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  • Joanne Bibby

Cane Toad Poisoning

cane toad (rhinella marinus)

The cane toad is a large heavily built amphibian with dry warty skin, up to 15cm long; the largest recorded female in Qld was 24cm long and weighed 1.3kg!!. The cane toad was introduced to Australia in 1935. They are native to South and Central America.

There is thought to be well over 1.5 billion toads in Australia today.

One toad can lay up to 35,000 eggs in a clutch which certainly increases the risk of dogs encountering multiple toads and/or being poisoned this season.

poisoning

Toad venom is located in the upper surface of the skin in glands.

When a toad is provoked or picked up by a dog, the toad releases a toxic slime which covers and sticks to the dog’s gums and tongue and is quickly absorbed.

The risk of death is increased if the dog eats the toad.

Toads have a tendency to eat dog faeces; they have been known to transmit disease such as salmonella1.

safety precautions

  • Keep dogs inside at night. However young toads can be seen during the day; so ensure you check your back yard before leaving your dog out there for periods of time;

  • Keep back yards clean of faeces;

  • When you take your dog outside to go to the toilet at night keep them on a leash and stay close; and

  • If it is your plan to kill a cane toad in your backyard, ensure that you do so humanely. Do not use products or methods which cause suffering to the animal.

There are products at produce and hardware stores which sell an aerosol, designed for humanely killing cane toads. It is important to follow manufacturing instructions and dispose of the toad as per recommendations.

signs & symptoms

Signs and symptoms may vary from one poisoning to another, this is because:

  1. You won’t know how much venom has been ingested or absorbed;

  2. How long the dog has been exposed to the venom

  3. You won’t know if the dog has eaten all or any part of the toad; and

  4. The size of the dog may play a part in the individual reaction to the toxicity.

Use the following list to see what to look out for; just bear in mind that your dog may have several signs and symptoms or only one.

If in doubt; call your Vet.

  • If conscious, your dog may excessively salivate, drool or begin frothing at the mouth

  • You will see clearly a thick, slimy and bright red fluid stuck to the dogs gums and tongue

  • Your dog may paw at the mouth showing discomfort

  • They may appear disorientated, making turns to the right and then the left but going nowhere

  • You may notice the dog’s body shivering / trembling or experience severe tremors to convulsions or seizures

  • If not treated: quickly vomiting will commence, heart rate will increase and / or become irregular and muscles in the body may have spasms or become rigid.

  • Cardiac arrest

action

1. Undertake Primary Assessment DRSABC

a. Check for Dangers – a danger may be that the toad is in the dog’s mouth. Do not try to drag the toad out of the dogs mouth in case part of the body is swallowed or experiences additional toxin elimination; ensure you wear gloves if you touch the toad or venom as toad venom is hazardous to humans

b. Is your dog responding to your voice or your touch? If not your dog may be unconscious

c. Send for help; if there is someone else in the house get them to grab hose or undertake any other tasks

d. Check the airway for blockages or foreign objects; are there toad body parts? Remove if there is

e. Check the breathing (respirations) e.g. count the rise and fall of the chest – start artificial respiration if not breathing

f. Check circulation (pulse) – start CPR if no pulse

2. Whether breathing or not: Lay dog on the right hand side, in case you need to commence CPR;

3. Inspect dog’s mouth. If there red or bright pink slime, hold dog’s mouth down toward the ground and using a paper towel wipe inside of mouth. If you can place something under body so the head bends toward ground

4. Thoroughly wash the mouth out for 10–15 minutes using slow trickling hose or tap; direct the water flow from the side of the back teeth to drain out through the front of the mouth. Avoid water going down the throat or into lungs

5. If you are using a soaked wet cloth; keep head down as with hose; gently and thoroughly wipe the gums, tongue and roof of the mouth for 10-15 minutes, rinsing and ringing cloth out after each wipe. It is best to not press down on the tongue or gums to reduce the risk of absorption of toxins

6. If your dog has had minimal exposure; once your dog is settled, keep confined for a few hours with you and monitor closely and wrap in warm blanket

7. If your dog is unconscious or having seizures, take to the vet immediately after removal of venom

On the way to the Vet; (if you have a driver):

· If your dog stops breathing, begin artificial respiration on the way to the vet surgery

· If your dog’s heart stops beating, begin CPR on the way to the vet surgery

remember

Cane toads are toxic to dogs and humans!

References:

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries – Biosecurity Queensland

Australian Museum

Canine Emergency First Aid Guide


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