You’ve likely seen your pooch investigating a tiny toad after a rain shower, booping the creature with their nose to make it jump. While these antics are an adorable sight, some toads are not safe play toys for your pup. Bufo toads are common in Florida, and this invasive species is hopping its way north, killing pets and native wildlife along the way. These large toads are highly toxic to cats and dogs, and many pets have died after grabbing a toad in their mouth. Check out Dr. Man’s blog about his dog’s run-in with a bufo toad. When in doubt, keep your furry pal far away from any sort of toad, although bufo toads are generally recognizable.

How did the bufo toad come to the United States?

Bufo toads are a highly invasive species from South and Central America originally introduced to Florida to help control pests in sugar cane fields. A 100 or so toads were accidentally released at the Miami Airport during transportation, and pet dealers also released various toads in the 1960s. After their introduction to Florida, these toads have continued to reproduce and spread across the state, and will likely become a permanent part of our landscape.

What do bufo toads look like?

Bufo toads, or cane toads, are four to six inches long, which is larger than native toads and frogs. Their warty skin is usually tan to reddish-brown, with dark spots on the back. 

Bufo toads are voracious hunters, and will wolf down almost anything that fits in their mouth. They prefer a diet of bugs, native frogs, toads, snakes, small birds, and mammals, but will also eat your pet’s food if left outside. They are most active at night, and appear to be drawn to light sources, since light also draws in bugs. Breeding season runs from March to September, when bufo toads lay their eggs along the edges of freshwater ponds and lakes.

How does a bufo toad spread toxins to my pet?

Bufo toads have triangular parotid glands above and behind their eyes that secrete a thick white substance highly toxic to pets. The rest of their skin also contains small glands that secrete toxins harmful not only to pets, but also to people who grab the toads. If your pet enjoys chasing and pouncing on large, jumping creatures, keep a sharp eye out for bufo toads, since a single lick or grab can cause a severe reaction in your furry pal.

What are bufo toad toxicity signs in pets?

If your pet comes in contact with a bufo toad, they will likely suffer a sudden, severe reaction. The following are signs of bufo toad toxicity in your pet:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Vocalization
  • Reddened gums
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Seizures

Local effects are often immediate, since the toad is so irritating to the touch. However, with severe intoxication, cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic issues can appear, and be life-threatening.

What should I do if my pet comes in contact with a bufo toad?

If your furry pal comes in contact with a bufo toad, take immediate action to dilute the toxin. Use a hose to run water through your pet’s mouth, pointing their head down, to ensure the water runs out, and not down their throat. If available, wear gloves to protect your skin from contacting the flushed toxin. After you have flushed your pet’s mouth thoroughly, contact Dr. Man at Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital for assistance. Your pet will likely require hospitalization, fluid therapy, and toxin treatment after bufo toad exposure. Depending on the poisoning’s severity, your pet may also need medication to control seizures and heart rhythm, along with oxygen therapy for breathing issues. With prompt treatment, recovery usually occurs in 12 hours, but if your pet is smaller and received a large toxin dose, the prognosis is more grave. Prevention is key, to keep your furry pal safe.

How should I dispose of bufo toads in my yard?

If you run across a bufo toad in your yard, the best course of action is to humanely euthanize this invasive species, to protect your pet and your family. The University of Florida says humane euthanization is performed by catching the toads, rubbing a 20% benzocaine gel on their belly, and then freezing them.

If your four-legged friend is out exploring and discovers a toad, contact the Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital team for help. We’ll offer guidance on at-home treatment, and be ready and waiting when you bring your pet in for further treatment.