Australia has some of the world’s most poisonous animals. One that poses a threat to our pets and our wildlife is the cane toad. Cane toads are 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. The effects of the toxin are hallucinogenic.
Cane toad poisoning in cats is rare. They seem to be more aware of the risks. Poisoning in dogs is more common, especially in puppies and terrier breeds as they find the movement of toads irresistible.
How does cane toad poisoning occur?
When a dog bites or licks a toad, the toxin is released from behind the neck and sticks to the gums and tongue of your pet. The toxin is rapidly absorbed 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, pets will drool or froth, and potentially develop muscle tremors which progress to seizures and possibly cardiac arrest.
Signs of cane toad poisoning
- profuse salivation, drooling and/or frothing from the mouth
- very red and slimy gums
- pawing at the mouth
- shivers and/or tremors
- muscle rigidity or spasms
- convulsions or seizures
- very rapid heart rate and/or heartbeat irregularities
First aid measures
- Call your Greencross Vets clinic or your local Vet Emergency Care and advise them of the toad poisoning incident
- Using a wet cloth, gently and thoroughly wipe the inner surfaces of the mouth, that is the gums, tongue, and roof of the mouth as well as the outer surfaces of the mouth for 10 to 15 minutes, rinsing the cloth out after each wipe
- Washing of the mouth with a hose or tap is not recommended due to the possibility of water entering the lungs
- After this time, transport your dog for veterinary assessment.
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. Contact your local Greencross Vets if you suspect cane toad poisoning in your pet.