hawaii while the Colorado River toad, the other common name for the Sonoran Desert toad,  is found in the desert southwest. Unfortunately, these toads were also introduced into Australia.

Bufo toads secrete toxic substances from their salivary glands. I have read reports of teenagers in Arizona dying after they licked a toad to get high. When a dog licks or picks up a toad, the dog absorbs the toxins through the mucous membranes of the mouth. It must burn because dogs will whine, paw at their mouths and salivate excessively. Their gums are bright red. After about 20 to 30 minutes, the dogs start to have problems walking. As the full effects of the toxin are felt, dogs start to seizure. The toxin can also cause life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Thankfully, the toxin is short lived, usually about an hour.

If your pet contacts a cane toad of any variety, flush the area immediately with water. For the mouth, I have my clients use a garden hose to run water through their pet’s mouth for ten minutes before coming into the clinic. ***Caution: Never place anything in an unconscious animal’s mouth as it may aspirate.*** I always recommend monitoring the pet with an EKG for at least an hour to check for abnormal arrhythmias.

Sources:                                                                                                                                -Shell, Linda. Bufo Intoxication, Toad Poisoning, VIN Associate Database, 3/25/2010.                                                                                      -Wooden, Bill and Wooden, Beth. Sonoran Desert Toad (Bufo alvarius), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum,

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.