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If you suspect your dog has been exposed to toad toxins, it is important to institute first aid immediately and get in contact with a vet to play it safe. 

You can call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for guidance (a fee applies, so keep your credit card handy), but do this only if your dog is exhibiting no signs or only mild signs such as drooling.

Residents of Australia or New Zealand can call the Australian Animal Poisons Centre. This service is free to all pet owners. Their number is 1300 869 738.

Are Common Toads Toxic to Dogs?

Most frogs and toads will produce an irritating, bitter foam as their defense mechanism against predators. 

When dogs lick a toad, they will visibly foam at the mouth due to the presence of this bitter, irritating foam.

They may also paw at the mouth, develop nausea and vomiting, and refuse to open their mouth as their gums are sore.

In non-toxic toads, this temporary discomfort will likely quickly pass and correct itself within an hour or so.

With toxic toads, if enough toxin is ingested, there are risks for neurological changes and changes to the heart rhythm, which can turn deadly.

How Long Does it Take For a Dog to Show Signs of Toad Poisoning?

In general, expect a rapid onset, with signs of illness appearing often within minutes. 

However, there may be cases, where signs may show up from 1 to 4 hours later, although this late onset is not very common. 

What Types of Toads are Toxic to Dogs?

Two types of toads in the USA are known for their poisonous effects. 

The giant toad, also known as the marine toad or cane toad (Rhinella marina) is found in south Texas, Hawaii and southern Florida.

The other troublesome toad is the Sonoran desert toad also known as the Colorado River Toad (incilius alvarius).

 This toad is found in southeastern California, New Mexico, Mexico and most of southern Arizona.

Cane toads tend to be very large, measuring between 6 to 9 inches.

Cane toads tend to be very large, measuring between 6 to 9 inches.

The Colorado River Toad is also one of the largest toads measuring up to 7.5 inches. 

The Colorado River Toad is also one of the largest toads measuring up to 7.5 inches. 

How Do I Know if My Dog Licked a Cane Toad?

The signs of cane toad poisoning in dogs include the following:

  • Oral irritation
  • Bright red gums
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Face rubbing
  • Vocalizing
  • Drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Staggering
  • Dilated pupils
  • Panting
  • Shaking
  • Seizures

What Makes These Toads Poisonous?

 Toads release toxins from their skin and some even have special poison glands (parotoid glands) in the back of their head and other parts of their bodies.

When toads feel stressed, their skin may excrete mild toxins, or in the case of the poisonous toads, their poison glands may excrete a milky, alkaloid substance known as bufotoxin which acts as a neurotoxin. 

Other substances such as catecholamines and indolealkylamines may be released too. 

These toxins are made so to make the toad slippery to hold onto and unpalatable to predators.

Certain types of toads produce larger volumes of secretions. 

Why Do Dogs Foam at the Mouth When Licking a Toad?

Dogs foam at the mouth as a response to the bitter taste of the toads' secretion. 

The secretion also irritates the dog's gums and mouth, triggering further saliva, nausea and foaming. 

How Are the Toxins Absorbed?

A good amount of toxins are rapidly absorbed by the mucous membranes and through the digestive tract.

The toxins emitted by the toads' parotoid glands trigger similar effects as exposure to cardiac glycosides (digoxin) and therefore can potentially cause dangerous heart arrhythmias.

What to Do If My Dog Licked a Toad?

You should immediately try to minimize absorption of the toxins by removing as much as the milky, sticky substance as possible. 

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Do this by wiping the roof of the mouth, tongue and gums with a wet cloth, rinsing it out after each wipe for 10 to 20 minutes, suggests the Australian Animal Poison Helpline.

The goal is to prevent your dog from absorbing or swallowing any further toxins.

Should You Rinse the Dog's Mouth?

Although rinsing the dog's mouth may seem like a good idea that's even mentioned by the ASPCA, wiping the mouth area works better.

This is because hosing the dog's mouth out is not effective in removing the very sticky substance from the mouth, explains the Australian Animal Poisons Centre. 

On top of this, you need to be very careful in rinsing the dog's mouth by keeping the muzzle pointing downward so to prevent the dog from swallowing further poison and to prevent water from entering your dog's airways. 

Done incorrectly, this can cause potential complications such as aspiration pneumonia. 

Who Can I Contact for Help?

You can call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for guidance (a fee applies, so keep your credit card handy), but do this only if your dog is exhibiting no signs or only mild signs such as drooling.

Residents of Australia or New Zealand can call the Australian Animal Poisons Centre. This service is free to all pet owners. Their number is 1300 869 738.

If your dog keeps foaming at the mouth, or worse, shows others worrisome signs such as restlessness, shaking, panting, a wobbly gait and/or seizures, please take him the the closest vet immediately. 

What if I Don't Know the Type of Toad?

After rinsing and wiping the mouth, you should carefully monitor your dog in the next few hours. 

 If you notice any worsening of symptoms, such as disorientation, shaking, fast breathing, increased heart rate, muscle stiffness or seizures, you should seek veterinary help immediately.

When Should You See The Vet?

If your dog has seen licking or mouthing a toad, it is best to play it safe and have your dog see the vet, due to  potential for serious, life-threatening consequences.  

Most cases, of exposure ultimately require some type treatment, even if the symptoms are mild. 

How do Veterinarians Treat Toad Poisoning in Dogs?

For cases that require hospitalization, vets may  administer intravenous fluids, activated charcoal and diazepam.

 If cardiac arrhythmias are also present, cholestyramine and antiarrhythmic drugs will be added.

 Supplemental oxygen may also be needed as well, points out veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin. 

Anti-nausea medications, muscle relaxants, medications to control seizures may be given as needed. 

What Happens When Toad Poisoning in Dogs is Left Untreated?

There may be chances that, shortly after pawing and foaming at the mouth, the dog's condition may progress to seizures. 

Should the seizures persist and last long, and veterinary care is not received, there are risks the dog may not survive, explains veterinarian Dr. Gwen. 

What Do Studies Say?

According to a study, small breed dogs were the mostly affected by cane toad poisoning (76 percent). 

The most affected dogs breeds were Jack Russell terriers, silky terriers and fox terriers. 

Although incidents occurred year-round, they were fewer in the winter.

The most common symptoms were salivation (78 percent), red gums (63 percent) and seizures (31 percent).

The good news is that 96 percent of dogs had survived with excellent outcomes. 

Did you know? Toads are mostly active in the early morning and at night, especially during the summer after it rains.

References:

Toad Intoxication in the Dog by Rhinella marina: The Clinical Syndrome and Current Treatment Recommendations, by  Stephanie Johnnides, DVM, Tiffany Green, DVM, DACVECC, Paul Eubig, DVM, MS, PhD, DABT

 Roberts BK, Aronsohn MG, Moses BL, Burk RL, Toll J, Weeren FR. Bufo marinus intoxication in dogs: 94 cases (1997-1998). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216(12):1941.

  Reeves MP. A retrospective report of 90 dogs with suspected cane toad (Bufo marinus) toxicity. Aust Vet J 2004;82(10):608–11  

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