The Ugly And The Dangerous Cane Toad

The cane toad

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 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 heartbeat irregularities
  • death

First aid measures

  • call your Greencross Vets 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 their 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. Contact your local Greencross Vets if you suspect cane toad poisoning in your pet.