Keep your pooch away from those big brown toads
It’s about 10pm on a warm night. It’s raining. Just as I’m thinking of turning in for the night, the on-call phone rings.
Before I have had chance to say hello, the distraught person on the other end – through sobs and gasps – tells me her terrier went out for a pee and is now collapsed and foaming at the mouth. Ask any vet in Bermuda (and possibly Australia) and they will instantly know what’s happened. Toad poisoning.
Did you know those big brown toads in your backyard can be hazardous to our beloved little pooches? That’s right, these small creatures secrete a toxin from a gland on their back when they feel threatened. So if your dog was to bite or even lick a toad, this toxin would be absorbed very quickly into their bloodstream through their mouth, eyes and stomach.
The first signs to look out for are your dog’s gums turning brick red; he may start drooling excessively. As time progresses, the clinical signs can become more severe leading to disorientation, falling over and seizures. You may think your dog has had one too many at the bar, as a toad toxicity will typically appear like your dog is drunk!
If you think your dog may have licked a toad or if you notice any of the signs above, call your vet ASAP. The next most important thing to do is to use a wet face towel and wipe out your dog’s gums copiously. This will prevent further toxin absorption and reduce the risk of clinical signs progressing to seizures.
The worst of the symptoms happen in the first half-hour after licking the toad, so keep rinsing the gums in that time with water. Your vet will determine what to do next.
Please do not (even though your auntie’s brother’s wife’s second cousin told you to) pour vinegar in your dog’s mouth or try to spray their mouth out with a hose. When your dog is neurological from the toad poison, they are less able to swallow properly and protect their airways. If water, or even worse vinegar, ends up in your dog’s lungs, it can lead to a condition called aspiration pneumonia which is life-threatening. Most toad-poisoned dogs go on to make a full recovery within 24 hours.
I’m pretty convinced that some dogs seek out these toads as they like the high. If your dog has grabbed one toad, they will probably do it again so be prepared.
How can you prevent your dog coming into contact with toads?
Take your dog out on a leash to do his business. Be wary and keep your eyes peeled when you let your dogs out to use the bathroom after it’s been raining or during dawn, dusk and night-time – especially during the summer months, as this is when toads are the most active.
Lianna Aggarwal was born and raised in Bermuda. She graduated in 2016 from the University of Glasgow with a bachelor’s in veterinary medicine and surgery and is currently working at CedarTree Vets. She is a true island girl at heart. Whether it’s beaching, snorkelling, boating, walking the dogs or playing sports, she takes advantage of the great island outdoors any chance that she gets