Cane Toad Poisoning

Dog sniffing a cane toadAustralia has some of the world's most poisonous animals and one that poses a threat to our pets and our wildlife is the Cane Toad. Cane toads tend to be most prevalent in the warmer months although in tropical north Queensland they are present all year round!

The giant tropical Cane Toad was introduced to Australia to control the sugar cane beetle and has become a major pest in tropical areas. The toads excrete a potent and rapidly acting toxin from glands around the neck area which is a little bit like a hallucinogenic drug.

Cane toad poisonings in cats are rare – they seem to be more aware of the risks but toad poisoning in dogs is very common especially in puppies and terrier breeds as they find the movement of toads intriguing and often irresistible.

How does Cane Toad poisoning occur?

When a dog mouths a toad the toxin is released as a sort of slime from behind the neck and 'sticks' to the gums & tongue of the pet.  The toxin in the 'slime' is rapidly absorbed by the dog across the membranes of the mouth. Symptoms depend on the amount of toxin absorbed and the length of time from when the pet was exposed to the toxin. Initially the dog will drool or froth, then may develop muscle tremors which progress to seizures and possibly cardiac arrest.

Signs of Cane Toad Poisoning:

  • Profuse salivation, drooling and/or frothing from the mouthKitten interested in large cane toad
  • Very red and slimy gums
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Shivers and/or tremors
  • Muscle rigidity or spasms
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Very rapid heart rate and/or heart beat irregularities
  • Death

First Aid Measures:

  • Call your Greencross clinic and advise them of the toad poisoning incident.
  • Hold your pet's mouth down toward the floor and using paper towel wipe the inside of your pet's mouth.
  • Thoroughly wash the mouth out for 10-15 minutes using a slow trickling hose or tap, have water flowing from the side of the back teeth with the water draining out through the front of the mouth.  Avoid water going down the throat or into the lungs.
  • Using a wet cloth, gently and thoroughly wipe the gums, tongue and roof of the mouth for 10 minutes rinsing the cloth out after each wipe.
  • If your pet settles down after wiping and rinsing the mouth out, keep them confined for a few hours and monitor them closely.

When to seek veterinary attention:

In mild cases, these first aid measures is all that will be necessary, but you should watch your pet carefully for a few hours after contact with the toad. If there is any worsening of symptoms, such as disorientation, shivers, tremors or muscle stiffness you should seek veterinary help immediately.