With the onset of warmer weather, cane toads will be on the move and making an appearance in our backyards in the evenings.
Dogs (and in particular puppies and terrier breeds) are prone to poisoning as they enjoy chasing toads and will snap or mouth at them as they hop. Cats can be equally affected by the toad’s toxin but tend to be more discerning in their hunting methods.
Cane toads are an invasive feral species. They have no natural predators in Australia so their numbers are ever increasing. They have large, poisonous glands behind the eyes and down the back. These glands excrete a sticky, milky substance when the toad is threatened which is capable of spraying over a metre into the air.
The toad toxin is highly poisonous and is quickly absorbed through the membranes of the mouth.
Signs of toxicity in pets include:
|Pawing at mouth||Twitching/ shaking|
|Bright red gums||Convulsions|
|Excitability or disorientation||Heart beat irregularities and death|
If you see your pet with the early symptoms, it is important to quickly try to remove the toxin from the gums using a soft cloth to remove the sticky substance and a lightly running hose/tap pointing out the front of the mouth (not down into the airways which can lead to inhalation of water and pneumonia). Some dogs will recover uneventfully and can be kept calm and monitored closely.
If your pet is showing more severe symptoms such as twitching, convulsing or is not responsive, they should be brought straight to the vet.
Many dogs find toad chasing highly addictive and will not learn to stop even after a nasty case of poisoning. The toxin is hallucinogenic so whether that is a contributing factor, or it is the thrill of the chase, we can’t be sure.
To avoid exposure of your pet to toads, it is important to keep them indoors at night. They should be kept on a lead when taken outside to toilet before bed.
Reducing your local toad population is always beneficial and current RSPCA guidelines recommend a product called “Hopstop” which can be sprayed onto the toad for humane euthanasia and then the toad safely disposed of. Take care to avoid exposure to the toxin yourself and use rubber gloves when handling dead toads.
Here’s hop(p)ing for a safe summer for our pets!