Toad Poisoning in Dogs
Toad venom toxicity is relatively common in dogs. Being natural predators, it is common for dogs to catch toads in their mouths, thereby coming into contact with the toad's toxin, which the toad releases when it feels threatened. This highly toxic defense chemical is most often absorbed through the oral cavity membrane, but it may also enter the eyes, causing vision problems. Its effects are lethal if not treated immediately.
The two most important species of toad that are known for their toxic effects on pets are the Colorado River Toad (Bufo alvarius) and the Marine Toad (Bufo marinus). Most cases of poisoning are reported during the warmest weather months, when the toads are more active and humidity is high. In addition, pets typically come into contact with the Bufo toads during the very early morning hours, or after evening has set. These toads are omnivorous, eating both living creatures, such as insects and small rodents, and non-living food, such as pet food that has been left outdoors. Because of the latter, pets will often come into contact with these amphibians as they are eating from the animal's food dish. It is for this reason that it is recommended that pet food not be left outside in areas where Bufo toads live.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms usually appear within a few seconds of the toad encounter and may include the following:
- Crying or other vocalization
- Pawing at the mouth and/or eyes
- Profuse drooling of saliva from the mouth
- Change in the color of membranes of the mouth – may be inflamed or pale
- Difficulty in breathing
- Unsteady movements
- High temperature
- Living in proximity and coming into contact with toxic toads
- More commonly seen in animals that spend a lot of time outdoors
Toad venom toxicity is a heath emergency requiring immediate treatment, as it can quickly lead to death. You will need to give the on call veterinarian a thorough history of your dog's health, a description of the onset of symptoms, and the likelihood that this is occurring as the result of contact with a Bufo toad.
Your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination, with blood and urine samples taken for routine laboratory tests. A complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis will also be done. The results of these tests are often found to be normal in these animals, except for abnormally high levels of potassium (hyperkalemia). The dog may also exhibit an abnormal heartbeat, and if your veterinarian has time to conduct an electrocardiogram (ECG), the results will typically confirm an abnormal heart rhythm in conjunction with toad venom poisoning.