If you have a garden, toads are good to have around for natural pest control. They eat snails, slugs, insects, and other pests attracted to garden plants and flowers. Not all toads or frogs are poisonous to dogs and cats, but some are highly toxic and the ones that aren’t can still make a pet sick.
The name “amphibian” is Latin and means “two lives.” Toads and frogs begin life as tadpoles before trading in gills for lungs when they move onto land. There’s a wide variety of frog and toad species native to the United States, and vary from state to state. Frogs, for the most part, don’t pose a serious threat to dogs or cats that try to eat them, but they can cause mouth irritation, stomach upset, drooling, and foaming at the mouth. If your pet caught a frog and you aren’t sure what kind it is, try to catch it, take a picture, or remember what it looked like. Rinse your pet’s mouth out with a garden hose or kitchen sink sprayer from the side of the mouth to get rid of the bad tasting slime. Call your vet if your pet takes longer than an hour or so to return to normal.
Toads and frogs have been around for more than 200 million years and belong to the Amphibia Class. They live on every continent except Antarctica. True frogs belong to the Ranidae family, and true toads belong to the Bufonidae family. Although some species are in both categories. Frogs have a moist smooth look, teeth in the upper jaw, bulging eyes, long powerful legs for jumping, webbed hind feet, and are a variety of colors. Most species of frogs are nocturnal, but not all. Toads are essentially frogs with warts and dry bumpy skin, no teeth, non-bulging eyes, paratoid (poison) glands located behind their eyes, shorter legs for walking or hopping, are plumper looking than frogs, no webbing on their back feet, have olive green, reddish brown, grayish, or brown skin, and are usually nocturnal. Because toads can’t jump like frogs, they developed a defense system of a foul tasting or poisonous secretion that gives them protection from most predators. Frogs also have a bad taste, but their secretions won’t deter predators that eat them. Although, some frogs are highly toxic and will stop a predator in its tracks. Contrary to myth – toads can not give us warts.
The Pickerel Frog is considered North America’s only native poisonous frog. To ward off predators the Pickerel produces a toxin that covers the skin. It has an irritating effect on humans, but can be toxic to other frogs and some predators. The toxin is potent enough to make humans sick and cause a toxic reaction in small dogs and cats. Pickerels are found mainly east of the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Coast and North to Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. In Illinois, they are found only along the Mississippi. The Pickerel is not found in Florida but inhabit the northern regions of Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama. Their range also includes the southeastern part of Minnesota, eastern Iowa, throughout Missouri except in the northwestern regions, eastern Oklahoma, eastern Texas, Arkansas, and most of Mississippi.
Two toad species living in the United States have toxin that is potentially deadly to dogs and cats; the Cane toad and Colorado River toad. Both have poison that is very different from the Pickerel frog and far more toxic to pets.
The Cane Toad, also called the Giant toad, Bufo toad, or Marine toad, is native to South and Central America, Mexico, and the extreme southern regions of the United States; mainly in south Texas and Florida. It’s also found in Hawaii. The Cane toad is huge with gray, olive/brown, or brown skin. It’s a true toad with large poison glands behind the eyes and can grow up to six inches in length.
The Colorado River Toad, also known as the Sonoran Desert toad, is three to seven inches in length with brown/olive green or green skin and a cream-colored belly. Large white warts are on the corners of the mouth. The skin is smoother than most toads with only a few warts on the hind legs. It’s found in Central Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and southeastern California; primarily in the Sonoran Desert and surrounding area, and Mexico. It’s the largest native toad in the U.S. When threatened by dogs, cats, or other predators, it secretes a milky-white hallucinogenic toxin that can kill pets and other animals.
Alive or dead, poisonous toads and frogs pose a serious health concern for pets that mouth or lick them. But, a dog or cat can also be at risk from poison left by the Cane toad on outside food and water bowls. These toads can leave enough residual toxin on a pet’s bowl to poison an unsuspecting dog or cat eating or drinking after the toad has left. Cane toads will sometimes climb onto or into a food bowl and eat it. A quick lick where the toad was sitting can poison a pet.
Symptoms of toad poisoning include:
Foaming at the mouth, drooling, tearing of the eyes, dilated pupils, irregular heartbeat, confusion, loss of coordination, appearance of hallucinating, weakness, head shaking, pawing at the mouth, bright red gums, staggering, depression, difficulty in breathing, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, collapse, and death if left untreated.
Your first action when a pet has been poisoned by a Cane or Colorado River toad, or the Pickerel frog:
Rinse out your pet’s mouth and wash their feet with fresh clean water to remove toxin in his mouth or on his paws. Use a garden hose, kitchen sink sprayer, or shower sprayer set at low spray and held at the side of your pet’s mouth so you don’t wash any more of the poison down his throat. Rinse for at least 10 or 15 minutes. Use your hand to gently rub the inside of the mouth and gums to remove any slime. Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. If you get even a small amount of secretion from a toad or frog in your eyes, it will burn and be painful.
It’s important to rinse out your pet’s mouth before rushing him to the vet. You need to get rid of as much of the toxin as you can before the poison is absorbed into the mucous membranes in the mouth. Call your vet immediately after rinsing out the mouth. Even a small amount of toxin can be fatal for some pets. With immediate first aid treatment followed by vet care, pets can be saved.
Toads and frogs are found in our yards, gardens, and along waterways. They come out after an evening rain in search of food. Dogs and cats are curious and when they find something of interest they use their mouth or paws to check it out. Dogs are more apt to pick up a frog or toad in their mouth, but some cats will also try to eat frogs. Most of the time it’s just a foul tasting frog that is spit out as quickly as possible with just some drooling and foaming at the mouth. Knowing the symptoms of toad or frog poisoning and emergency first aid is your best defense in protecting your dog or cat if they picked the wrong toad or frog to mess around with.
Pictured: Pickerel frog, Colorado River toad, Cane toad
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