Thursday, August 26, 2010
There are many creatures in the United States (both native and non-native) that are venomous to our family pets. They can be found at the beach, in the woods, on a hike, even in your own backyard. This article will help to give you a head’s up on the creatures that are toxic to your pets, and where you might encounter them.
The only U.S. state with poisonous frogs is Hawaii. The Green and Black Poison Dart Frog was introduced in 1932 in an effort to control mosquitoes. While most frogs are nocturnal, poison dart frogs are active during the day and their bright colors are a warning of danger. Their poison is used by rainforest Indians to tip their hunting arrows and blowgun darts. A small number contain toxins that can poison by contact, enter the skin through a cut, or orally. The poison can cause hallucinations, and can affect the heart. If your pet comes in contact with one of these frogs, take them to your vet immediately.
Every toad in the U.S. has toxins in their system in varying degrees. The largest native toad in the U.S. is the Colorado River Toad (Bufo alvarius). All toads have paratoid glands behind each eye on either side of their neck. When a dog or cat catches a toad, these glands release a poison that enters the mouth and throat of the pet causing inflammation. The most toxic, non-native toad in the United States is the Cane Toad (Bufo marinus), introduced to control sugarcane beetles. Its paratoid glands extend down the sides of its body. It was introduced to south Florida and its range is now southern Texas into Mexico.
If ingested, toad toxin can cause nausea, heart arrhythmias, seizures, signs of collapse, weakness and death. A pet does not need to eat a toad or swallow their toxin to be affected. The toxins can be absorbed through the mucous linings of a pet’s mouth. After mouthing a toad, a pet immediately begins drooling and the drool has an oily sheen to it. Pets may begin pawing at their mouth, shaking their head or have problems breathing. Try diluting the effects of the poison by completely washing out your pet’s mouth with water, and call your vet immediately. For more information about this venomous creature, read Dogs and Toads Don't Make a Good Duo.
The Gila Monster has grooved teeth in its lower jaw and when it bites a victim the venom, which is a neurotoxin, is secreted from glands in the lower jaw that flows through the teeth into the wound created. As the Gila Monster keeps biting the venom keeps flowing; it is as toxic as the western diamondback rattlesnake’s venom. A bite causes swelling around the wound and considerable pain followed by nausea, thirst, faintness and weakness. While their bite is not fatal to humans, it may be to small pets, especially if there is arterial bleeding. One site suggests detaching the lizard by inserting a stick between its jaw and bite, and prying its mouth open; using a lighter or matches to apply heat under the lizard’s jaw until it lets go; or by dipping the lizard into water until it unfastens. Stop any bleeding if possible and flush the wound with a large quantity of clean, fresh water. Contact your vet before attempting these methods to make sure they would suggest this.
Newts are Salamindridae family members and when bothered secrete a sticky mucous from glands on their heads, bodies and tails that can be irritating to humans and pets. The Rough-Skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa) and other newts of the Taricha genus secrete a toxin similar to pufferfish liver toxin. Caution should be taken at all times to avoid these with your pets. Other newts in this genus include: Red-Bellied Newt, California Newt and the Coast Range Newt.
In my next article, I’ll cover more creatures that are venomous to pets, including spiders, scorpions and snakes.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently