Also known as the bufo toad, marine toad or giant toad, they are repulsive, invasive and toxic. When a cane toad is disturbed, it secretes a highly toxic, milky gooey substance at the back of its head. This chemical cocktail is highly toxic to dogs and cats and can also cause skin irritation in humans. Danger to Dogs The cane toad’s toxin is a confirmed dog killer. Certain breeds are more vulnerable, such as terriers, which by nature are very curious. In order for a dog to be poisoned by a toad, it has to actually pick the toad up in its mouth, bite it or lick it. The toxin is then absorbed through the mucus membranes inside the dog’s mouth. Local Incidents The Marco Veterinary Hospital reports that in the last year they have not treated any dogs for cane toad poisoning. Last year, the Island Animal Hospital had one confirmed cane toad poisoning. The dog was taken to the Animal Specialty Hospital (ASH) in Naples where it was treated and released. ASH confirmed a weekly intake of one to three cases of cane toad poisonings, with three to five fatalities occurring in the last year.An ASH representative warned that, “Due to the nocturnal habits of the cane toads, encounters are greater during the hours of 6–8 AM and 6–9 PM.” Since local veterinary clinics may be closed at those times, ASH urges, “When in doubt, call the emergency veterinary clinic and let them know you are bringing your pet in.” Symptoms Basic symptoms of cane toad poisoning in your pet are excessive drooling, pawing its mouth, head-shaking, crying from pain, loss of coordination, and gums turning fiery red (an indicator used by veterinarians to distinguish toad poisoning from a bout of epilepsy). Knowing the signs of toad poisoning and what to do is your best defense to protect your dog. First Aid It is recommended that you gently rub your pet’s gums and inside the mouth with a dripping wet wash cloth to remove the slimy goo. Make sure to angle your pet’s head so that the water will drain out of its mouth, and not down its throat. Call your local veterinary clinic if the encounter is during the day. The Bad & The Ugly Cane toads are native to Central and South America. They were first introduced in Florida’s sugar cane fields in the 1930s to control the cane beetles (hence the “cane” name). The experiment failed and became a case of pest control gone wrong. Cane toads were also popular terrarium pets, and it is believed that the population in Southwest Florida became more established after several accidental releases from pet dealers in the 1950s and ‘60s. Cane toads are not native to Florida and have no known predators to control their spread. According to the University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, “They breed year-round in standing water, ponds, lakes, canals and ditches.” Cane toads love the hot, humid, rainy Florida weather and you will hear their choruses during the summer months.
They are indiscriminate eaters of native frogs, reptiles, birds, and small mammals – thus displacing native Florida wildlife. They will eat anything, including garbage.
According to Dr. Steve A. Johnson, Associate Professor at the University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, “There is no approved spray/treatment for use on cane toads.” Johnson said that Naples has a big problem that seems to be growing and he urged Marco residents to be educated. “The state does not have a specific program for monitoring cane toads,” he added. Prevention: . Keep your dog leashed during evening walks. . Use a flashlight when it’s dark. . Teach your pet a “Leave It” command to stop scavenging behavior. . Do not leave water bowls out at night; toads like to climb in. . Familiarize pet sitters with symptoms of cane toad poisoning. . Know the phone number for a nearby veterinary emergency clinic.