Friday, September 4, 2009
By Linda Cole
Toads are great to have in your garden. They dine on bugs and are a natural pest control. Dogs love to investigate anything that moves and toads are no exception. Toads are everywhere and can pose a health hazard to an unwary dog who may happen upon one. Dogs and toads are not good playmates. In fact, in a game of toad-catching by the dog, it's usually the toad 1 and dog 0, which leaves the dog shaking his head and foaming at the mouth.
Toads are found in wet places like backyards during and after a rain and around ponds. Other than an irritating bad taste in a dog's mouth, most toads are not toxic enough to cause great harm to your dog. Since toads are nocturnal, it's important to be vigilant when your dog is outside at night for his walk or run before bed, especially during or after a rain.
In order for a dog to be poisoned by a toad, he has to actually pick it up in his mouth, bite it or lick it. Dog and toad encounters can happen no matter where you live. In some parts of the country, Cane Toads will crawl into a dog's food bowl that is sitting outside to eat the dog's food. In rare cases, they can leave enough residual to poison the dog when he then eats from that bowl or even licks the side where the toad was perched.
Toads are not pleasant tasting even to dogs, but then, if your dog is anything like mine, they've put an investment into their natural instinct to hunt. For a dog, toad hunting begins with staring, stalking, sniffing and then finally the catch. Of course that always results in the dog quickly spitting the offending toad out which is followed by foaming and a look to us like it was our fault they put that nasty tasting thing in their mouth in the first place. In most cases, the toad does not have enough toxin to harm your dog. However, the Colorado River Toad and the Cane Toad (also called the Marine Toad, Bufo Toad or Giant Toad) are the two most poisonous toads in the United States. Both are found in the southern parts of the country. The Colorado River Toad lives in the Southwestern states from Arizona to Southern California. The Cane Toad is found in South Texas and Florida. If you live in an area where these toads reside, it's important to know what to watch for if your dog catches one.
The first obvious sign your dog caught a toad is foaming at the mouth. He may indicate his mouth is irritated by pawing at his mouth and shaking his head. A dog and toad encounter can leave the dog with mouth pain. Check his gums for inflammation or redness if he appears to be having pain in his mouth. If you suspect your dog caught a toad, you can flush his mouth with water from a garden hose. Try not to let the water run down his nose or throat by rinsing from the side of his mouth and holding his head down so the water runs out of his mouth. Gently rub the gums and inside of his mouth until the slimy feeling is gone.
Vomiting, weakness, appearing confused or disoriented, fever, labored breathing, seizures or diarrhea are signs your dog has been poisoned by a toad. Immediate medical treatment is required at this point. There is currently no series of tests a vet can run to determine if your dog has toad poisoning. Their best clue comes from an astute dog owner who either saw the encounter or recognized the signs, and by an abnormal heart rate found after an EKG. A hospitalized stay may be required that would include IV fluids, medication for pain, seizures, fever and stress as well as treating and controlling the dog's abnormal heartbeat.
Both dogs and toads wander around in our yards. It's impossible for most dog owners to watch their dogs constantly. Even on walks, with you by their side, your dog can find a toad hiding in a clump of grass they are investigating. Knowing the signs of toad poisoning and what to do is your best defense in protecting your dog. Our pets don't always know what's good for them. Most toad encounters result in only a bad taste in your dog's mouth, but sometimes, the toad was the wrong one to mess with.
Read more articles by Linda Cole