Spring is the time of year when the deadly Bufo toads start reappearing in large numbers in our area. For those of you who are new pet owners or are new to Florida, we’re referring to the brown, bumpy skinned toads that range in size as small as your thumbnail to over 9 inches. These toads secrete a toxic fluid from glands located behind the head that coats their skin. If your pet ingests any of that toxin, he could die in less than an hour if not treated immediately. Each year, hundreds of dogs and cats in Florida are killed by toads this way. They are most prevalent in the summer months, but generally start appearing in the spring and remain active well into the fall. Bufo toads are less active in the winter, but you should continue to exercise caution.
Because of the slow and awkward movement of the Bufo toads, they are inviting targets for your dog or cat. Just one lick can be deadly. Here are some suggestions to avoid contact with them:
· Do not allow your pet to run free during the hours from dusk to dawn. This is primarily the time toads are out, however, you shouldn’t be surprised to see them occasionally during the day. Landscapers, repairmen, sprinklers, etc. can disturb their hiding places, causing them to be on the move. Even if your yard has a screened patio or solid fence around it, toads can get in underneath and via the smallest of openings. They can even tunnel below the ground’s surface.
· Walk your dog on a short leash during the hours from dusk to dawn. If you have multiple dogs, walk them one at a time so that you are able to give your full attention to scanning your path for toads. Use a flashlight. Toads are even on the streets and often get run over by cars. Be careful your dog does not pick up one that has been run over. The longer it has been there, the less likely it is to pose a threat to your dog, but you should still follow all precautions.
· Do not keep your pet’s food and water outside. Bufo toads will eat anything that fits into their mouths, so they will be attracted to the food. They may bathe in your pet’s water dish and release toxins into the water. If your pet then drinks it, he could be affected.
· If you allow your pet to run free in your yard during the day, make sure to first walk through the entire yard and gardens in the morning, before letting him out, to make sure that no toads are still hanging around or have somehow died there overnight. Get rid of any puddles and standing water.
· Do not encourage toads onto your property by installing water fountains and ponds, or by planting gardens that are particularly attractive to insects. The more insects, the more toads. Regularly spray your yard with the packaged insecticide that you attach to your garden hose. Important: After spraying, make sure the yard has completely dried before allowing your pets and children access to it again. This takes hours, so plan accordingly. If your pets are grass eaters, better skip this.
· Shake out newspapers packaged in plastic and left on the ground before bringing them inside your house. Toads can crawl inside the bag and you might unwittingly bring them into your house.
Common signs your dog has come in contact with the toxin include: foaming at the mouth, drooling, pawing at the mouth, vomiting, stumbling, falling, tremors, rigid legs, and seizures. If you witness your dog’s contact with a toad or if your dog is exhibiting signs of toxicity but is conscious and not seizuring:
· Make sure you and your pet remain as calm as possible. Your pet’s excitement and anxiety may cause the toxins to act more quickly.
· Rinse his mouth with running water. Place a garden hose or faucet along the side of the mouth and run the water. DO NOT ALLOW WATER TO GO DOWN YOUR PET’S MOUTH AND DO NOT TRY TO MAKE HIM SWALLOW. Note: If you cannot rinse with running water as described, then wash out the mouth repeatedly using soaking wet cloths. Try to use a fresh soaking wet cloth each time. Again, do not allow him to swallow.
· Do not give your pet any oil, milk, or other substance other than rinsing with the water.
· Rinse the mouth for 3 to 5 minutes, then gently wipe the inside of his mouth with a fresh, wet towel and repeat this process 2 more times. Try to use a fresh towel each time.
· Then, take your pet to your vet or an emergency veterinary clinic for a thorough examination and testing.
IF YOUR PET IS SEIZURING, HAVING TREMORS, OR CANNOT STAND, SEEK VETERINARY ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY!!
Even if you do not witness your pet’s contact with a toad, if he is showing any of the signs previously mentioned, assume the worst and follow the instructions above. Since this is most likely to happen during hours your vet is not available, here are three 24-hour emergency veterinary clinics in our area:
Emergency Animal Medical Center at Cooper City 9410 Stirling Road (between Palm and University) (954) 450-7732 · Hollywood Animal Hospital 2864 Hollywood Blvd. (just east of I-95, at SW 28th Ave.) (954) 920-3556 · Coral Springs Animal Hospital 2160 University Drive (north of Atlantic Blvd.) (954) 753-1800
Before an emergency occurs (and, hopefully, it never will), make a trial run to determine the fastest route to any or all of these facilities (or another, if not listed here). Keep the routes written down in your glove compartment so you don’t have to rely on your memory during an emergency. Program the phone number(s) into your cell phone. It is also a good idea to practice the rinsing procedure regularly on your dog so he will become used to the process and not panic if you have to do it in a real emergency.
This information is intended to prepare you, not alarm you. Yes, these toads are a serious hazard, but one that we all learn to live with here in Florida, especially living in an area that was, until fairly recently, the Everglades. One more note…Bufo toads are not to be confused with the tree frogs that you often see sticking to the windows of your home. While it’s not a good idea for your pet to come in contact with these frogs, doing so is more likely to make your pet sick than kill him.
Please be sure to consult your veterinarian. What we’ve presented here are informed suggestions, but we are not pet medical experts, and there could be other factors to consider in your particular situation.