Do you know that bufo—or cane—toads (i.e., Rhinella marina) are highly toxic to cats and dogs who ingest, mouth, or lick these amphibians? Bufo toads are an invasive and toxic species in Florida. These amphibians were introduced to the state in 1955 when they were accidentally released from an airport. Bufo toads secrete toxins from glands located behind their eyes. While bufo toxins are a defense mechanism against predators in the toads’ natural habitats, they can be lethal to curious pets. Our Bartow Animal Clinic team wants you to understand the risks associated with bufo toads and how to protect your pet from coming into contact with this species.

Identifying and understanding bufo toad pet toxicity 

Bufo toads are typically large, stout amphibians with dry, bumpy skin, ranging in color from brown to olive green. A large toad species, bufos can grow to six inches in length. These toads thrive in warm, humid climates, particularly in the southern United States and parts of South America. Because of their large size and distinct appearance in comparison to other toads, they may attract attention, especially from dogs who are often outdoors.

Your pet can be poisoned when the toad is distressed and releases a milky white toxin from the parotid gland on the back of the head. Bufo toad toxins primarily affect a pet’s cardiovascular and nervous systems. If your pet comes in contact with the toad or ingests it, consider this a veterinary emergency

Bufo toxicity signs can manifest rapidly in pets and may include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Red, slimy gums
  • Muscle cramps and tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Body rigidity
  • Collapse
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Respiratory distress

Diagnosis and treatment of bufo toad toxicity in pets

If you see your pet come in contact with a bufo toad, seek veterinary care immediately. Sometimes, your pet may exhibit unusual signs that indicate they have been poisoned, regardless of whether you saw your furry friend around a bufo toad. Your Bartow Animal Clinic veterinarian will perform a thorough exam and check for respiratory or heart rate changes and other signs that might indicate bufo toad poisoning. No specific bufo toad toxicity test exists, but knowing where and when your pet developed signs can help your vet reach a diagnosis.

In treating bufo toxicity, our team will wash out your pet’s mouth to rid them of toxins and administer supportive care, such as intravenous (IV) fluids to maintain hydration and medications to control seizures and tremors, regulate heart rate and breathing, and stabilize their cardiovascular system. Sometimes, we administer oxygen therapy if your pet has toxicity-related respiratory problems. Bufo toad toxicity has no cure, but through supportive intervention and symptom management, our team can nullify the toxin’s effects.

Bufo toad toxicity prevention in pets

The best way to protect your pet from bufo toxicity is by helping them avoid toad exposure. Mitigate your pet’s bufo toad toxin risk by following these tips:

  • Supervise your pet when they are outdoors, especially in areas where bufo toads are prevalent.
  • Familiarize yourself with the bufo toad’s appearance and habitats, and avoid areas where they are likely to be found.
  • Since pets can indirectly come in contact with toad toxins, wash outdoor water bowls regularly and refill them with fresh water.
  • Be extra vigilant during the wet season, when bufo toads are more active.
  • Keep your pet on a leash when walking to prevent them from wandering and encountering wildlife.
  • Minimize outdoor lighting as lights attract toads and other potentially dangerous critters.
  • Never leave pet food outdoors because bufo toads are attracted to food.
  • Place mesh screening around gates and fences to prevent bufo toads from entering your yard.
  • Train your dog to adhere to obedience cues such as “Drop it” or “Leave it.”
  • Make your backyard bufo toad-free by removing their food sources, such as beetles, centipedes, millipedes, roaches, spiders, and other native insects, through natural pest control products.

Bufo toad toxicity is a serious concern for pet owners, particularly here in Florida, where these amphibians are abundant. Ensure you understand your pet’s risk associated with bufo toads and “hop to it” by taking proactive measures to prevent exposure. By taking proper precautions, you can help keep your pet safe from this potentially deadly threat. Contact our Bartow Animal Clinic team if you have questions about bufo toad toxicity and prevention or you suspect your pet has been exposed to this dangerous amphibian.