Cane toads are a potential threat to the well-being of our pets, particularly dogs and, though less common, cats. They are poisonous at all stages of their lifecycle, from tadpoles to dried roadkill, and can squirt their toxin up to two meters!
Understanding the threat of cane toads
Poisoning occurs when a dog contacts a toad by ‘mouthing’, biting, or licking the body of the toad. When threatened, cane toads release a potent and fast-acting, milky white toxin, mostly from poison glands, in their skin, behind their eyes, and elsewhere on their body.
Pets absorb the toxin through their mucous membranes, most commonly the gums, but also the eyes, nose, and tongue. The toxins released target the cardiac and nervous systems of pets, and scarily an adult cane toad can release enough toxin to kill a medium-sized dog in 15 minutes.
Has my pet absorbed cane toad toxin?
The severity of symptoms is dependent on the amount of toxin absorbed and the length of time exposed to the toxin. Death can result if not treated quickly.
Initially, you may notice your pet salivating, sometimes profusely, soon after coming in contact with a toad. Some pets may also paw at their mouth due to the pain caused by the irritant venom.
You may also quickly notice vomiting, especially in cats. Cats may also show weakness in the hindquarters and a fixed trance-like stare.
If your pet is poisoned, symptoms will usually progress to seizures or convulsions. These convulsions are often fatal unless you seek urgent veterinary attention. The poison can also affect your pet’s heart, which may cause immediate cardiac arrest.
Take immediate action
If you are worried your pet has been poisoned, and/or is displaying symptoms, it’s crucial to act promptly. Follow these steps:
- Seek veterinary attention immediately: Time is of the essence. Visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Gently wipe the gums: Using a damp cloth, wipe the inside of your pet’s gums until the slimy coating has been removed. This may take at least 15-20 minutes.
- NEVER use a hose to flush the toxin from the mouth: This can lead to water inhalation and life-threatening pneumonia.
Toads are nocturnal, and any dog can be enticed to chase and mouth them. If necessary, only allow your dog outside at night on a lead, and stay with them to minimise the risk.
Written by Dr Kimberley Jordan