Cane Toads and Dogs Dr Stephen Cutter B.V.Sc(hons)
With the arrival of cane toads in the Darwin region it is important how to recognise if your pet has been poisoned by a cane toad and what to do if it has.
Firstly the good news. Most dogs and cats will not be poisoned. Cane toads know they are poisonous and act like it: they do not flee from predators and this makes most dogs suspicious. The majority dogs and almost all cats recognise that if small creature doesn’t run away then it must have some form of nasty deterrent.
Even dogs that do choose to harass the toad will generally cautiously mouth it. The toad’s toxins will cause almost immediate pain so very few dogs go on to actually swallow the toad. After mouthing a toad the dog will shake its head, drool profusely and paw at its mouth. If they have absorbed enough poison they will start to vomit, tremor, stagger, collapse and finally may have seizures and die. This may all occur in as little as 30 minutes.
First aid requires flushing with the dog’s mouth out with lots of water using a garden hose (point the hose forward so as not to drown the dog or flush in further toxin) and rub the mouth with a cloth to remove as much toxin as possible. Then proceed immediately to the nearest veterinary clinic (you may need to phone ahead if it is out-of-hours).
If your dog is large and has not actually swallowed the toad then its chances of surviving are fairly good with prompt treatment. Smaller dogs receive a proportionally larger dose of the toad’s toxin so it is especially important to seek prompt veterinary attention for small dogs. Dogs that actually swallow the toad are in dire trouble.
Fortunately, very few dogs will be poisoned twice. Most dogs learn their lesson and leave the toads well alone in future.
Prevention as always is safer than cure. Toads are poor climbers so it is possible to erect a 50 cm high smooth or fine mesh barrier around your yard to keep them out and keep your dog safe from temptation.